Ismaili women. (Photo: AKPBS Pakistan)

Ismaili women. (Photo: AKPBS Pakistan)

In 20-year-old Mussarat Jahan’s household there is sectarian harmony.

She and her mother belong to the Ismaili community, a sub-sect of Shia religious minority.  While her father is Sunni.
 
“He follows his sect and offers prayers according. While my mother is a Shia, who follows her own faith. I just respect them both and support them equally,” she said.

Around 300 thousand Ismailis have lived in the Pakistan for decades.
 
“We are a very peaceful community, who largely help each other. We are not political people. We only follow whatever our Imam (Prince Agha Khan) asks us to follow. We follow our Imam to great extent that after the Prophet Muhammad and the holy Quran our Imam is the most important religious personality,” she added.
 
It’s this belief that there is an important religious figure after the Prophet Muhammad that has anger extreme Sunni militants.

Groups claiming to have links with the Islamic state killed 45 people in a mass shooting on a bus in May in Karachi.
 
Ali Ahmed Jan, lost his best friend in the attack. He says he was brought up to keep his faith secret.
 
“Others just want to label us infidel. That’s why we are specially told at home and at community level to avoid such discussions,” he said.
 
Ismailis are one of the most highly educated communities in Pakistan.
 
They have 100 percent literacy rate across both girls and boys.
 
“Our people strongly believe in giving education to the boys and girls. The community wants us to prosper and serve in important positions. No girl is married before completing at least 12 years of education,” Mussarat said.

Some of the country’s best educational institutes and hospitals are run by Ismailis.

I’m standing outside the Jamatkhana – an Ismaili worship place on the outskirts of Karachi. It’s a gated society and the dozens of the volunteers are guarding the prayer hall.

In March, they had gathered to welcome New Year with celebrations of the Nauroze.

They sought blessings for the New Year. The children, youngsters and aged couples also danced, the community is very liberal.

Nearby is the place where the militants brutally shot the victims on head.

The attackers also left a message, warning the Ismailis to leave the country or face death.

Thousands of Pakistanis have been expressing solidarity with the Ismaili community.
 
There have been protests on the streets and online.

Human rights activist, Akhtar Balouch says they were deeply shocked.

“Its very surprising news that how they were (Ismailis) were targeted and why they were targeted. Their hospitals and educational institutes are not prohibited for other communities. They mainly focus on the Ismaili community, providing them shelter and health facilities. But simultaneously they are providing these facilities to each and every Pakistani also,” he said.
 
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised the community that the perpetrators of the massacre will be punished.
 
20 year old, Ali Ahmed Jan says the government should defeat terrorism through education.
 
“We have very organized community, which continuously conducts extra-curriculum and religious events that keep young people away from violence. None of our community ever gets involved in terrorism,” he said.

 

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