A first-of-its-kind public database of faith-based violent incidents has been launched in Pakistan to address the lack of evidence-backed data on violence against minorities in the country.
Violence Register PK database aims to inform advocacy efforts and policy interventions on a national level and serve as a reference point for community stakeholders, campaigners, journalists and policy-makers, according to a press release.
The website features reports highlighting incidents of violence against religious minority groups in the country in the past four decades. A fact-finding mission was conducted across Pakistan to record and validate (as far as possible) incidents of violence against minorities since 1980, the statement added.
The methodology used by the portal in its reports relies on media reports and police records, sorting the data by age and gender, although the segregated data is rarely available. The portal also records dates, locations of attacks and casualties. The information collected was validated where possible by travel to the relevant regions, and citizens from the concerned minority groups were selected as researchers to help with this documentation of the violence.
Between 2005 and 2021, Violence Register PK has counted 304 incidents of violence against Pakistani Christians, specifically attacks on places of worship and persons; targeted killings, kidnappings, sectarian attacks, mob violence, bomb blasts, rapes and forced conversions.
It recorded 36 incidents of religious discrimination and 79 blasphemy accusations between 2005 and 2021. These incidents of violence, accusations and discrimination against the Christian community resulted in at least 1,048 reported casualties.
Over a period from 2010 to 2021, the organisation reported some 205 reported incidents of violence, including attacks on places of worship, targeted killings, abductions, sexual crimes and forced conversions targeting Hindus in Pakistan.
The report indicates that the years from 2011 to 2015 were the deadliest, with 120 religiously-motivated attacks against the Hindu community. Abductions and forced conversions make up the most significant form of violence experienced by this community: it faced 70% of all such violence recorded. Moreover, such incidents of abductions and forced conversions make up 66% of all violence against the Hindu community. A 600% upsurge in such incidents was recorded in 2011-12, and a 450% increase between 2018 and 2019.
However, such violence is not directed only at non-Muslim religious groups. Sectarian minorities amongst Muslims experience a major chunk of the religiously-motivated violence in Pakistan.
According to the reporting by Violence Register Pakistan, Shia Muslims have faced “66% of all faith-based violence in Pakistan”. Furthermore, the organisation notes that such violence also significantly affects smaller Muslim religious denominations, including Zikris and Ismailis.
Violence Register Pakistan notes, “Increasing violence against the Shia community highlights the emergence of an even more pronounced and strict exclusionary form of nationalism based on a very specific understanding of the majority religion.”
The Ahmadi community’s persecution is particularly disturbing and has been described in the report as one that continues from ‘cradle to grave’. The first Ahmadi, according to the research, was murdered in 1901. And thousands have fallen as dominoes ever since.
The report notes that at every step of their lives they remain at risk of arrest, attack, harassment and murder. Ahmadis have been denied their fundamental right to vote. Possessing religious texts is not allowed either.
What is worse is that for the Ahmadi community, there is persecution even in death. The report mentions that according to the Human Rights Department, Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Pakistan, to date, 42 bodies of Ahmadis have been exhumed after burial and 79 Ahmadis have been denied places in the community cemeteries.
Some 274 Ahmadis are said to have been killed in violent attacks to date.
Based on its data, the series of reports by Violence Register Pakistan has provided a clear list of policy recommendations, legal reforms, law enforcement measures and civil-society-based engagement. The measures are recommended with the goal of reducing religion-based polarisation in society, curb hate speech and reduce the influence of hardline religious extremist organisations in society.
The project noted 1,436 reported incidents of violence against the Shia community in the form of attacks on Shia mosques and community centres, targeted killings, abductions, blasphemy, mob violence, bomb blasts and religious discrimination between 1963 and 2015.
These recorded attacks resulted in more than 6,000 deaths. Targeted-killing is noted as the most significant form of violence directed at Shia Muslims, comprising 77% of all such aggression against these citizens.
In the last decade, an increase of 717% in violence against Shia Muslims was recorded, when compared to the previous four decades. The organisation found that after 2009, “a clear geographical shift in the concentration of attacks against Shias can be seen. 2010-2021 witnessed an increase in targeted killings and attacks in Sindh; 61% of the targeted killings and 47% of all attacks (sectarian, worship places, murders and kidnapping) reportedly took place in Sindh.” Also, while Karachi accounts for the highest number of violent incidents against Shia Muslim communities, the most fatal city is Quetta, in Balochistan province.