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Daily Times

Published Date: Dec 10, 2014

Persecution of Pakistan’s religious minorities intensifies, says report

NEW DELHI: Violence and discrimination against Pakistan’s religious
minorities such as Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus have intensified to a
level where many live in daily fear of violence or harassment, a report
by rights groups claimed on Tuesday.

It said the government’s failure to protect these communities was
encouraging perpetrators to act with impunity. “Despite some recent
signs of progress in Pakistan, there continues to be high levels of
religious discrimination in the country,” said the report by
London-based Minority Rights Group and Islamabad-based International and
Sustainable Development Policy Institute. “Violent attacks against
religious minorities occur against a backdrop of legal and social
discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives, including
political participation, marriage and freedom of belief.”

Minister for Information Pervaiz Rashid, who also holds the portfolio
for human rights, and officials at the Prime Minister’s office were not
immediately available to comment. The report said there was a surge in
violent attacks against the Ahmadi and Hindu communities in 2014,
including multiple incidents targeting places of worship. Hundreds of
Hindus are believed to have fled Pakistan during the past year as a
result of religious persecution, it said, while doctors, lawyers and
human rights activists have been murdered for supporting the cause of
minority rights.

In November, a mob beat a Christian married couple to death and
burned their bodies in a brick kiln for allegedly desecrating a copy of
the holy Quran. Days later, a policeman in Punjab hacked a man to death
for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the companions of Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH). The previous month a court upheld the death penalty
against a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy, in a
case that drew global headlines after two prominent politicians who
tried to help her were assassinated.

Blasphemy charges are hard to fight because the law does not define
clearly what is blasphemous. Even presenting evidence in court can
sometimes itself be considered a fresh infringement, say activists. The
report’s authors called on the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
to take immediate steps to stop violence against minorities and ensure
justice for victims as well as provide adequate access and security to
places of worship. “This oppressive environment has made it increasingly
difficult for many religious communities to live securely and free from
danger in places where they have often spent the majority of their
lives,” said the report. “The government’s ability to ensure the
security of all its citizens irrespective of their faith is not only a
test of its willingness to preserve its rich social diversity, but will
also be a major determinant of Pakistan’s future stability.”

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