The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended in its annual report that Pakistan be designated a “Country of Particular Concern” for its documented religious freedom violations. This would mean Pakistan would be ranked among many of the world’s worst persecutors of Christians such as North Korea and Eritrea. Making up only a small percentage of the country’s population, Pakistan’s Christian community is among the world’s most persecuted. Faced with widespread discrimination and, at times, open hostility, Pakistan’s Christians face an almost daily struggle to survive.
06/02/2017 Pakistan (Pakistan Today) – The US Commission of International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has published its annual report on religious freedom in the world. The commission recommended 16 countries – including Pakistan – for their deteriorated condition of religious freedom and demanded that the US Department of State designate these countries as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC). The report finds Pakistan to be a Muslim majority country of 190 million people with religiously diverse population (comprising 95% Muslims and 5% non-Muslims). The country also has two to four million Ahmadis, who are not counted as Muslim by law.
The report states that religious freedom conditions in Pakistan are marred by religiously discriminatory constitutional provisions and legislations. It declares that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani branch of ISIS and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) are continuously targeting civilians as well as the Military, Law Enforcing Agencies, NGOs and the civil society at large, including minorities.
In the realm of religious minorities, according to the USCIRF report, minorities in Pakistan suffer from political and social marginalization. For instance, there are only 10 seats out of 342 in Pakistan National Assembly and no seat in Pakistan Senate.
It is presented that the Government of Pakistan initiated 20 points National Action Plan (NAP), which aims to fight against terrorism/ extremism and calls for stopping hate, crime and violence against religious minorities.
Regrettably, it has also been reported that Section 295 & 298 of Pakistan’s Penal Code (Blasphemy laws) inherently violates international standards of freedom of religion and belief. These laws set severe punishment including death or life imprisonment, moreover, accusers are not required to present the evidence that blasphemy occurred which leads to false accusations.
The report brings out that a majority of blasphemy cases occurred in Punjab. At least 40 individuals have been sentenced to death or are serving life imprisonment on blasphemy charges including two Christians – Anjum Naz Sandhu and Javed Naz – while Asia Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010.