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Beware US, Pakistan's National Commission for Minorities only symbolism, no substance

ANI | Updated: May 15, 2020 13:04 IST

Washington D.C. [US], May 15 (ANI): Pakistan's National Commission for Minorities is a 'public relations gimmick' as it has no power to amend the anti-minorities laws enshrined in the country's constitution, says former member of Pakistani parliament.
The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its annual report released last month, called out Pakistan for its disregard for the religious freedom of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadis.
Soon, Islamabad made National Commission- a mere eyewash, high on symbolism with no substance.
"The creation of the commission was obviously part of the Pakistani government's effort to mitigate the reputational damage caused by Pakistan's designation, year after year, as an egregious violator of religious freedoms," writes Farahnaz Ispahani in Washington Examiner.
Ispahani, a senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute and a former member of the Pakistani parliament, elucidates with instances of the country's continued and systematic targetting of religious minorities.
Young Hindu and Christian girls are forcefully converted and anti-blasphemy laws are wielded against Ahmadiyya and Christian communities. The seeds of hatred against these minorties are sown deep into the minds of the society.
"The curricula of public and private schools, which demonize other faiths, reinforce in children a hatred or indifference toward children of other faiths. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are ubiquitous and are spread by clerics and politicians," says Ispahani in the column, titled 'Don't fall for Pakistan's PR campaign. It's still awful on religious freedom.'
The USCIRF, which listed Pakistan's transgressions in its annual report released on April 28 and condemned the denial of coronavirus-related food aid to Hindus and Christians a few days earlier, welcomed the creation of the commission in a press release.
Cautioning that mixing praise for engagement and symbolic gestures weakens critical message, the senior research fellow writes, "Pakistan has resisted U.S. pressure on a range of issues over the years, from nuclear weapons to terrorism, by stringing American officials along with deliberately crafted half measures."
Pakistan, by way of forming the commission, is running with a hare and hunting with a hound.
Former United Nations Rapporteur Hina Jilani points out that the minority commission has not been created like other national commissions through an act of parliament.
Chairman of the Peoples Commission on Minority Rights, Peter Jacob, said that the commission in its present form would be challenged in the Supreme Court.
Pakistan, Ispahani says, is "substituting hospitality and public relations stunts for substantive policy change" with such a toothless commission formed to look into the issues of the minorities.
In such a situation, the U.S officials must look through the PR exercise by Islamabad and "for the sake of Pakistan's minorities, and the principle of religious freedom, U.S. officials should not fall for that trap." (ANI)