HRCP calls attention to persistent marginalization of religious minorities
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has noted with alarm the developments during 2021-22 that it says belie the state’s commitment to freedom of religion or belief.
In its report titled ‘A Breach of Faith: Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2021-22’, the commission said the incidence of forced conversions in Sindh has remained worryingly consistent. Reports of religious minorities’ sites of worship being desecrated have continued, with no response from the state, especially when such incidents involve sites associated with the Ahmadi community.
In Punjab, the mandatory declaration of faith for marriage certificates has further marginalized the Ahmadi community, while attempts to enforce a standardized national curriculum have created an exclusionary narrative that sidelines Pakistan’s religious minorities.
The HRCP has reiterated the need for a representative and autonomous statutory national commission for minorities in the spirit of the 2014 Supreme Court Jillani judgment. It has also called for urgent legislation to criminalize forced conversions.
Among other recommendations, the HRCP has demanded that the state make a concerted effort to counter sectarian violence, not only by implementing the National Action Plan, but also by developing a national narrative that unambiguously eschews religious extremism and majoritarianism.
The low threshold of evidence for blasphemy must be raised to ensure that the laws in question are not weaponized by people to settle personal vendettas, as is so often the case.
The commission has also called for re-evaluating the quotas for religious minorities in education and employment and accountability mechanisms to ensure that these quotas are implemented, adding that in no circumstances should job advertisements call for ‘non-Muslims only’ when recruiting sanitation workers.
Unless these measures are implemented urgently, Pakistan will continue to foster a climate of impunity for perpetrators of faith-based discrimination and violence, allowing the already-narrow space for religious freedom to shrink even further, the statement concluded.