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Rights group sees spike in religious, sectarian violence in Pakistan

Country increasingly dangerous for religious minorities, journalists, women and children

ucanews.com reporter, Islamabad

ucanews.com reporter, Islamabad

Published: April 25, 2014 09:05 AM GMT

Updated: April 25, 2014 05:17 AM GMT

Rights group sees spike in religious, sectarian violence in Pakistan

The Holy Trinity Cathedral Church, also known as Sialkot Cathedral, in Sialkot, Pakistan. (Picture: Yaminjanjua at English Wikivoyagee)

Pakistan saw a 22 percent rise in religious violence last year, with 687 people killed in more than 200 attacks, a Pakistani human rights group said yesterday.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in its annual report, State of Human Rights in 2013, that with the rise in extremism, Pakistan has become a more difficult country for religious minorities.

"The violence against religious minorities in Pakistan is touching new highs amid apathy toward their plight," the commission said in its report, released Thursday.

The report noted that Pakistan has become increasingly more dangerous for journalists, with 11 killed last year, and for women, with 869 victims of "honor killings". At least 56 women were killed solely for giving birth to a girl.

"The law and order situation has deteriorated. The dangers and attacks on vulnerable communities, including religious minorities, women and children, have increased significantly," Kamran Arif, commission co-chairman, told reporters at the report's launching.

In a deadly suicide bombing targeting Pakistani Christians, about 100 people were killed at a historic Peshawar church in September of last year. In another incident, a Muslim mob torched a predominantly Christian neighborhood in Lahore after a Christian man was accused of blasphemy. In Badin, the bodies of two Hindus were dug up mobs that claimed the graveyards belonged to Muslims and only Muslims could be buried there.

A total of nine blasphemy cases were lodged against 14 Christians in 2013 resulting in several sentences of life in prison or death.

The report said that members of the minority Shi'ite Muslim community faced some of the most horrendous faith-based violence and hate speech during 2013. The year began with acts of violence targeting Hazara Shias in Balochistan. Sectarian violence continued throughout the year across Pakistan, but most frequently in Quetta, Karachi, Peshawar, Hangu and Parachinar.

The commission said that impunity for the perpetrators of the violence in Balochistan is encouraging the spike in such violations in other provinces.

In the ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence in Karachi, 3,218 people were killed last year, up 14 percent up from 2012. 

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The report also listed 503 extrajudicial killings by police and noted that enforced disappearances were a growing concern.

Although religious minorities continued to suffer under the country's draconian blasphemy laws, many Muslims also languished in jails on blasphemy charges.

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