NEW YORK: Asserting that religious freedom in Pakistan continues to ‘deteriorate’ under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has said that discriminatory legislation by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has empowered people with “extremist mindsets” to carry out attacks on religious minorities.
In its 47-page report titled, ‘Pakistan-Religious freedom under attack’, released in December, the CSW, a commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, has expressed concerned over the increasing “weaponisation and politicisation” of the blasphemy laws and the anti-Ahmadiyya legislation which are being used by Islamist groups not only to persecute religious minorities but also to gain political ground. The commission said 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. This is compounded by the lack of police will to take action, weaknesses in the judicial process and discrimination from both police and judiciary towards religious minority victims,” the report read. Many victims are girls under the age of 18 years. Hindu girls and women who are systematically targeted because theycome from lower economic backgrounds in rural areas, and are generally under-educated.
The commission has cited several prominent examples to substantiate that minorities in the country are portrayed as second class citizens. In May 2019, Ramesh Kumar Malhi, a Hindu veterinary surgeon from Mirpurkhas in Sindh, was accused of blasphemy. The commission contended that blasphemy laws in Pakistan, are often misused to lodge false cases against the religious minorities . It also said that human rights defenders in Pakistan face constant threats and intimidation from multiple sources, including the state and nonstate actors.