New Delhi: Religious freedom in Pakistan continues to “deteriorate” under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan said United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and discriminatory legislation by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has empowered people with “extremist mindsets” to carry out attacks on religious minorities.
In a report titled ‘Pakistan-Religious freedom under attack’, the CSW, a commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, expressed its concern over the increasing “weaponisation and politicisation” of the blasphemy laws and the anti-Ahmadiyya legislation, being used by the Islamist groups to not only persecute religious minorities but also to gain political ground.
The commission also alarmed that Christian and Hindu communities in the Islamic nation are “particularly vulnerable”, especially women and girls.
“Each year hundreds are abducted and forced to convert and marry Muslim men. Victims have little or no hope of being returned to their families due to the serious threats and intimidation from abductors against the girls and their families. This is compounded by the lack of police will to take action, weaknesses in he judicial process and discrimination from both police and judiciary towards religious minority victims,” the report read.
“The prolonged misuse of the blasphemy laws over the last three decades, combined with the rise of extremism, has had a damaging normative impact on social harmony. The sensitive nature of blasphemy cases serves to heighten religious fervour and had created an environment of mob violence in which people take matters into their own hands, often with fatal consequences,” it said.
The CSW reported that cases pertaining to forced marriages and conversions are prevalent among Christian and Hindu community, in the Punjab and Sindh Provinces. Most victims are girls under the age of 18 years. Hindu girls and women are targeted due to lower economic backgrounds in rural areas and lack education.
The CSW has signalled Pakistan government to take more effective steps to prevent sectarian violence and to hold the perpetrators of religious attacks to account.