HRCP concerned over marginalisation of minorities

    The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has stressed the need for a representative and autonomous statutory national commission for minorities, observing that the developments during 2021-22 belie the state’s commitment to freedom of religion or belief.

    In its report ‘A Breach of Faith: Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2021-22’, the commission said that incidence of forced conversions in Sindh remained worryingly consistent, while reports of desecration of places of worship of minorities continued.

    It added there was no response from the state when such incidents involved sites associated with the Ahmadiyya community, which was marginalised further in Punjab, because of the mandatory declaration of faith for marriage certificates.

    “Attempts to enforce a standardised national curriculum have created an exclusionary narrative that sidelines Pakistan’s religious minorities,” according to a press release issued by the HRCP Chairperson, Hina Jilani.

    The HRCP reiterated the need for a representative and autonomous statutory national commission for minorities in the spirit of the 2014 Supreme Court judgement. It also called for urgent legislation to criminalise forced conversions.

    Among other recommendations, the HRCP called for concerted state efforts to counter sectarian violence, not only by implementing the National Action Plan but also by developing a national narrative that unambiguously eschewed religious extremism and majoritarianism.

    It also called for re-evaluating the quotas for minorities in education and employment and accountability mechanisms to ensure that these quotas were implemented, adding that, in no circumstances should job advertisements called for ‘non-Muslims only’ when recruiting sanitation workers.

    “Unless these measures are implemented urgently, Pakistan will continue to foster a climate of impunity for perpetrators of faith-based discrimination and violence, allowing the already-narrow space for religious freedom to shrink even further,” the press release said.

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