US lawmakers asks Sharif to protect religious minorities

Expressing deep concern over human rights violations in the Sindh province of Pakistan, influential American lawmakers have asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to protect Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities in the country.

PTI| Last Updated: Jun 25, 2014, 11:34 AM IST

Washington: Expressing deep concern over human rights violations in the Sindh province of Pakistan, influential American lawmakers have asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to protect Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities in the country.

"We are urging Prime Minister Sharif to do everything in his power to protect the Sindh community, as well as religious minorities, from attacks," Congressman Brad Sherman said yesterday as he and four other members of the US House of Representatives wrote a letter in this regard to Sharif.

"The Sindhi community includes tens of millions of people in Pakistan who are striving to preserve their language and culture, but Sindhi activists are subject to enforced disappearances and sometimes targeted killings," said Sherman.

The four other lawmakers are Kerry Bentivolio, Adam Schiff, Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Petri.

"Violence against minorities everywhere is an unacceptable violation of human rights," said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"In Pakistan, we have heard reports of torture, executions and disappearances of peaceful and politically active Sindhis and Balochs who are Hindu, Christian, Shia and other religious minorities.

"These religiously and politically motivated attacks are abhorrent, and I strongly urge Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take action to address these troubling offences..

"The Government of Pakistan must stand up for human rights, and against violent radicals who seek to persecute and kill those with differing beliefs," Gabbard said.

The five Congressmen expressed deep concern for the declining human rights situation in the Sindh province of Pakistan through a letter issued yesterday.

"Sindhi activists are regularly persecuted for voicing their concerns about government policies.

We are greatly troubled by reports of repression and attacks on non-violent, politically active Sindhis attacks that include enforced disappearances, torture, and executions," the letter said.

"One horrific example includes the case of Maqsood Qureshi and Salman Wadho who were allegedly shot and then burned alive inside of their car while travelling to a political rally in Karachi," it added.

"We stress the need for those responsible for ordering these killings, and similar attacks, to be held accountable for these appalling violations of basic human rights," the letter said.

"There are similar reports regarding Baloch political activists, with mass graves being discovered in the province of Balochistan," the letter added.

"The human rights violations are not only political, but also religious in nature. Hindu Sindhis experience increasing encroachments on their ability to freely practice their religion.

Accounts of Hindu temples in Sindh being forcibly entered and desecrated represent an affront to the rule of law and basic tenets of religious tolerance," the lawmakers said.

Christians, Shias, and other religious minorities in Sindh have also deeply suffered, they said adding that scores of Pakistani Shias and Christians have been killed or injured in attacks, many of them in Karachi and Hyderabad.

Christians are regularly detained, tried, imprisoned, and even sentenced to death for allegedly violating blasphemy laws.

Houses of worship have been attacked, as well.

"We believe that all persons should be free to practice their religion and should not be immersed in fear because radicals deem them to be blasphemous.

We fear that certain radical and violent groups are allowed to act with impunity by elements of Pakistani security forces.

If this is true, we urge you to address the situation accordingly by strongly countering these actions and policies throughout the Pakistani government," the lawmakers said.

"We believe that the basic provisions of human rights can and should be provided by the Government of Pakistan to Sindhis and the Baloch alike.

"We urge you to seriously address these concerns and work to make Pakistan a free and fair country for all to live in, where religious minorities are not persecuted and differing political beliefs are not met with violence," the Congressmen said.