Nearly a thousand Shia pilgrims have been stranded at the Pakistan-Iran border in the restive Balochistan border for about a week, waiting for security forces to escort them back to their homes in Punjab province. The pilgrims had gone to Iran and Iraq on religious tours and on reaching the Taftan border town in Balochistan last week learnt that security arrangements to escort them to Multan, Khanewal, Dera Ghazi Khan and Layyah in southern Punjab were not adequate.
They are unwilling to undertake the journey without proper security since Shias have often been a target of extremist sectarian outfits and hundreds of them have been killed in targeted killings and bomb attacks over the years. The pilgrims, including women and children, face harsh weather and shortage of food. Supplies have nearly run out, reports said.
A Balochistan government official said the process of sending security forces to the border area has started and they will escort the pilgrims on their journey to Punjab. Today, unidentified gunmen killed five persons from the Shia community in Mastung area of the province. In June 2014, around 30 Hazara Shia pilgrims were killed by gunmen and suicide bombers as they returned to Taftan after Ziarat while in January the same year a bus carrying pilgrims have come under attack in which around 22 people were killed.
Last month, Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan had banned Shia pilgrims from travelling by road in Balochistan to Iran for ‘Ziarat’ due to the adverse security situation.