Shia Rights Watch Expresses Worries After Anti-Shia Rally in Pakistan

Shia Rights Watch expresses immense concern in regards to recent anti-Shia protests in Karachi, Pakistan. Within the rally, affiliates of Sepah-e-Sahaba and Tahreek Labbaik Pakistan waved flags and shout derogatory slurs against Shia Muslims, calling them “infidels” and damaging not only identified Shia property but also the city’s public infrastructures. Shia Muslims in Pakistan exist as a minority population. For years, the group has faced uncontrolled violence in the hands of extremists who consider them outside of the faith of Islam. Labels such as “infidels” and “rejecters” are frequently used to ostracize Shia Muslims and justify killing them. The most recent justifications of anti-Shiism included the Coronavirus, which some have labeled the “Shia Virus,” scapegoating the population for the country’s pandemic. While it would be expected that the presence of deadly disease would overpower biases, incidents of religious discrimination highlight the extent of dehumanization that fuels cultural violence in Pakistan. In Islamabad, anti-Shiism in a layperson was deep enough to justify watching a countryman die as he retracted willingness to donate blood when he discovered the recipient to be Shia Muslim. Pakistan has seen a stark increase in violence against Shia Muslims starting at the beginning of the Arabic month of Muharram. Shia Muslims face heightened rates of human rights violations in this month as their open and visible rituals make them targets for anti-Shiism. None-the-less, the recent incidents of anti-Shia rallies in Pakistan are unprecedented. Since then numerous Shia Muslims have reported that their homes and businesses were vandalized with derogatory labels, making them visible targets of violence. Shia congregations are met with mobs and their congregation halls are damaged by rocks and pellets. The killing of Shia Muslim individuals in Karachi occurs in broad daylight with little to no intervention by authorities. Shia Muslims in Pakistan spend their days in the margins of the country they help build. They feel endangered, so much so that many choose to practice their faith in secret. Shia Rights Watch urges Pakistani authorities to institute justice for Shia Muslims in the country. We denounce the most recent rallies against Shia Muslims along with the complete lack of regard from the local and national authorities.