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FO rejects ‘ill-informed’ US report on religious freedom in Pakistan

Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch briefing the press in Islamabad on May 18, 2023. — Screengrab/Ministry of Foreign Affairs Islamabad 
  • Pakistan terms US report “pointless, irresponsible and counterproductive”.
  • FO says rights, constitutional guarantees protected, upheld, reinforced by judiciary.
  • US report highlighted need to improve “interfaith tolerance, inclusion, and harmony” in Pakistan.

Pakistan on Thursday “categorically” rejected the US State Department’s Report on religious freedom in the country, saying “baseless” assertions were made in it.

Speaking during a weekly presser, FO Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said that Pakistan assured religious freedom and provided protection to its citizens.

“We categorically reject the baseless assertions made about Pakistan in the International Religious Freedom Report released by the US Department of State. Such ill-informed reporting exercises about internal affairs of sovereign states are pointless, irresponsible and counterproductive,” the spokesperson said.

The remarks of the spokesperson came days after the US state department published a report highlighting the need to improve “interfaith tolerance, inclusion, and harmony” in the country.

Based on several events in 2022, the US-based report noted that “several political leaders used inflammatory religious language to attack their political rivals”.

Taking issue with the report, the spokesperson denied its findings and said that Pakistan wanted to work with the world to end racial discrimination and Islamophobia.

“We are proud of our religious diversity and pluralistic social fabric. Pakistan’s Constitution sets a robust framework for wide-ranging legal, policy and affirmative measures to safeguard and advance the rights and freedoms of all Pakistanis irrespective of their faith.

“These rights and constitutional guarantees are protected, upheld and reinforced by an independent judiciary,” Baloch asserted.

She further added: “We strongly believe that each state itself has the primary responsibility to promote and protect religious rights and freedoms of its nationals. With this understanding, Pakistan has always engaged constructively with the international community in promoting mutual understanding on the important question of religious freedom and minority rights.

“In our interactions, including with the United States, we have raised serious concerns about the steady surge in anti-Muslim hatred, racism and Islamophobia. We hope to work with international partners to counter these pernicious forms of religious intolerance, discrimination and Islamophobia.”

The US report

The 44-page long report titled Pakistan 2022 International Religious Freedom Report contended that the police, the judiciary and the government all needed to work to ensure that inter-faith harmony was promoted in the country.

“According to media reports, police at times killed, physically abused, or failed to protect members of religious minorities,” it said.

The report further said that the courts continued to enforce blasphemy laws, punishment for which ranged up to the death penalty; however, it pointed out that the government has never executed anyone for blasphemy.

It further pointed out that the Ministry of the Interior ordered the Punjab government to take action against an NGO, for a report it and other NGOs submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.

The NGOs’ report described incidents of forced conversion of Christians and misuse of the country’s laws against blasphemy in violation of international human rights obligations and the country’s own laws, the US report said, adding that the government considered the NGO report “anti-government propaganda,” according to the media.

It further added that the secretary of state, on November 30, 2022, had redesignated Pakistan as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom”.

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FO rejects ‘ill-informed’ US report on religious freedom in Pakistan


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