In addition to the proportion of white color in the national flag, one of the very few things that have remained the same in Pakistan since its creation is the persecution of religious minorities by some religious extremists. Of those, Shia Muslims, who constitute about 20% of the population of Pakistan, remain a sect, systematically marginalized in the country for the last 70 years. Until very recently, the sect’s most common form of persecution was the target killings of its notables, including doctors, lawyers, businessmen, professors, etc. and attacks during their practice of rituals. According to reports of The Muslim Vibe, almost 23.000 Shias were murdered in the country since 1963 due to their faith, with most attacks happening in Karachi, Quetta, and Parachinar. Other forms include forced and incitement of hate and violence against the sect by extremist groups. Since the last two years, the anti-Shia forces have come up with a considerably newer form of victimization, i.e. booking the members of the sect for proclaiming their faith, in public or on social media, through misuse of blasphemy laws. Shias are booked for a crime under blasphemy laws left, right, and center, from announcing their faiths or beliefs to holding a mourning ritual at a private residence to merely carrying books of the sect’s beliefs and practices. The start of the new calendar year could also not improve the overall situation much for the Shia Muslims. Within the first forty days of the year, multiple incidences of targeted killings, blasphemy accusations, and hate speech were recorded throughout the country. On 17th January 2022, three Shias, including two brothers, were gunned down at a shop in Dera Ismail Khan, a city with a history of target killings of Shias, resulting in hundreds of them losing their lives. The relatives and neighbors of the deceased staged a sit-in against the incident on Indus Highway for a few hours before successful negotiations with the LEAs (Law Enforcement Agencies). A sit-in against the incident on Indus Highway (Photo Source: Twitter status, Syed Kumail Zaidi, @khatmal1512) The fire of extremism has spread so widely in the country that even Islamabad, the capital, has failed to save itself from the burning flames. A Shia prayer leader and scholar, Maulana Mirza Hussain Sabri, was booked in the last week of 2021. In contrast, an FIR against another Shia cleric, Maulana Kazim Naqvi, was registered on 4th Feb 2022. Besides these two, several other members were booked on similar charges due to their posts on social media or discussions in social gatherings. FIR pertaining to blasphemy accusation registered against Maulana Kazim Abbas Naqvi (Photo Source: Twitter @Samribackup) This recent form of persecution in which a charged mob surrounds police stations and refuses to leave until they manage to lodge an FIR against the sect’s cleric or a layman has been initiated by the same anti-Shia outlawed outfit known as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’at (ASWJ), formerly known as Sipah e Sahaba Pakistan. Founded in the 1980s, ASWJ remains the biggest and the most active anti-Shia force in the country, involved in hate speech against the sect and being practically involved in killing its members. Though the outfit has been banned thrice by National Counter Terrorism Authority, NACTA, after various efforts of rebranding with the majority of its leaders present in the fourth schedule act, it continues to hold large public gatherings all over the country displaying its flag and propagating its hate beliefs without any restrictions faced. On 26th January 2022, the banned outfit held a grand rally under state protection in Karachi, where on the same day, a democratic party MQM-P was dealt with force by the state. A grand rally in Karachi (Photo Source: Twitter @Faroquiofficial) In a country where the count of fabricated blasphemy cases only for personal vendetta is increasing exponentially, and the mob lynching on mere accusations is becoming routine news, the state should act quickly and sternly to stop the miscreants from using this tool to increase the persecution of an already marginalized community. Just last week, an angry mob stoned a man to death before hanging his corpse from a tree in Mian Channu on mere ‘accusations.’ The abduction and persecution of Shias as well as other minorities in Pakistan is of grave concern. It also contributes to the indirect victimization of minorities including Shias by accepting complaints of registering cases against them, as well as letting the workers of the defunct party rally and spread further hatred and sectarianism in the country. In a country founded to guarantee peace and freedom of religious beliefs, members of Quaid e Azam’s sect continue to hope for dawn with religious freedom. The blog has been published in collaboration with Ravadar – a series that documents lives of religious minorities in Pakistan.