The recent murders of Shia community members in Pakistan has not drawn out the shock and horror that other recent atrocities such as Charlie Hebdo developed. Granted that the attack on satirists was within the bounds of Europe, though the sheer brutality and scale of killings in Pakistan has not created the same level of outpouring on social media. For the Shia that have been killed, there are no #JeSuisShia hashtags nor any significant outcry by politicians in Europe (or elsewhere) .
So let us review the targeting of Shia that has taken place by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other extremist groups in the country. Since 2008, the targeting of Hazara and other Shia Muslims in Balochistan has resulted in thousands of deaths (including two bombings in Quetta in January and February 2013 that killed over 180 people). Or take the blast at the Shia mosque in Shikarpur earlier this year that killed over 40 Shia worshippers praying at the mosque. The Sindh province has been targeted by the extremist Jundallah group that pledged allegiance to both the TTP and ISIS.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, over 700 Shia were killed in 2013 alone. More than 1,000 were injured in over 200 sectarian terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The scale of the targeting of this minority community is exceptional in its brutality – with attacks taking place in Quetta, Karachi, Parachinar, Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Which begs the question as to who is resourcing these attacks which are meant to create fear within Shia communities and to displace them from their villages, towns and cities. In effect, a murderous displacement strategy is being played out in Pakistan with little outcry from Western nations.
The latest massacre against the Shia in Pakistan took place on the February 13. The TTP targeted a Shia mosque in Peshawar leading to the death of 20 people. The attackers used guns and grenades and a gunfight broke out outside the mosque. One of the attackers set off his explosive vest when cornered demonstrating that the killers were on a suicide mission.
The global silence on the targeting of the Shia in Pakistan is sickening. No hashtags circulated, no graphics calling for peace, nor have any faith leaders come together and carried out an interfaith walk which seems to be the ‘thing to do’ when a major atrocity occurs. Young people have not railed against the injustice and all that has happened is that more innocent worshippers are murdered when they only seek the solace of their prayers.
Where is the wider condemnation? Not a single mosque or church has spoken out about the targeting of the Shia. Only a handful of courageous civil society groups in Pakistan and Sufi groups have done so.
Do Shia lives not matter? Or are their lives just reduced to statistics? After all, Pakistan’s Shia community are one of the most vulnerable groups in the country.
Given the support and ideology of the TTP who regard Shia as heretics, and thereby ‘fair game’ for deadly attacks, you would think that the human rights of the Shia would raise greater international concern.
So next time you hear a political leader speak about human rights, why don’t you ask him where his voice was when Shia were being murdered in Pakistan? The Shia of Pakistan are an asset to their country and must be afforded the safety to practise their faith. As politicians have rightly mentioned, if Jews left Europe, Europe would not be Europe any more. Well, if the Shia of Pakistan left Pakistan, Pakistan would not be Pakistan any more.
Fiyaz Mughal is the founder and director of Faith Matters and the Tell MAMA project whilst acting as another editor for Religious Reader.