Lahore [Pakistan], February 8 (ANI): The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has raised concerns over the continued marginalization of religious minorities in the country.
In its report titled A Breach of Faith: Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2021-22, HRCP has observed with considerable alarm developments during 2021/22 that belie the state's commitment to freedom of religion or belief.
The incidence of forced conversions in Sindh has remained worryingly consistent. Reports of religious minorities' sites of worship being desecrated have continued, but with no response from the state when such incidents involve sites associated with the Ahmadiyya community, said Hina Jilani, Chairperson of HRCP.
In Punjab, the mandatory declaration of faith for marriage certificates has further marginalized the Ahmadiyya community, while attempts to enforce a standardized national curriculum have created an exclusionary narrative that sidelines Pakistan's religious minorities, added Jilani.
The minority communities in the country, including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Ahmadis, continue to live under clouds of fear and persecution by the majority community.
In 2022, scores of cases emerged where members of minority communities were attacked in cities and towns of Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for allegedly committing blasphemy.
HRCP has reiterated the need for a representative and autonomous statutory national commission for minorities in the spirit of the 2014 Supreme Court Jillani judgment.
It has also called for urgent legislation to criminalize forced conversions. Among other recommendations, HRCP has demanded that the state make a concerted effort to counter sectarian violence, not only by implementing the National Action Plan but also by 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 weaponized by people to settle personal vendettas, as is so often the case, said Jilani.
HRCP has also called for re-evaluating the quotas for religious minorities in education and employment and accountability mechanisms to ensure that these quotas are implemented, adding that, in 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, said Jilani. (ANI)