NEW YORK - Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog body on Thursday urged Pakistan to act to protect the Shia community and not stand by as members of the country’s religious minority are “slaughtered.”“Deadly attacks on Shia communities across Pakistan are escalating,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.  “The government’s persistent failure to apprehend attackers or prosecute the extremist groups organising the attacks suggests that it is indifferent to this carnage.”In one of the deadliest attacks, gunmen last month killed 22 after ordering them off buses, the New York-based rights group noted. Just last week, eight Shia members of the ethnic Hazara community were killed in two attacks in Quetta.The group said 320 Shias have been killed in targeted attacks this year, many in Balochistan, Karachi, the northern Gilgit Baltistan area and the northwestern tribal region.Human Rights Watch says banned militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi often operate with widespread impunity across Pakistan.Last week, Pakistani police said they arrested the founder of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for making a speech aimed at stirring sectarian hatred. Human Rights Watch called Malik Ishaq’s detention an important development and an important test for Pakistan’s criminal justice system.Human Rights Watch urged Pak government and relevant provincial governments to make all possible efforts to promptly apprehend and prosecute those responsible for recent attacks and other crimes targeting the Shia population. “The government should direct civilian agencies and the military responsible for security to actively protect those facing attack from extremist groups, and to address the growing perception, particularly in Balochistan and Pakistan’s Tribal Areas, that State authorities look the other way when Shias are attacked,” it said. It should increase the number of security personnel in Shia majority areas and enclaves at high risk of attack, particularly the Hazara community in Quetta, it added.“Pakistan’s government cannot play the role of unconcerned bystander as the Shia across Pakistan are slaughtered,” Adams said.  “Pakistan’s political leaders, law-enforcement agencies, judiciary and military need to take this as seriously as they take other security threats to the State.”