The United States commission on international religious freedom (USCIRF) has released the 2015 Annual report according to which, “Pakistan represents one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the US Government as ‘countries of particular concern.”
USCIRF is an independent US government advisory body separate from the State Department. USCIRF monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the government.
The ACLJ has a partner office in Pakistan that provides legal aid to the persecuted Church. The attorneys in Pakistan deal frequently with cases concerning persecution of Christians, discrimination, false accusations of blasphemy and mob violence against religious minorities.
The USCIRF 2015 Annual Report expresses concern that, despite growing extremism, the Pakistani government “failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence, and Pakistani authorities have not consistently brought perpetrators to justice or taken action against societal actors who incite violence.”
In 2013 a mob attacked a Christian village Joseph Colony in Punjab, Pakistan. They burnt and vandalized 200 Christian homes after a false accusation of blasphemy was made against one Christian. The report reveals that amends were made but all the attackers were released on bail. Only the Christian falsely accused of blasphemy is in prison, serving a death sentence. The report says that the Pakistani government’s attitude towards minorities is well illustrated by this example.
The USCIRF Report mentions “122 incidents of sectarian violence” against Shia Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis that occurred “from July 2013 to June 2014.” These incidents “resulted in more than 1,200 casualties, including 430 deaths.”
In addition to mob violence, the Report raises the issue of “forced conversion of Christian and Hindu girls and young women into Islam” and “forced marriages to Muslim men” as a “systematic problem.”
The USCIRF recommends to the US government to urge the Pakistani government to review all cases of individuals charged with blasphemy in order to release those who are subjected to abusive charges.
The USCIRF recommends that US government, inter alia, “designate Pakistan as a ‘country of particular concern’ as required under the IRFA.”
In accordance with the international treaties Pakistan has signed, which require Pakistan to protect its minorities, Pakistan must ensure a safe environment for its religious minorities and bring the perpetrators of violence to justice.
The ACLJ continues to provide legal assistance to victims of discrimination and persecution through its affiliate in Pakistan.
The article originally appeared on ACLJ