Banned outfits are targeting minorities in Pakistan, revealed the annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
“In 2017, religious minorities in Pakistan, including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadis…continued to face attacks and discrimination from extremist groups and society at large,” the report states, adding that as many as 231 people were killed and 691 injured in such incidents in Pakistan last year.
The report states that the government of Pakistan “failed to protect these groups adequately, and it perpetrated systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations.”
It was noted that forced conversions of non-Muslims continued despite the passage of the Hindu Marriage Act, which grants greater rights in family law for Hindu citizens.
“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,” it adds.
In December 2017, the State Department named Pakistan as the first, and only country on its “Special Watch List,” a new category created by December 2016 amendments to IRFA.
The report also noted that the women’s rights movement in Pakistan suffered a blow in February 2018 with the death of Asma Jahangir, who was a legal pioneer for the rights of religious minorities and women in Pakistan and internationally.
The incident of Mashal Khan, a college student and social activist who was murdered in broad daylight by a mob of students and administrators at Abdul Wali Khan University after he was accused of blasphemy, is also given a special mention in the report.
Moreover, USCIRF also condemned the increase in religious violence in India.
“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 read.
The report added, “during the year, Hindu-nationalist groups sought to “Saffronize” India through violence, intimidation, and harassment against non-Hindus and Hindu Dalits.”
‘Religious freedom conditions deteriorating’
During the launch of the report, USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark remarked that the conditions of religious freedom have deteriorated.
“Sadly, religious freedom conditions deteriorated in many countries in 2017, often due to increasing authoritarianism or under the guise of countering terrorism,” he said.
“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,” he added.