Gunmen on motorcycles killed 14 Shia civilians on October 4 in Balochistan, Pakistan. This attack came on the heels of a September 19 massacre of Shia civilians by a Sunni militant group, also in Balochistan, which left 26 people dead. The Asia director of Human Rights Watch said, “The targeted killings of Shia are a barbaric attempt at sectarian and ethnic cleansing. The government’s failure to break up the extremist groups that carry out these attacks calls into question its commitment to protect all of its citizens.” Human Rights Watch claims that there have been 16 recorded attacks on Shia Muslims in Pakistan in 2011.

Shia protests broke out in the Pakistan port city of Karachi on September 23, over the government’s inability or unwillingness to stop attacks on Shia Muslims. Human Rights Watch said that Sunni militant groups act with impunity even in areas where government authority is well established. After the October 4 killings, opposition parties demanded the resignations of government officials they believe have failed to address the issue. Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, ignored their demand.

In response to mounting protests of government inaction, on October 5 Pakistani police said they had launched a crackdown on militants, detaining up to 100 suspects on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.