QUETTA: More than 300,000 people including minority Shias and Hindus have fled Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan over the past 10 years due to growing unrest, a rights group said Wednesday.

Tahir Hussain Khan, president of the Balochistan chapter of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan(HRCP), said: “The figure of 300,000 is a considerable figure. The actual number of migrants may be higher but we could only authenticate this.”

On the other hand, Akbar Hussain Durrani, the provincial home secretary, accepted that the various groups had left but said the total was exaggerated.

“I dispute the figure of 300,000, I don't know where they have gathered these figure. Yes I accept that there was migration of these groups, but not at such a huge level that HRCP claims,” he said.

Also read: Meanwhile, in Balochistan…

Resource-rich but poor Balochistan is in the midst of its fifth armed uprising against the Pakistani state, which began in 2004, while violence featuring sectarian groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has also surged in recent years.

HRCP's Khan said the Hazara ethnic group was worst hit by the unrest, with as many as 200,000 of them relocating to Pakistan's major cities or abroad.

The community has come under increasing attack by extremists like LeJ because they are predominantly Shia and their Central Asian features make them stand out.

Explore more: Hazards of identity

At least 24 Hazara pilgrims were killed in June when their bus was targeted by suicide bombers.

Two devastating bombings in Quetta targeting the city's Shias killed nearly 200 people last year and were claimed by LeJ, which has links to Al Qaeda.

Around 10,000 Hindus have migrated from several areas of Balochistan after incidents of extortion, kidnapping for ransom and killings, Khan added.

He said the Hindus have settled in Sindh province and its main city Karachi, adding that his commission has received three complaints of forced religious conversions.

Know more: In the crosshairs

The rest of the migrants included around 300 Parsi families and 400 members of the relatively obscure Zikri sect.

Khan said the other 90,000 people who have fled are from the Punjabi and Urdu-speaking communities, who have left to avoid violence by Baloch nationalists fighting for a separate state.

Opinion

Crisis looming
Updated 21 Oct 2021

Crisis looming

It will be a terrible mistake for the PM, his acolytes to underestimate the strength of the wave that is about to hit them.
An eye-opener
21 Oct 2021

An eye-opener

A daring report by Indian savants could have been written here.
Past, present, forever
Updated 20 Oct 2021

Past, present, forever

Despite their close relationship, this is hardly the first time the PTI and the military have not been BFFs.

Editorial

Not just cricket
Updated 21 Oct 2021

Not just cricket

Hype surrounding the match — sold out as soon as tickets sales opened — has overshadowed the other games, as well as other teams.
Local governance
21 Oct 2021

Local governance

The court ruling restoring local institutions in Punjab should go a long way in ensuring the continuation of grassroots democracy.
21 Oct 2021

Breast cancer awareness

LIKE so many other issues relating to women’s health in Pakistan, breast cancer is not a subject of serious...
Opposition’s chance?
Updated 19 Oct 2021

Opposition’s chance?

What the opposition can do is take advantage of the cleavage between PTI and the establishment, perhaps widen it and leverage it.
Evading tax laws
Updated 20 Oct 2021

Evading tax laws

Challenge of tax compliance can't be dealt with without directly taxing incomes irrespective of source and punishing tax evaders.
19 Oct 2021

KCR delays

AS political and bureaucratic stakeholders drag their feet over reviving the Karachi Circular Railway, residents of...