Washington DC [US], April 14 (ANI): The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Monday said it was "troubled by reports of food aid being denied to the minority Hindus and Christians in Pakistan" amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
"These actions are simply reprehensible. As COVID-19 continues to spread, vulnerable communities within Pakistan are fighting hunger and to keep their families safe and healthy. Food aid must not be denied because of one's faith," said USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava.
The Commissioner urged the Pakistan government to "ensure that food aid from distributing organisations is shared equally" with Hindus, Christians, and other religions minorities.
The Hindu community forms a minuscule portion of Pakistan's population and are subjected to rampant discrimination and often denied basic human rights.
The USCIRF noted that in Karachi, for example, there have been reports that the Saylani Welfare International Trust, a non-government organisation established to assist the homeless and seasonal workers, has been refusing food assistance to Hindus and Christians, arguing that the aid is "reserved for Muslims alone".
USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore said: "In a recent address by Prime Minister Khan (Imran Khan) to the international community, he highlighted that the challenge facing governments in the developing world is to save people from dying of hunger while also trying to halt the spread of COVID-19."
"This is a monumental task laying before many countries. Prime Minister Khan's government has the opportunity to lead the way but they must not leave religious minorities behind. Otherwise, they may add on top of it all one more crisis, created by religious discrimination and inter-communal strife."
In its 2019 Annual Report, USCIRF had noted that Hindus and Christians in Pakistan "face continued threats to their security and are subjected to various forms of harassment and social exclusion."
Pakistan has often been criticised internationally for cracking down on the minorities in the country.
Meanwhile, according to the latest data, the number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan stands at 5,537, while the death toll is at 96. (ANI)