AWP condemns the rising anti-Shia rhetoric, calls for protection of minority sects

Party demands an end to the patronage of sectarian militants

Press release

The Awami Workers Party (AWP) condemns in the strongest possible terms the ongoing anti-Shia rhetoric and calls on the state apparatus to immediately stop the venomous campaign from escalating.

For the past couple of weeks, big cities like Islamabad and Karachi have witnessed large demonstrations against the Shias with extremist militant figures at the helm. Banned extremist groups responsible for the murder of hundreds of citizens, including doctors, intellectuals and academics are instrumental in organizing these campaigns.

By allowing such demonstrations and hate speeches to take place in the heart of the capital and other towns with impunity, the state has become complicit to this hate mongering.

The government must recognize its responsibility, take necessary legal action and re-evaluate its relationship with far-right supremacist groups that call for the death and subjugation of an entire religious denomination.

Recently, we have seen multiple attacks on Shia processions and the targeted-killings of many members of the Shia community. On September 6th, a Shia shopkeeper from Kohat, Pakhtunkhwa was gunned down by unidentified assailants and local militant outfits are suspected to be behind the murder.

A number of Shia clerics were arrested across the country especially in the Punjab under draconian terrorism charges for exercising their fundamental right to practice their faith.

This current spate of violence against the Shias is an extension of how Pakistan has historically treated its minorities and a result of break down in law and order and governance system.

Since the adoption of the Objective Resolution and a state religion, Pakistan’s legal order has continued to include discriminatory provisions against religious minorities, relegating Christians, Hindus, Ahmedis and other denominations to second-class citizens and fostering persecution, displacement and migration.

Through decades of extremist religious indoctrination, we have raised a generation increasingly willing to commit violence in the name of religion and faith.

There are also concerning reports that the mobilization of anti-Shia groups was linked to the new regional arrangements in South and West Asia particularly after China-Iran economic accord that has irked the US and its Middle East allies. This anti-Shia campaign was launched after the recent fence-mending visit of the COAS to Riyadh following the Foreign Minister’s remarks about Saudi Arabia. The state must make sure Pakistani citizens do not pay the price for regional security considerations or Saudi-Iran proxy wars on our soil.

The AWP believes that the state is responsible for protecting the life and liberty of people of all religious and sectarian strands. The government and state must signal its commitment to freedom of worship and equality of all citizens, and immediately act against those committing violence and spreading sectarian hatred.

The mobilisation of bigotry, calling for social boycott of Shias, issuing takfiri edicts against them rendering them vulnerable to violence, the arrests of scores of Shia ulema and filing blasphemy cases under draconian laws must be condemned by all quarters.

It must ensure safety and equal rights of all religious and ethnic minorities, women and all other subjugated groups and do not have to live in an environment of fear.

Further, all attempts to inject sectarian and religious hatred into educational curricula must be halted and to introduce a progressive, scientific and rights-based pedagogy.

AWP will continue to struggle for a transformation of the social order into a truly just, humane and secular polity in which all citizens enjoy rights not only in letter but also in spirit.

In addition, the state must not allow legislation, such as the Tahaffuz-e-Islam bill in the Punjab Assembly, to propel bigotry and violence against minorities in this country. The bill, which politicians admitted to passing without having read, upholds the Sunni interpretation as the only acceptable definition of Islam. It broadens the definition of blasphemy in a way that directly targets the beliefs of an already beleaguered minority.