Hindus, other minorities face surge of violence in Pakistan

The mob arrived at around midnight, brandishing clubs. They smashed statues, looted gold artifacts and then set the Hindu temple in Pakistan ablaze.

An accusation of blasphemy sparked the attack in the town of Larkana, human rights activists said, part of a spike in violence against Hindus in predominately Muslim Pakistan.

March was the worst month for attacks on Hindus in 20 years with five temples attacked, up from nine during the whole of 2013, said Life for All, a Pakistani rights group. But it’s not just Hindus who feel victimised.

All of Pakistan’s minorities — Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis and Shia Muslims — feel that the state fails to protect them, and even tolerates violence against them.

Many complain the problem has become worse since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power last year.

Non-Muslims make up a small fraction of the 180 million people in Pakistan. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of the country’s creation as a haven for the sub-continent’s Muslims, ushered in independence in 1947 with a promise to minorities that they would enjoy freedom of worship and equality without discrimination.

But for many members of Pakistan’s minorities those words ring hollow.

The US Commission on Religious Freedom said in a recent report that conditions in Pakistan had “hit an all-time low” and governments had failed to adequately protect minorities and arrest perpetrators of crimes against them.

“Pakistan is increasingly failing to protect its minorities for two broad reasons: principally, rising religious intolerance and the space ceded to violent ideologies,” said Sherry Rehman, who was a government minister and ambassador to the United States under the previous Pakistani administration.

The government launched peace talks with the Taliban in February and rights activists fear that they and other militants have been emboldened by the talks to step up attacks on minority groups.

Activists also say the tolerance of militancy provides cover for opportunist attacks by those who just want to grab land, homes or businesses of minority neighbors under the guise of religion.

Hindus and members of other minorities say the situation has worsened since Sharif won an election last year. Sharif has close ties with Saudi Arabia, whose brand of conservative Islam is preached by many of the people who denounce minorities. Saudi Arabia, the center of Sunni Islam, has long supported hardliners in Pakistan. It recently gave the country a gift of $1.5 billion.

Source: ABNA News