An annual American report on religious freedom has voiced concern over the targeted killing in Pakistan of Shia Muslims, including ethnic Hazaras, who are largely Shia, and Ahmadi Muslims in attacks believed to be driven by faith.
The US ''2019 International Religious Freedom Report'' that documents major instances of the violation of religious freedom across the world, released by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department on Wednesday, said human rights activists reported numerous instances of societal violence related to allegations of blasphemy; of efforts by individuals to coerce religious minorities to convert to Islam; and of societal harassment, discrimination, and threats of violence directed at members of religious minority communities.
NGOs expressed concern about what they stated was an increasing frequency of attempts to kidnap, forcibly convert, and forcibly marry young women from religious minority communities, especially young Hindu and Christian women.
"There also continued to be reports of attacks on holy places, cemeteries, and religious symbols of Hindu, Christian, and Ahmadiyya minorities," the report added.
According to Ahmadi civil society organizations, the State Department said, Islamabad failed to restrict advertisements or speeches inciting anti-Ahmadi violence, despite this responsibility being a component of the NAP. Civil society groups continued to express concerns about the safety of religious minorities.
The report said that visiting US government officials met with minority community representatives, parliamentarians, human rights activists, and members of the federal cabinet to highlight concerns regarding the treatment of religious minority communities, the application of blasphemy laws, and other forms of discrimination on the basis of religion. But still, no coercing action has been taken.
According to civil society reports, there were at least 84 individuals imprisoned on blasphemy charges, at least 29 of whom had received death sentences, as compared with 77 and 28, respectively, in 2018, the State Department said in the report.
NGOs expressed concern that authorities have often failed to intervene in instances of societal violence against religious minorities due to fear of the perpetrators, inadequate staff.
"Perpetrators of societal violence and abuses against religious minorities often faced no legal consequences due to a lack of follow-through by law enforcement, bribes offered by the accused, and pressure on victims to drop cases. In some cases of the alleged kidnapping and forced conversions of young religious minority women, however, government authorities intervened to protect the alleged victim and ascertain her will," the report stated.
On November 9, the government opened a newly refurbished Sikh holy site, the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, along with a visa-free transit corridor for Sikh pilgrims traveling from India.
However, minority religious leaders stated members of their communities continued to experience discrimination in public schools and tertiary education, which resulted in very few religious minority applicants competing and qualifying for private and civil service employment.
Pakistan is a well-known perpetrator of such human rights violations. On several occasions, it has promised to safeguard the interest of minority communities in the nation. However, continuing attacks on minorities narrate a different story.
Islamabad has been discriminating against its religious minorities. This is manifested in various forms of targeted violence, mass murders, extrajudicial killings, abduction, rapes, forced conversion to Islam, etc., making Pakistani Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadiyyas, and Shias the most persecuted minorities in the region.