No one is safe in Pakistan. Everyone has been targeted by someone for one reason or the other. However, some have definitely suffered more than others. For them, the country has become more hostile and deadly than it is for people who do not belong to their faith. The Shia community, which roughly makes up 20% of the population, has been specifically targeted for decades now, and there is no reason to believe that the persecution will cease anytime soon. In Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Gilgit Baltistan, Kurram Agency, Balochistan and several other places, doctors, educationists, sportsmen, businessmen and others have been murdered because of their religious affiliation. Although the killings are carried out by a range of terrorist organisations, but certain groups, which are responsible for causing the most damage, are solely dedicated to propagating sectarian violence. The brazen attack on Shia pilgrims in Taftan area of Balochistan, on Sunday, which killed 28 people and injured 30, should be viewed as a part of a larger campaign. The follow-up to the attack so far has been fairly typical. A terrorist group, Jaish-ul-Islam, has claimed responsibility. Political leaders have offered calculated condemnations and assurances, which always prove to be meaningless. It’s business as usual.

The fundamental problem that needs to be highlighted is the state’s, and to an extent, the society’s refusal to acknowledge the ongoing campaign against religious minorities. Mostly, the issue of targeted sectarian killings is merged with the larger terrorism crisis, which dilutes the precise problem that ought to be dealt with. That doesn’t happen on its own. There is a difference in identifying and addressing a sectarian issue and being a follower of a sectarian agenda. This clear distinction is deliberately blurred when views enter the public domain so that any sincere criticism appears prejudiced. Many don’t speak up simply because they fear being accused of sectarian bias. When you are afraid to even speak, how will you ever act? The silence is just as crucial for terrorists as their guns or foot soldiers. With mouths shut across the board, the only people who freely express themselves are the ones who toe the line favoured by the aggressors. They cook up conspiracy theories, blame it on some invisible foreign hand or proxy war, and distract us from the terrorists at home. This false narrative appears to have been embraced, if not promoted, by the state. The identity of the culprits or the location of their hideouts is not hidden from the authorities. Yet, the usual suspects continue to kill with impunity. One is compelled to ask: is it a case of mere complacency or criminal complicity and patronage?