717 people died in Pakistan in religious violence: USCIRF

Pakistan violence

At least 717 people were killed and 1108 injured in 203 targeted violence against religious communities in Pakistan since January last year, a report released by a Congress established independent commission has said.

Among those killed included two Hindus and one Sikh, said the "Pakistan Religious Violence Project" report released by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom, which tracked over the past 18 months publicly-reported attacks against religious communities in Pakistan.

It added that majority of the people who died were from the Shia community.

"The findings are sobering 203 incidents of sectarian violence resulting in more than 1,800 casualties, including over 700 deaths" the report said.

"The Shia community bore the brunt of attacks from militants and terrorist organizations, with some of the deadliest attacks occurring during holy months and pilgrimages," it added.

"While Shia are more at risk of becoming victims of suicide bombings and targeted shootings, the already poor religious freedom environment for Christians, Ahmadis, and Hindus continued to deteriorate, with a number violent incidents occurring against members of these communities," it

said.

USCIRF said the Project's findings paint a grim and challenging picture for the government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

"It was positive that the Prime Minister raised concerns about religious minorities during his maiden speech before the National Assembly, as well as travelled to Quetta after a recent bombing targeting Shi'a and tasked his government to act" the report added.

"However, concrete, resolute action is needed to ensure that perpetrators of violence are arrested, prosecuted and jailed" it said.

The USCIRF report added that in order to stem the rising tide of violent religious extremism, groups and individuals responsible for attacks on religious communities must be punished.

"In addition, while banned militant groups and private citizens are responsible for the majority of attacks on religious communities, government actors are not blameless police officers have turned a blind eye to mob attacks or have refused to file police reports when victims are religious minorities" it said.

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