Pakistan and Religious Freedom
Washington DC; May 2005: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its Annual Report noted the following in the opening Para of its country report on Pakistan:
‘The response of the government of Pakistan to persistent sectarian and religiously motivated violence in Pakistan continues to be inadequate. In addition, official government policies, such as the anti-Ahmadi and Blasphemy laws, frequently result in imprisonment and other violations of freedom of religion or belief. The Commission continues to recommend that Pakistan be designated a “country of particular concern” or CPC. To date, the State Department has not designated Pakistan a CPC’.
The Commission in its Report has mentioned the difficulties faced by Ahmadis in Pakistan, and recommend that “the U.S. government should take the position that the existence and enforcement of laws targeting Ahmadis which effectively criminalize the public practice of their faith violate the right to freedom of religion guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
A letter to an editor
Lahore: Someone wrote a letter from New York to The Friday Times of Lahore, and the editor published it in its issue of January 28 – February 3, 2005. The letter was a sensible and penetrating comment on official claims, and is best placed on record here:
According to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, in Pakistan “everyone is free to exercise their religious beliefs”. Obviously he has overlooked the fact that non-Muslims are barred from preaching their faith by law. Perhaps he does not think it is important enough, but the right to freely exercise one’s religion also includes the right to proselytize one’s faith.
Blasphemy laws infringe upon the right to freely exercise one’s faith. Atheists and non-religious people are being discriminated against; the right to freely discuss religion is a right available in the West after centuries of bitter religious conflict. I refuse to allow Shaukat Aziz’s disinformation. Complete religious freedom does not exist in Pakistan.
Human Rights lobby
Regretfully, the human rights lobby decided to adopt a low profile on the Ahmadiyya situation, during 1998. No voice was boldly raised abroad or at home in defense of persecuted Ahmadis who were subjected to still a higher level of tyranny than before by the State. The case of three Ahmadis from Sheikhupura who have been imprisoned for life on an entirely fabricated charge of blasphemy should have touched the conscience of many a human rights activists, but for reasons best known to the leadership of these organization, little was done to help the poor individuals. Indiscriminate arrests and summary trials of Ahmadis under the notorious Blasphemy Law should have agitated the moral and humane sense of many a good human rights workers but all remained quiet on this front. Perhaps one has to belong to some other religious minority to deserve sympathy from these worthy organizations.