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Bradford demonstrators call for an end to religious violence
Explosions of violence against Shia and Christian minorities in parts of Pakistan prompted a well-attended rally in Bradford.
The demonstration, attended by more than 100 people, was held in Centenary Square on Saturday.
More than 50 Shias died and 150 were injured in a targeted bomb blast in Karachi recently and last week 100 Christian homes were torched in Lahore by Sunni mobs enraged by claims of blasphemy against The Prophet.
Last year 400 Shia were killed by Sunni extremist gangs, but in January and February this year 200 have already died in bombings in the South western city of Quetta.
Historically, Shia muslims follow the fourth caliph after the Prophet Mohammed, who they consider to be his true descendent.
Sunni muslims – the vast majority in Pakistan – believe all four of the first caliphs were rightful heirs.
And the group held responsible for most attacks on Shia people is the well-armed Lashkar-e-Jhangri, which means ‘Soldiers of the Companions of the Prophet.’ Recent violence against Christians in Pakistan flared due to an unsubstantiated claim that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against The Prophet.
Such accusations prompt instant and uncontrolled mob reactions, with the police unable or reluctant to intervene, according to concerned groups.
In a statement on the arson in Lahore, Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission said: “The attack is yet another shameful incident against a vulnerable community and further confirmation of the slide toward extremism in society on the one hand and, on the other hand, the apathy and inaction that has become the norm among the police.”
And in Bradford, Yasser Khalid of the South Asian People’s Forum said local people wanted to send a clear message to Pakistan’s government that action had to be taken to protect innocent people.
“There was a strong turnout of more than 100 people who want to make a protest to Pakistan,” Mr Khalid said.
“Members of the Shia, Christian, Sikh and other religions came together to make their feelings known and say there has to be an end to this terrible cycle of violence.
“Although it is a very complex situation and hard to put a finger on who’s behind it, why is the Pakistan government doing nothing about it?” he asked.