Deliberately or not, Pakistan's Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony turns a blind eye to the numerous atrocities perpetuated against religious minorities in the country and said all religious miniorities enjoy full freedome to exercise their faith -- despite evidence showing the contrary.
Matias Perttula, the International Christian Concern's Director of Advocacy, said that there is an overwhelming evidence "proving that religious minorities-Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadis, and others-are not given the opportunity to freely practice their religion or participate in society as equals."
For instance, Pakistani Christians have always been falsely accused of blasphemy, and Islamic extremists notoriously used the law to convict them to death. According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), as per an ICC report, human rights groups are persistently petitioning the Pakistani government to remove the death penalty as punishment in all cases of blasphemy. This was due to the apparent partiality in court especially when Christians are the accused.
"Clearly the judges are prejudiced. We are experiencing such attitudes from the beginning," said Kashif Aslam, Deputy Director of the Advocacy and Program National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP).
"It's time to stop the misuse of the blasphemy law," added Nasir Saeed, Director of the Centre of Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLASS). "We see every day how this law is being misused by individuals and religious groups to achieve their goals and settle their personal grudges, especially against religious minorities."
Christians and Hindus alike have also suffered violence and other forms of injustices including targeted kidnappings, forced conversions, and forced marriages. One recent example is the case of a Christian teenage girl named Huma Younus. According to the ICC, local religious leaders and other authorities conspired in her kidnapping and forced conversion. The poor girl was forced to marry her own kidnapper.
The country's constitution also prohibits any member of a religious minority from taking executive positions like the presidency or the role of a chief justice. The non-profit persecution watchdog comments that such a discriminatory measure "sends a message throughout Pakistani society on the role and status of religious minorities."
In 2020, Pakistan was designated by the Department of State as a country of particular concern. This was due to reports of severe violations of religious freedom backed by concrete evidence. With the increasing number of cases of religious persecution, international intervention is a must.
"Religious freedom is an unalienable right, and the bedrock upon which free societies are built and flourish," said Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State.
Radical Islamist groups like the al-Shabaab, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin and the Taliban were also designated by the State as 'Entities of Particular Concern.' Pompeo said that they will not rest until the threat of religious freedom abuses by any violent extremist and terrorist groups are fully eliminated.
Gayle Manchin, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), praised the State Department's move. She said that "all forms of governments must respect religious freedom" and that abuse and violence must not be tolerated.