extract:   PAKISTAN

• Designate Pakistan as a CPC under IRFA;
• Negotiate a binding agreement with the
government of Pakistan, under section
405(c) of IRFA, to achieve specific and
meaningful reforms, with benchmarks that
include major legal reforms and releasing
prisoners sentenced for blasphemy; such
an agreement should be accompanied by
U.S.-provided resources for related capacity
building through the State Department
and U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) mechanisms;
• Use targeted tools against specific officials
and agencies identified as having participated
in or being responsible for human
rights abuses, including particularly severe
violations of religious freedom; these
tools include the “specially designated
nationals” list maintained by the Treasury
Department’s Office of Foreign Assets
Control, visa denials under section 604(a)
of IRFA and the Global Magnitsky Human
Rights Accountability Act, and asset
freezes under the Global Magnitsky Act;
• Press the Pakistani government to
implement the Supreme Court’s 2014
decision to create a special police force
to protect religious groups from violence
and actively prosecute perpetrators, both
individuals involved in mob attacks and
members of militant groups;
• Include discussions on religious freedom
in U.S.-Pakistan dialogues or create a
special track of bilateral engagement
specifically regarding religious freedom
and the promotion of interfaith harmony
and acceptance;
• Work with international partners to jointly
raise religious freedom concerns with
Pakistani officials in Islamabad and in
multilateral settings, and to encourage
the Pakistani government to invite the UN
Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion
or belief for a country visit;
• Encourage the Pakistani government and
provincial education boards to reform
textbooks and curricula in government
schools and the madrassah system to
remove negative information and misinformation
on all religions and to ensure they
promote religious and ethnic tolerance;
• Urge the Pakistani government and
provincial governments to review all cases
of individuals charged with blasphemy in
order to release those who were falsely
accused, while still calling for the unconditional
release of all individuals sentenced
to prison for blasphemy;
• Continue to call for the repeal of the
blasphemy prohibitions in Penal Code
article 295; until this can be accomplished:
urge the Pakistani government to reform
article 295 to make blasphemy a bailable
offense, penalize false accusations, and
require evidence by accusers; and call
for the enforcement of preexisting penal
code articles that criminalize false accusations
in any legal matter;
• Press for at the highest levels and work to
secure the unconditional release of prisoners
of conscience and persons detained
or awaiting trial, and press Pakistan’s
government to treat prisoners humanely
and continue to allow them access to
family, human rights monitors, adequate
medical care, and lawyers and the ability
to practice their faith;
• Continue to call for the repeal of anti-Ahmadiyya
laws, especially articles 298-(A),
(B), and (C) of the country’s penal code;
• Urge the Pakistani government to pass
a law recognizing Christian marriages
and that prevent forced marriages and
conversions, and train and educate police,
lawyers, and judges to interpret and
enforce this law correctly;
• Encourage the government of Pakistan
to launch a public information campaign
about the historic role played by religious
minorities in the country, their contributions
to Pakistani society, and their
equal rights and protections, and use the
tools of U.S. public diplomacy, such as
the International Visitors Program, other
educational and cultural exchanges, and
U.S.-funded media, to highlight similar
themes; and
• Ensure a portion of existing U.S. security
assistance is used to help police
implement an effective plan for dedicated
protection of religious minority communities
and their places of worship.
During the past year, the Pakistani government continued to
perpetrate and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious
religious freedom violations. Religiously discriminatory constitutional
provisions and legislation, such as the country’s blasphemy
and anti-Ahmadiyya laws, continue to result in prosecutions and
imprisonments. At least 40 individuals have been sentenced to
death or are serving life sentences for blasphemy, including two
Christians who received death sentences in June 2016. During
the year, an Ahmadi and a Shi’a Muslim were convicted and
imprisoned for five years, and four Ahmadis were charged under
the anti-Ahmadiyya provisions. Religious minority communities,
including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis, and Shi’a Muslims, also
experience religiously motivated and sectarian violence from
both terrorist organizations and individuals within society; the
government’s longstanding failure to prevent or prosecute such
violence has created a deep-rooted climate of impunity that
has emboldened extremist actors. Provincial textbooks with
discriminatory content against minorities remain a significant
concern. Reports also continue of forced conversions and marriages
of Hindu and Christian girls and women, although the
Pakistani government took some positive steps on this issue and
made other encouraging gestures toward religious minorities.
Based on these violations, USCIRF again finds in 2017 that Pakistan
merits designation as a “country of particular concern,” or
CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as
it has found since 2002. Designating Pakistan as a CPC would
enable the United States to more effectively press Islamabad
to undertake needed reforms. Despite USCIRF’s longstanding
recommendation, the State Department has never designated
Pakistan as a CPC.
Religious minority communities also suffer from
social and political marginalization. They have 10
reserved seats out of 342 total seats in the National
Assembly (lower chamber of Parliament) and none in
the Senate (upper chamber of Parliament). The ability
of religious minority representatives to successfully
advocate for their communities is further diminished
in Pakistan’s parliamentary system because liberal
political parties often have to form coalitions with
parties that may not be supportive of religious or
ethnic minorities.
In previous years, the Pakistani government at
both the federal and provincial levels took some steps
to address some of these issues, including establishing
a 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) following
the December 2014 Pakistani Taliban attack on the
Peshawar army school, in which 130 children were
killed. The NAP was developed to address terrorism,
attacks on minority communities, and hate speech
and literature intended to incite violence. However,
implementation of the NAP and other steps have
fallen short and have not produced substantive religious
freedom improvements. Societal violence and
terrorist activity continues, and inherently discriminatory
laws remain.
Pakistan is an ethnically and religiously diverse country
of over 190 million people. According to the last official
census, in 1998, 95 percent of the population identified
as Muslim; among the Muslim population, 75 percent
identified as Sunni and 25 percent as Shi’a. The remaining
5 percent of Pakistan’s population are non-Muslim,
including Christians, Hindus, Parsis/Zoroastrians,
Baha’is, Sikhs, Buddhists, and others. The numbers of
Shi’a Muslims and Christians believe their communities
are larger than reported in the 1998 census. An estimated
two to four million Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims,
but Pakistani law does not recognize them as such.
Religious freedom conditions in Pakistan have long
been marred by religiously discriminatory constitutional
provisions and legislation. For years, the Pakistani
government has consistently failed to stem rhetoric that
incites religiously motivated or sectarian violence by
religious ideologues and extremist groups, or to bring
perpetrators to justice when violent attacks occur.
Moreover, violent extremist groups and U.S.-designated
terrorist organizations—such as Tehrik-e-Taliban
Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban), the Pakistani branch of
the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and Lashkar-eJhangvi
(LeJ)—target Pakistani civilians, governmental
offices, and military locations, posing a significant
security challenge to the government and negatively
impacting the government’s capacity and will to address
egregious religious freedom violations in the country.
These groups threaten all Pakistanis, including religious
minority communities, nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs), judges and lawyers involved in religiousfreedom-related
cases, and officials or parliamentarians
who attempt to discuss or revise repressive laws.


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