Pakistan is No Country for Minorities

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Members of Pakistan Hindu Council hold placards and a banner during a protest against a mob attack to a Hindu temple in a remote village in Karak district, in Karachi on December 31, 2020. - Hundreds of Muslims attacked and set fire to a Hindu temple in northwest Pakistan on December 30, police and witnesses said. (Photo by Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP via Getty Images)

Pakistan has long been described as ‘No Country for Minorities of any kind’ and the latest report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) titled “A Breach of Faith: Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2021-22” belies the Pakistani state’s commitment to freedom of religion or belief.

In the report HRCP notes “the need for a representative and autonomous statutory national commission for minorities in the spirit of the 2014 Supreme Court Jillani judgement.” The HRCP report “also calles for urgent legislation to criminalise forced conversions.”

 

The HRCP points to the worrying incidences of forced conversions in Sindh. Further, reports of religious minorities’ sites of worship being desecrated continue unabated “with no response from the state when such incidents involve sites associated with the Ahmadiyya community. In Punjab, the mandatory declaration of faith for marriage certificates has further marginalised the Ahmadiyya community, while attempts to enforce a standardised national curriculum have created an exclusionary narrative that sidelines Pakistan’s religious minorities.”

 

In its recommendations, HRCP “has demanded that the state make a concerted effort to counter sectarian violence, not only by implementing the National Action Plan but also by developing a national narrative that unambiguously eschews religious extremism and majoritarianism. The low threshold of evidence for blasphemy must be raised to ensure that the laws in question are not weaponised by people to settle personal vendettas, as is so often the case.”

 

HRCP also calls “for re-evaluating the quotas for religious minorities in education and employment and accountability mechanisms to ensure that these quotas are implemented, adding that, in no circumstances should job advertisements call for ‘non-Muslims only’ when recruiting sanitation workers. Unless these measures are implemented urgently, Pakistan will continue to foster a climate of impunity for perpetrators of faith-based discrimination and violence, allowing the already-narrow space for religious freedom to shrink even further.”

 

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Author: Shaista Sindhu