As sectarian violence continues in their homeland, Pakistanis in Germany are trying to raise awareness about the suffering and put pressure on their government to take effective action against extremist groups.
"I stand against Shia genocide. Where do you stand?" said a poster held by a protester on Thursday afternoon in Bonn. He was one of about 30 Pakistanis living in Germany who had gathered in front of the United Nations building in the former German capital.
They had braved the bitter cold to tell the world about the violence that is almost incessant in their homeland. Some had come from as far as Munich to take part in the protest.
Azhar Hussnain, a database manager who lives and works in Bonn, had organized the event via Facebook. It was the second such protest this year - two weeks ago Germany's Pakistani community had gathered in Stuttgart.
The police were there to stand guard but were unobtrusive. Hussnain said he always informed the authorities. "We would not be able to stand and protest in Pakistan even though it’s a democracy," he pointed out. "We would in all probability be harmed there."
'We feel the pain'
The protesters are not part of an organized group. What they share in common is that they are all Pakistanis living in Germany. "We feel the pain of people being killed in Pakistan and want to shed light on this issue," Hussnain explained.
They have handed in a petition to the Consulate General of Pakistan in Frankfurt.
"We want to put international pressure on Pakistan's government so they take concrete steps to protect the common man in Pakistan," said Hasain Zaidi, who is originally from Karachi and came to the protest with his three-year-old son.
"It pains me to watch the news from Pakistan on television," he told DW. "My eyes well up and I wonder if these killers have lost the capacity to feel the pain and suffering of the victims."
A series of attacks
There has been a spate of attacks on Pakistan's minority Shiite community in the past few years.
In August 2012, gunmen disguised as Pakistani security officials dragged several passengers off a bus travelling from Rawalpindi to the north-western Gilgit region. They shot 22 people after ensuring that they were Shias. The Taliban, a Sunni-Wahabi, claimed responsibility for the killings.
Earlier this month, 48 people were killed in Karachi as they left a mosque in a Shiite neighborhood after saying their evening prayers.
So far this year nearly 300 Shiites have been killed in devastating bombings, target killings and executions.
Anger against the government
The demonstrators are angry about the government's inaction. "Highly qualified people such as doctors and engineers are being killed. Why doesn’t the government do anything? asked Hasain Zaidi.
Jamal Malik, Professor for Islamic Studies at the University of Erfurt, told DW that the Bonn protest was part of a widespread movement across the world. "There are more and more demonstrations to raise awareness about what is happening in Pakistan."
"In the past 10 years, the problems of the Shias and the Sunnis have taken a dramatic turn for the worse," he said. "There are many internal and external political elements involved."
He added that other religious minorities were also coming under increasing attack, especially Christians. He blamed the fact that Pakistan was a "weak state" and people could easily be recruited by extremist groups.
"The reason is the population boom. People don’t have a direction. There are few employment opportunities. It is a struggle for survival and that’s why these religious groups can recruit aimless people, who are barely educated and easily mobilized."