The Daily Times: By Yasser latif Hamdani: The freedom to profess one’s religion is integral to the ICCPR and therefore any law that abridges that freedom is in violation of and in contradiction to Pakistan’s international commitment
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2008 and ratified it with reservations in 2010. In 2011, the Pakistan government, on instructions from Prime Minister Gilani, withdrew almost all of the reservations. Hence, since July 2011, Pakistan has ratified the ICCPR almost completely. This means that Pakistan has committed itself to upholding the civil rights and political rights of its citizens almost entirely. To get a full sense of the legal position, it is instructive to read an article by Qasim Rashid, a young Pakistani-American lawyer, in the Richmond Journal of Global Law and Business (vol.11/1), which lays down in some detail the history of the ICCPR, Pakistan’s ratification and subsequent lapses.
Without going into too much of the legal technicalities, I will attempt to provide an overview for the readers here on how Pakistan falls short, almost shamelessly for us as Pakistanis, of its commitments under this covenant vis-à-vis Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus and other minorities — forced or otherwise. In Article 18 of the ICCPR is the guaranteed freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The right to religion includes the freedom to adopt and profess in public or private, freedom of worship and unstinted and unfettered right to believe and manifest one’s religious beliefs accordingly. Article 19 goes further and says that everyone shall have the right to his or her opinions — without interference. Article 20 of the ICCPR forbids any advocacy of religious hatred.