Religious minorities feel worst of Pakistan floods


FROM TIME.COM. In one of the more unfortunate developments attending the catastrophic floods in Pakistan, the country's religious minorities are being denied relief and aid — and being attacked by extremists belonging to the country's Sunni majority even as the faithful mark the holy month of Ramadan.

Thumping their chests as they wailed, thousands of Shi'ite Muslims gathered in the eastern city of Lahore on Thursday to mourn the victims of a triple suicide bombing that ripped through the city the night before. Two of the bombers struck Shi'ite worshippers as they were dispersing after a procession. The third bomber attacked a group clustered in a square. In all, 31 people were killed and more than 200 injured, sparking violent protests against the police for failing to protect them. The bombings came just hours after assailants opened fire on a procession of Shi'ites in the southern port city of Karachi, injuring seven people.

A senior Pakistani security official told TIME that the attacks were ordered by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group with deep ties to al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. For such groups, it is not only legitimate to attack other Muslim sects but even a virtue to do so during Islam's holy month of Ramadan. Members of the Ahmadi Muslim sect have also been killed recently. On Aug. 18, Najam al-Hasan, 39, an assistant professor of science at Karachi's Dow University, was shot dead by attackers in a passing car as he was shutting to his clinic.

The following day, Peer Habib-ur-Rehman, a U.S. citizen who was visiting Pakistan on business, was slain after masked men stopped him on the way to his farm in the town of Sanghar in Sindh and shot him twice in the head. He was the second Ahmadi American citizen to be killed in as many years while visiting Pakistan.

The Ahmadis have endured riots against them for more than 50 years. In 1974, the Ahmadis were excommunicated by the Pakistani government for alleged heresy because the sect considers its 19th century leader Mirza Ghulam Ahmed a prophet. State-sanctioned discrimination has seen many Ahmadis leave Pakistan to find sanctuary in the west.

Those who remain have been at increasing risk as militant groups intensify their sectarian attacks and the authorities reportedly deny the Ahmadis adequate protection. In May, the Ahmadi community suffered its worst attack when 86 people were gunned down in an hours-long siege of two separate mosques in Lahore. Authorities suspect that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was behind those attacks as well.


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