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Pakistan

Minister admits ignoring Pakistan's minorities

2020 has seen an unusual rise in forced conversions of underage girls, hate speech and sectarianism

Minister admits ignoring Pakistan's minorities

Mahindar Pall Singh speaks at the National Conference on the Situation of Religious Minorities in Pakistan in Lahore on Dec. 16. (Photo: Kamran Chaudhry)

Punjab’s provincial parliamentary secretary for human rights, Mahindar Pall Singh, has acknowledged the negligence of his government in protecting religious minorities.

“It is difficult for me to admit but I openly accept that our progress is weak. We shall definitely focus on it next year. The issues of minorities must be solved without hurting the majority. We cannot avoid religion. Only law-making can change attitudes,” he said.

Singh was speaking at the National Conference on the Situation of Religious Minorities in Pakistan organized by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), the Church's human rights body, on Dec. 16.

The speakers expressed concern at rising religious extremism, the visit of the Taliban delegation to Islamabad, discriminatory clauses in the constitution, apartheid of religious minorities and the ineffective National Commission for Minorities. They shared suggestions for a progressive state.

According to Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the NCJP, the challenges faced by minorities have increased this year.

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“We witnessed an unusual rise in cases of forced conversions of underage girls from religious minorities, hate speech and sectarianism. Covid-19 further had an impact on the prevailing problems,” he said.

“From basic necessities of life like getting food to prevailing issues of blasphemy and forced conversions have been the highlights of this year. The most alarming part was that minorities faced hate speech both in person and online spaces that resulted in targeted killings. That’s something very worrying.”

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” under its International Religious Freedom Act.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s report of 2020 noted that nearly 80 individuals remained imprisoned for blasphemy in Pakistan, with at least half facing the life sentence or death.

According to a recently published study by the Center for Social Justice, 162 questionable conversions were reported in the media between 2013 and November 2020. Some 52 percent of alleged forced conversions occurred in Punjab province. Sindh, where most Hindus live, recorded 44 percent of forced conversions.

According to a press statement from Rabwah, the Ahmadi community headquarters in Punjab, four Ahmadis were killed because of their faith in the four months to November.

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