'Minorities in Pak persecuted by govt and majority'
Asserting that religious minorities in Pakistan are being persecuted by the government and the majority Muslims, a top American litigator on free speech and religious liberties has told lawmakers that unjust blasphemy laws in the country are used to target them.
Washington: Asserting that religious minorities in Pakistan are being persecuted by the government and the majority Muslims, a top American litigator on free speech and religious liberties has told lawmakers that unjust blasphemy laws in the country are used to target them.
"In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, religious minorities are persecuted both by the Pakistani government and by the majority Muslims," Jay Alan Sekulow, Chief Counsel, American Center for Law and Justice, said in his testimony before a Senate Committee.
"While Pakistan's blasphemy laws provide a tool for the majority Muslims to persecute minorities on account of their religion and to settle personal scores, the government does not provide adequate protection to its vulnerable citizens and gives a free hand to the culprits," he alleged.
"Additionally, due to widespread corruption, coupled with religious bias, law enforcement officials allow criminals to go unpunished," Sekulow said in his testimony.
Sekulow alleged that the unjust blasphemy laws place Pakistan in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a covenant to which it is currently a party.
"Pakistan's blasphemy laws violate articles 18 and 19 of the ICCPR, which involve freedom of religion and freedom of expression," he said.
Further, since 2002, US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended that the United States Department of State label Pakistan as a "country of particular concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act, he argued.
This is due to its "systematic, egregious, and ongoing violations of religious freedom or belief."
In April 2013, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan concluded that Pakistan is "on the verge" of becoming an undemocratic society where violence is the accepted form of communication, he said.
"As the United States gives nearly USD 2 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan annually, the United States should demand that Pakistan comply with its commitments to religious freedom," Sekulow said.
He said when Pakistan gained independence in 1947, Pakistan's founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had envisioned a secular, democratic Pakistan.