U.N. experts urge Pakistan to improve security for religious minorities

March 22, 2012

GENEVA

Three independent United Nations human rights experts urged the government of Pakistan recently “to respond decisively” to end sectarian violence and improve security for religious minorities, following targeted killings of Shia Muslims in February.

“These targeted killings once more display the appalling degree of religious hatred in a country where there seems to be a failure to protect the security of religious minorities,” said Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, in a statement.

On Feb. 28 an attack on a bus in Kohistan in northern Pakistan left killed at least 18 Shia Muslims. More than 30 people were killed or wounded in a similar attack on Feb. 17, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive close to a mosque in a mainly Shia neighborhood in the Kurram tribal region.

Jundullah, a banned Sunni militant group, has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Muslims represent about 97 percent of Pakistan's 176 million people. The majority are Sunni, and about 30 percent Shia.

“These killings are extremely shocking and constitute acts that require the strongest response,” stated the U.N. Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák.

“They have sadly become a recurrent practice in Pakistan, and we urge the Pakistan government to identify and prosecute the perpetrators and do everything possible to establish strengthened security measures.”

Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, stressed the government of Pakistan has a positive obligation “to take all necessary measures to protect the right to life.”

Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told ENI News the experts “have expressed their concerns about the rights of minorities, which we share with them.”

He said the anti-Shia Jundullah “want to create tensions between the Shia and Sunni communities of the country.”

The government “has condemned these acts of terrorism, and intends to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Akram said.

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