As always, the onset of the month of Muharram brings with it heightened security throughout the country and a general sense of unease. In recent years, this has more to do with potential threats from terrorists than any flare-up in sectarian tensions. Beyond threats from terrorists however, there are still multiple challenges that the community still faces. As a minority in Pakistan – like all other minority groups – the Shia community enjoys a fragile sense of peace, where one instance can lead massive sectarian conflict. We saw this in Rawalpindi in 2013 – all steps must be taken to ensure that this relative calm is not disturbed by miscreants.

The Shia community is one that is in the crosshairs most frequently by non-state actors in the country, through target killings and bombings, and it is the state’s failure to being unable to provide adequate security for members of the minority group. This failure in state responsibility can also be extended to the general treatment of minorities across the country; there is a need to for our society more tolerant, and the government can do this by implementing laws regarding the protection of minority groups and spreading awareness to help ease frictions between various communities.

The blame however, does not only lie with the state. The poor treatment of minority groups in Pakistan – and the attacks against members of the Shia community specifically – have foundations in the general ambivalence the majority group has for other sections of society. As the largest practiced faith in the country, Sunni Muslims have a duty to step forward and ensure that others in this country also enjoy the same rights and privileges when it comes to practicing their religion with the utmost freedom. Those complaining about blocked roads due to Muharram processions should remember that this country is centred on the freedom of religion and the right to practice one’s faith. We must stand together and protect the rights of all citizens of the country, regardless of their ethnicity or faith.