U.S. Religious Freedom Report Highlights Pakistan’s Diminishing Religious Freedom

05/14/2021 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) As pressure continues to mount against Pakistan’s blasphemy law, the U.S. State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report, released this week, is the latest to criticize the law, highlighting the worsening state of religious freedom in Pakistan. The report cited several sources that point to the blasphemy law as one of the root causes for the decline.

According to the report, in 2019, 199 individuals were accused of blasphemy with 70 percent of cases coming from the country’s religious minority communities (such as Christian, Hindu, and Shia and Ahmadi Muslims), though these groups make up just a small percentage of Pakistan’s population.

The ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law against religious minorities has been vigorously denied by the Pakistani leadership. In recent months, the European parliament passed a resolution condemning the blasphemy law and called Pakistan’s preferential trade status with the EU into review, a move that was quickly rejected by Pakistani officials.

Pakistan has one of the harshest punishments on record for blasphemy, including life in prison and even death. To date, no death sentences have been carried out in blasphemy cases, though mobs of Pakistani Muslims have assaulted and even killed individuals accused of blasphemy extrajudicially.

The U.S. State Department report adds more weight to the growing criticism that Pakistan is facing internationally for upholding their blasphemy law and enabling discrimination against religious minorities.

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