US report warns of crisis for Pakistan minorities

Published: May 1, 2013
A Pakistani Christian resident hangs a flag with the cross symbol at his home in Korian on August 30, 2012. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

A Pakistani Christian resident hangs a flag with the cross symbol at his home in Korian on August 30, 2012. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

WASHINGTON: A US government-appointed panel urged Washington Tuesday to step up pressure on Pakistan over religious freedom, warning that risks to its minorities have reached a crisis level.

In an annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom also raised concerns about what it called a worsening situation in China, as well as problems in Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and other nations.

The commission, which advises the government but does not make decisions, called for the United States to designate Pakistan, among eight other countries, as a “country of particular concern,” meaning it could be subject to sanctions if it fails to improve.

Assessing the year through January 31, the commission said religious freedom violations in Pakistan “rose to unprecedented levels due to chronic sectarian violence” that targeted the Shia Muslim minority.

“The government continues to fail to protect Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus,” the report said, charging that blasphemy and other laws “are widely used to violate religious freedoms and foster a climate of impunity.”

Sunni Muslim extremists over the past year have killed hundreds of Shias in Pakistan, especially Hazaras – a community originally from Afghanistan that is known for its comparatively liberal attitudes.

“Pakistan is in a crisis right now with these particularly severe violations of religious freedom,” said Knox Thames, the commission’s director of policy and research.

The commission, whose members are appointed by President Barack Obama and Congress, said Pakistan faced the most serious violations of religious freedom among any country not already on the blacklist.

The State Department has not previously issued the designation for Pakistan, with which the United States has had a close but prickly relationship since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The designated countries of particular concern on religious freedom are China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.

Along with Pakistan, the commission urged the State Department to add Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam to the list.

The report said that religious freedom in China “deteriorated significantly” in the past year, especially for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims.

The commission criticized China’s closure of unauthorized churches and what it said were “long-term imprisonments, forced renunciations of faith and torture in detention” against members of the banned Falungong spiritual movement.

The report voiced concern over Myanmar, also known as Burma, where a recent Human Rights Watch study said at least 211 members of the Rohingya Muslim community were killed in religious violence since June 2012.

The violence comes as Myanmar undertakes democratic reforms and warms relations with the United States. The report urged Washington to maintain the leverage to reimpose sanctions to press Myanmar to address minority issues.

Set up under a 1998 law, the commission recently went through reforms initiated by senior Senator Dick Durbin who had voiced concern over charges of anti-Muslim bias.

The latest report backtracked on the previous year’s controversial call to blacklist close US ally Turkey over the Muslim-majority but staunchly secular state’s treatment of Christians.

In a first, the report dedicated a chapter to Western Europe in which it raised questions about the ban in secular France and Belgium on Muslim women wearing veils in public.

The report does not cover the United States, where incidents last year included a massacre at a Sikh temple that left six dead.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Logic europe
    May 1, 2013 - 2:39AM

    Funny !! Pakistan was made for minorities


  • Iqbal
    May 1, 2013 - 2:47AM

    Oh dear. Citizens of the land of the pure complain of atrocities in Myanmair and elsewhere but seem to have forgotten that it happens in their own back garden.
    I am sure they will start saying that this is a conspiracy by CIA, RAW, MOSSAD, KGB and probably KFC as well.

  • Adil
    May 1, 2013 - 2:56AM

    No surprises there. The tragedy is that the majority simply will not care and dismiss this suggestion as ‘conspiracy’


  • AnisAqeel
    May 1, 2013 - 2:57AM

    The only solution to this problem is either abolish the so called blasphemy laws altogether or implement the way it should be. That is severe punishment in case alleging party or person is unable to prove and making a manufactured claim be punishable the otherway round. Recommend

  • Nitin Gandhi
    May 1, 2013 - 2:58AM

    Another Nail in the coffin.


  • Mirza
    May 1, 2013 - 3:04AM

    There is no hope that any institution in Pakistan would do anything at all. The rightwing politicians are in the pocket of the extremist killers. The only hope is from outside, drones, drones and more drone attacks.Recommend

  • Habib-Jakarata
    May 1, 2013 - 6:35AM

    “The designated countries of particular concern on religious”, what about Myanmar?? hundreds of muslims were killed, their houses were set on fire…any country or muslim countries..


  • Rafi Ka Deewana
    May 1, 2013 - 7:06AM

    It is too late to make changes using existing techniques. Removal of blasphemy law or any hint toward secularism will break Pakistan into pieces. About minorities, looks like one day everyone will be a minority as new classes are being added on a monthly basis.


  • Imtiaz
    May 1, 2013 - 7:25AM

    The report itself is hypocritical – is it implied that if it was not Pakistan then that country would have been blacklisted for such atrocities? so why not Pakistan – because there are other trade-offs, so rights of minorities are a bargaining point and not something serious.


  • Feroz
    May 1, 2013 - 9:56AM

    These guys are a quarter of century too late in making their observation. After reduction of minorities from around 18% of the population in 1947 to just 3% currently, global community was sleeping like Rip Van Winkle. Unfortunately civil society in Pakistan simply failed to play the role of conscience keeper and rather than halting, expedited the rapid fall in status seen by the country.


  • May 1, 2013 - 10:57AM

    It will be a day of sincerity when sanctions are placed on Pakistan for persecuting minorities. It will sequentially be a blessing for us, also negating the influence from across the Persian Gulf.

    All men and women are born equal, and our misguided notions that develop/concretize into political parties ultimately lead to graphic denunciations and physical abuse.

    We are all answerable to Allah Almighty on the Day of Judgment. Salams


  • LOL
    May 1, 2013 - 10:59AM

    @Habib-Jakarata: Did you even read the article?


  • May 1, 2013 - 11:18AM

    @Mirza: “The only hope is from outside, drones, drones and more drone attacks”.

    Sir, you are well aware that drones may help in physical elimination of extremists to some extent but the problem lies in the climate conducive for breeding such minds .Rightly said that no institution is willing to confront with the ideology. A recent survey by PEW in several Muslim countries including Pakistan reveals that In Pakistan 84 percent of Muslims want Sharia enshrined as official law but 75 percent believe non-Muslims are free to practice their religion..

    Don’t you think that when majority ( educated as well as illiterate) minds are leaning towards Sharia Law implementation albeit less severe amputation of limbs for thieves and stoning in adultery etc. ideology of extremism, presumed as purism by many, many, and many can be eliminated to some extent ( forget about it elimination) Once Sharia is implemented every one will be estopped to put a brake for its implementation in toto( the spirit and the script ). This is what is expected and non Muslims may not be able to practice their faith publicly, a legislation, prevailing in Saudi Arabia.


  • expaki
    May 1, 2013 - 9:53PM

    @LOL: “@Habib-Jakarata: Did you even read the article?”
    Bhai LOL Sahib, now since you reminded him, hope he will read it.


  • expaki
    May 1, 2013 - 9:59PM

    @Mirza: Bhai Mirza Sahib, I appreciate your comments, as they have bitter taste of reality,
    without any coating of pseudo emotions. thank you for educating people like me.


  • Logic europe
    May 1, 2013 - 11:05PM

    The only solution is to vote PPP into power with a thumping majority
    No other party has guts to challenge extremists @Mirza:


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