Religious intolerance towards minorities increasing in Pakistan: UNCIRF

The annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (UNCIRF) states that the banned organizations are targeting religious minorities in Pakistan.   

It was noted in the report, “The entry of fundamentalist and often extremist, religious parties into the political arena in advance of July 2018 national elections further threatens religious minorities’ already precarious status in the country.”  

The report revealed, “In 2017, religious minorities in Pakistan, including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadis…continued to face attacks and discrimination from extremist groups and society at large.”

As a result, as many as 231 people were killed and 691 injured in such incidents in Pakistan last year.

Whereas according to the report, "the government of Pakistan failed to protect these groups adequately, and it perpetrated systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations.”

In Sindh, there was seen continuously forced conversions of non-Muslims despite the passage of the Hindu Marriage Act, which grants rights in family law for Hindu citizens.

The US State Department had named Pakistan as the first, and the only country on its “Special Watch List” in December 2017, a new category created by December 2016 amendments to IRFA.

Moreover, according to the report,  Asma Jahangir's death in February 2018, is regarded as a setback to the women and minorities rights in Pakistan. Asma Jahangir was a legal pioneer for the rights of religious minorities and women in Pakistan and internationally.

The report specially mentions the incident of Mashaal Khan who was brutally murdered by a mob at Abdul Wali Khan University after he was accused of blasphemy.  

Besides, USCIRF also mentioned and condemned the increasing religious violence in India. 

It noted, "In 2017, religious freedom conditions continued a downward trend in India. India’s history as a multicultural and multireligious society remained threatened by an increasingly exclusionary conception of national identity based on religion."  

It further reported, "during the year, Hindu-nationalist groups sought to “Saffronize” India through violence, intimidation, and harassment against non-Hindus and Hindu Dalits." 

USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark expressed with grief the conditions of religious freedom have deteriorated. 

He remarked, “Sadly, religious freedom conditions deteriorated in many countries in 2017, often due to increasing authoritarianism or under the guise of countering terrorism.” 

He added further“Yet there is also a reason for optimism 20 years after the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act. The importance of this foundational right is appreciated more now than ever, and egregious violations are less likely to go unnoticed."

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