Outraged by the targeted killing of 29 Shia pilgrims in Balochistan on Tuesday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday said persistent lack of action against “sectarian militant groups” had emboldened them. They were taken off a bus, lined up and shot down after scrutiny of their identity cards.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has claimed responsibility for the attack first on the pilgrims and then some of the ambulances that were going to their assistance. Given that sectarian violence has been going on for years now — particularly in Balochistan — and LeJ’s own agenda, the HRCP questioned the absence of action against the outfit which is technically banned in the country. “How do they still manage to roam free with their weapons and vehicles?”

Meanwhile, in Quetta, the government came under scathing attack for continued attacks on the community as Shias gathered for a mass funeral of those killed in the targeted killing.

In a statement, the HRCP said it was appalled by the gruesome killing of Shia pilgrims near Mastung and found the utter lack of protection for them outrageous, particularly when pilgrims travelling in the area — en route Iran to visit shrines there — had been attacked previously and were known to be at risk.

Referring to the provincial administration’s contention that the pilgrims had not informed the Home Department about their pilgrimage nor sought security, the HRCP said: “How convenient that instead of finding those who failed to perform their duty, the victims have been blamed. This just adds insult to injury.”

Describing Tuesday’s attack as a failure on many levels that once again exposed the diminishing writ of the state, HRCP asserted that “continued sectarian bloodshed across the country, particularly in Balochistan, is a direct consequence of the authorities’ perpetual failure to take note of sectarian killings in Quetta which have been going on for many years”

Of the view that official condemnations following such attacks are futile in the absence of follow-up action, the HRCP urged the government to move beyond rhetoric and its current casual and reactive approach to law and order challenges and start functioning as a responsible authority.

The Shia community of Quetta — was not even spared on Eid this year with a blast targeting them as they were returning from their prayers on August 31; killing ten people and injuring several others. What makes them all the more vulnerable in Balochistan is that they are predominantly Hazaras who have very distinctive Mongoloid features.

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