USCIRF points at the deteriorating condition of religious freedom in Pakistan

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The United States Commission of International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its annual report has recommended Pakistan to be designated as a country of particular concern. The report points at the deterioration in the state of religious freedom in Pakistan.

US Commission of International Religious Freedom

“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,” USCRIF report states.

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The USCRIF annual report further states: “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.”

The report further delineated the dilemma of the religious minorities saying: “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.”

The report further portrayed the dire situation religious minorities are facing: “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.”

The report simplifies the fact that by designating Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern would actually empower the United States to more efficiently press Pakistan Government to embark on inevitable reforms. “Despite USCIRF’s longstanding recommendation, the State Department has never designated Pakistan as a CPC,” report says.