U.S. Foreign Policy towards Pakistan Needs to Include Robust Dialogue on Blasphemy Law
02/26/2021 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – As the United States begins to shape its foreign policy objectives under the Biden administration it is critical that religious freedom be kept at the forefront of US diplomatic objectives. This is especially critical in nations designated as Countries of Particular Concern—such as Pakistan, where the persecution of Christians and religious minorities have significantly increased in recent years.
One particularly concerning form of persecution in Pakistan comes in the form of blasphemy accusations. ICC has tracked and verified dozens of cases where the country’s blasphemy laws have been used to discriminate against the religious beliefs of Christians. A recently-updated report published by ICC provides in-depth analysis of the blasphemy laws and profiles the cases of 28 Pakistani Christians currently in prison for their faith.
U.S. diplomats in Pakistan need to challenge Pakistani leadership to reconsider their blasphemy laws and should highlight the many examples how this law functions to repress religious freedom. While the law’s intent is to guard the sanctity of religion, it is actually used as a tool for members of the majority community to oppress minorities.
In many cases, blasphemy accusations have roots in personal, professional, or business disputes where the blasphemy accusation is the final trump card for the member of the majority community. Religious minorities account for 54% of all blasphemy victims, according to the most recent data available, despite making up only 3.6% of the population.
It is time for the world to hold Pakistan to account. The United States can lead the way in this effort. The vast majority of Pakistan’s population does not abuse the blasphemy laws, but those who do leave a trail of fear and intimidation on Pakistani citizens who adhere to a minority faith.
ICC’s Advocacy Director, Matias Perttula, said, “Pakistan’s blasphemy laws impact Pakistani society in several ways, including by acting as a muzzle on religious minorities. To talk of religion or theology is to expose oneself to attack and hateful discrimination from members of the majority community.”
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