BACKGROUND: Thousands of civilians from ethnic and religious minority groups have been killed in targeted attacks in Pakistan over the past decade. Shia Muslims, who comprise approximately 20 percent of the population, continue to be the focus of most sectarian violence. Other minority groups have also been targeted for attack, including Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus.
Prominent Pakistani terrorist groups, including Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), routinely claim responsibility for attacks against Shi’a Muslims and members of the Pakistani government. Successive governments in Pakistan have struggled to contain attacks against civilians by TTP, LeJ, and their splinter groups or affiliates. Although the current Pakistani government has condemned terrorism, TTP, LeJ and affiliated groups have continued to perpetrate attacks on Shia mosques and government buildings. In recent years the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has also perpetrated attacks against Shia communities, including setting off a bomb at a political rally in Balochistan ahead of general elections during July 2018 that resulted in at least 128 people killed.
Hazaras, a predominantly Shia Muslim group, has been targeted for attack by the LeJ for more than a decade. According to the Pakistan National Commission on Human Rights, more than 500 Hazara were killed in attacks between 2013 and 2017, including at least 180 killed in two bombings claimed by the LeJ in January and February 2013. The majority of the attacks have taken place in Quetta, Balochistan province. Although the attacks peaked between 2013 and 2015, Hazaras continue to face sporadic attacks, including dozens of people killed in a bombing claimed by ISIL in April 2019.
While the majority of Pakistan’s international partners have focused on the issue of terrorism perpetrated by TTP and other Islamic extremists against the security establishment, sectarian attacks against civilians are a growing threat, particularly for minority Shia communities.
Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
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