Religious Intolerance Continues to Grow at a Critical and Alarming Rate in Pakistan

ICC Note:

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has labeled Pakistan as one of the worst violators of religious freedom in the world in its most recent Annual Report. Chronic attacks on religious minorities and their places of worship, repressive and abused blasphemy laws, forced marriages and conversions to Islam, and widespread discrimination against religious minorities are just to name a few of the issues faced by Pakistan’s Christian community. Unfortunately, there seems to be no improvement coming for Pakistan or for its religious minorities in the near future. Please pray for Christians and other religious minorities facing intense persecution in Pakistan. 

5/21/2015 Pakistan (Merinews) – Since inception of Pakistan, religious tolerance in the country has been waning at an alarming and critical speed. For instance, during mid of the year 2015 the highest number of causalities occurred not from terrorists attacks in Pakistan, but due to sectarian attacks. Increasingly, the targeting bombings and killings, are owed to religious intolerance that has become a routine law and order affair for the Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments.

Although sectarian violence started as early as the formation of Pakistan, it was General Zia, who is considered to be chief architect of sectarianism in Pakistan.

The indigenous propensity of religious intolerance in Pakistan had begun in the February 1953 when over 2,000 Ahmadi Muslims were killed in a series of sectarian violence against them which took place in Lahore. The most recent case was killing of over forty five Ismailia Shias that occurred in Karachi on May 13, 2015.

In between February 1953 and May 2015, Pakistan’s history contains abounding incidents of religious intolerance resulting in regular attacks and killings of thousands of different religious minorities including Shias, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus. The armed clashes between majority Sunni and minority Shia community have also been happening in Pakistan.

According to the 1998 census of Pakistan, 95 per cent of population was identified as Muslims, included 75 per cent as Sunni, 20 per cent Shia, three to four million Ahmedis, which are not recognized as Muslims by the Pakistan, and remaining about total of 5 per cent included Christians, Hindus, Parsis, Bhais, Buddhists and Zoroastrians.

The severity of religious intolerance in Pakistan can be gauged from the fact that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its annual report for 2015, covering the period between January 2014 and January 2015, concluded that Pakistan represented as a one of the worst religious freedom offender countries as well as a country of particular concern on the issue.

Other countries who were categorized like Pakistani were Central African Republic; Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Tajikistan and Vietnam. USCIRF is an independent US government advisory body, affiliated to the State Department, which independently monitors religious freedom around the world and also formulates policy recommendations to the US government on the subject.

USCIRF, in its latest annual report, further revealed that in Pakistan chronic sectarian violence occurred against Shia Muslims, Christians, Ahmadis Muslims and Hindus during the said year. Despite Pakistan Supreme Court’s directives to the Pakistan government, it failed to provide adequate protection(s) to targeted minority groups and prosecute perpetrators and those calling for the sectarian violence.

Pakistan’s legal environment was described as repressive due to the religiously discriminatory constitutional provisions and legislations, especially blasphemy laws. In addition to militant attacks on Shias in Pakistan, the country was criticized for mob violence against Christians, conversion of Christain and Hindu girls and young women into Islam and their forced marriages to Muslim men, which was described as a “systematic problem”.

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