Religious freedom under threat, claims HRCP report

Forced conversions, desecration of religious sites remains alarmingly consistent

Our CorrespondentFebruary 08, 2023


In its report titled ‘A Breach of Faith: Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2021-22,’ the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) observed with considerable alarm developments during 2021-22 that belie the state’s commitment to freedom of religion or belief.

Incidents of forced conversions in Sindh remained worryingly consistent, while reports of the desecration of religious minorities’ sites of worship have continued. Incidents involving the religious sites associated with the Ahmadiyya community receive no response from the state. In Punjab, the mandatory declaration of faith in marriage certificates further marginalised the Ahmadiyya community, while attempts to enforce a standardised national curriculum have created an exclusionary narrative that sidelines Pakistan’s religious minorities.

The HRCP reiterated the need for a representative and autonomous statutory national commission for minorities, in the spirit of the 2014 Supreme Court Jillani judgment. It also called for urgent legislation to criminalise forced conversions, as well as concerted efforts by the state to counter sectarian violence, by implementing the National Action Plan and developing a national narrative that unambiguously eschews religious extremism and majoritarianism. The low threshold of evidence for blasphemy must be raised to ensure that the laws in question are not weaponised by people to settle personal vendettas, as is so often the case.

HRCP also called for re-evaluating quotas for religious minorities in education and employment and accountability mechanisms to ensure that these quotas are implemented. Additionally, the Commission demanded that under no circumstances should job advertisements call for ‘non-Muslims only’ when recruiting sanitation workers.

Unless these measures are implemented urgently, Pakistan will continue to foster a climate of impunity for perpetrators of faith-based discrimination and violence, allowing the already-narrow space for religious freedom to shrink even further, the report stated.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2023.


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