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Pakistan criticized for failing to protect religious minorities

April 30, 2024

For information about the Orthodox Mission in Pakistan, see here.

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, see here.

“Pakistan criticized for failing to protect minorities,” by Shaharyar Khurram, UCA News, April 24, 2024:

Pakistan has come under fire for dismal human rights violations, especially for failing to protect minority rights and curbing attacks on religious minorities in the latest human rights report from the US State Department.

The 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released on April 23, covers internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements.

The report says there was no significant changes in the human rights situation in Pakistan last year.

Violence against religious minorities continued in Pakistan in 2023 including forced conversions, early and forced marriages and mob attacks targeting minorities, it said.

Pakistan is home to about 241 million people, 96.3 percent of whom are Muslims, 1.6 percent are Hindus, and 1.6 percent are Christians. Other religious minorities such as Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians make up less than one percent, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Civil society and human rights groups reported increasing violence against minorities in the country.

A total of 193 incidents of violence took place against religious minorities in Pakistan last year, according to Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).

Of these, Christians were targeted in 113 incidents, 42 cases of violence against Ahmadis, a Muslim sect considered heretics by Islamic hardliners, 37 cases of violence against Hindus and one incident against Sikhs, the CRSS said in its annual report.

The CRSS reported that 35 people, mostly minorities, were killed in sectarian attacks last year, compared to 19 deaths in 2022.

The US human rights report, referring to Pakistani civil society groups, said that the nation’s courts often failed to protect the rights of religious minorities against Muslims who accused them of violating country’s stringent blasphemy laws.

Pakistan’s penal code punishes defamation of Islam and Prophet Mohammad with life and death sentences.

“While the majority of those imprisoned for blasphemy were Muslim, religious minorities were disproportionately affected,” the US report said.

“Lower courts often failed to adhere to basic evidentiary standards in blasphemy cases, which civil society groups and lawyers ascribed to fear of retaliation from religious groups if they acquitted blasphemy defendants.”

The report also highlighted that forced religious conversions and enforcement of blasphemy laws were particular areas of concern for religious minorities.

“Societal violence due to religious intolerance remained a serious problem,” it said. “There were occasional reports of mob violence against religious minorities, including Christians, Ahmadi Muslims, and Hindus.”…