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MRG condemns Quetta bombings, calls for swift and long-term initiatives to ensure protection for religious and ethnic minorities

21 February 2013

Pakistan’s authorities must carry out a full and proper investigation into the bombing of a market in Quetta, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG), who today condemned a series of targeted attacks on the Hazara and Shi’a communities in the city.

In a recent meeting with MRG, Dr Paul Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for National Harmony and Minority Affairs, promised the government was taking concrete steps to protect the country’s religious and ethnic minorities.

MRG calls on Dr Bhatti and the Government of Pakistan to take swift measures to protect minorities affected by the ongoing violence, and to put into action long-term initiatives to prevent future similar violence.

‘Pakistani authorities are failing in their duty to protect vulnerable citizens from targeted attacks. They must take urgent action to ensure that Shi’a communities in Baluchistan, specifically Hazara, are offered better protection in their homes, on the streets, and in their places of worship. It is imperative that Pakistan meets its international obligations more convincingly,’ says MRG’s Director of Programmes.

A bomb exploded in a busy, largely Hazara area of Quetta on 16 February, killing almost 90 people and injuring 169. Militant group Laskhar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the attack. Pakistani police have since arrested 170 suspects.

According to the BBC, the bombing, together with targeted attacks on a snooker hall and a mosque, raises the Shi’a death toll in Quetta to more than 200 in 2013.

‘Recent research by MRG and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), a Pakistan-based think-tank, shows that Pakistani authorities have failed to protect vulnerable and minority groups,’ says Muhammad Salim Khawaja, SDPI’s Senior Advisor on Education & Religious Diversity.

‘Pakistan’s international human rights obligations are not translated adequately in its domestic laws. The recent killings of Hazara community in Baluchistan are evidence of this failure, and we call for national authorities to urgently provide physical security to these minority populations and adopt necessary reforms at judicial and policy level,’ he added.

The majority of Hazara, who are mostly settled in Quetta, in Baluchistan province, practise Shi’a Islam. Pakistan’s Muslim population is predominantly Sunni.

More than 650,000 Hazara live in Pakistan, and an estimated one million in Iran. Hazara comprise the third largest ethnic group of Afghanistan.