Karachi (AsiaNews) – The National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church of Pakistan issued a statement saying that "The killing of innocent people on the basis of their faith is unacceptable. The government must investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The Catholic organisation was responding to Wednesday’s terror attack against a bus carrying Ismaili Shias in Karachi (Sindh province). Extremists close to the Islamic State group carried out the operation in which 47 people were killed. Anywhere between 60 and 65 people were travelling on the bus.
The leaders of the Ismaili Shias and Hazara communities expressed "deep shock" over what happened. Pakistan held a day of national mourning yesterday, while at the Al Azhar Garden Jamaat Khana – an Ismaili Shrine in Karachi – a mass funeral was held for the victims.
"We were going to Aisha Manzil when the bus was surrounded by five or six motorbikes,” said Asfar Wala, 48, one of the survivors. “We were in an isolated area. The terrorists came through the back door".
"First, they killed the driver,” he said. “Then they asked us to kneel and look to the ground. The terrorists, one of whom was beardless, took two children aside and then shot the others. Then they ran away."
Catholic organisations in Sindh province announced three days of mourning, to express solidarity with the victims.
Fr Nasir John, a priest in Karachi, condemned the incident. "We stand with the Ismaili community. This is an attack on the integrity of Pakistan. No one is safe in Pakistan; anyone can kill. It is time for the nation to take seriously the issue of security."
“This attack represents a senseless act of violence against a peaceful community. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families of those killed and wounded in the attack,” said Prince Karim Aga Khan, spiritual Leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.
At present, 150,000 Ismailis live in Pakistan, most of them in the port city of Karachi. AsiaNews tried to contact a number of community leaders, but all refused to comment, explaining that "community elders have forbidden us from making public statements." However, Barkat Ali Khwaja, leader of Ismaili Jati (Sindh), agreed to answer a few questions.
"We are concerned about this tragedy,” he told AsiaNews. “This is the latest in a series of inexcusable violent terrorist acts.” Still, “We appreciate the government's response, which should work with political leaders and law enforcement agencies to educate the public and put the national interest first ".
For some time, Pakistan has been the scene of Sunni-Shia clashes, which intensified in 2011 following an attack in Mastung District (Baluchistan province) that left 26 Shia Hazara pilgrims dead.
Because of such incidents, unarmed pilgrimages to and from Iran have been banned the last two years.
Abdul Khaliq Hazara, president of Hazara Democratic Party, described the attack in Karachi as a “Shia genocide” and called on the government to extend the National Action Plan to Karachi and Quetta.
The national anti-terrorism plan was introduced in 2014, after a Taliban attack on a military school in Peshawar, which killed more than 140 people, mostly children.
"We have seen too much barbarism,” the Hazara politician said. “Terrorists come and openly attack.”
“This raises questions about the National Action Plan’s effectiveness and our politicians’ intentions. The police need to do more to protect vulnerable communities, including Christians."