European Parliamentarians allege discrimination in its report on “Religious Minorities in Pakistan”

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BRUSSELS: Members of the European Parliament released their report “Religious Minorities in Pakistan” in Brussels on Monday (13th May) 2019.The report has been compiled by MEPs Alberto Cirio, Fulvio Martusciello, Ryszard Czarnecki, Indrek Tarand and Heinz K. Becker.

The report aims to draw attention to the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan and the institutionalized discrimination against these groups.The report objectively examines the nature of persecution faced by the various religious minority groups apart from presenting some brief case studies on oppression faced by women from these communities.

The report deals separately with each religious minority be it Christians, Hindus, Sikhs or the Ahmadiyyas, and cites real-life examples from these communities. The report also specifically studies Pakistan’s discriminatory blasphemy laws and how this legislation is used to target the minority communities. In this connection, reference is made to the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who has been targeted by Islamic radical groups after being acquitted in a blasphemy case.

It is claimed that the report, based on facts and figures, unveils a poor image of the present condition of religious minorities, who are marginalized socio- culturally, politically and economically. As a result, the report concludes, the biases against the religious minorities, embedded in the Sunni Muslim-majority Pakistani society is manifested in various forms of targeted violence, mass murders, extrajudicial killings, abduction, rapes, forced conversion to Islam etc., making the Pakistani Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadiyya’s and Shias one of the most prosecuted minorities in the region.

The report objectively examines the nature of persecution faced by the various religious minority groups apart from presenting some brief case studies on oppression faced by women from these communities. It separately deals with each religious minority–be it Christians, Hindus, Sikhs or the Ahmadiyyas–and cites the experiences of people from these communities. 

The report urges Pakistan to take urgent measures to improve the condition of religious minorities, failing which there would be a serious need for the European Union to re-evaluate the financial assistance from its budget to Pakistan.

The report alleges state role in what it calls is institutionalised discrimination and prosecution of these marginalised sections of society. Experts say it is likely to complicate Islamabad’s relations with Europe in the backdrop of EU’s displeasure with the Imran Khan government’s failure to control financing of terror groups. 

The report also studies Pakistan’s discriminatory blasphemy laws and how this legislation is used to target the minority communities. In this connection, reference is made to the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who has been targeted by Islamic radical groups after being acquitted in a blasphemy case. 
The report concludes that the biases against the religious minorities, embedded in the Sunni Muslim-majority Pakistani society, is manifested in various forms of targeted violence, mass murders, extrajudicial killings, abduction, rapes, forced conversion to Islam, etc., making the Pakistani Hindus, Christians, Sikh , Ahmadiyyas and Shias one of the most prosecuted minorities in the region. 
The report casts a shadow on attempts by the Pakistani government to cultivate a pro-minority image by extending facilities to Sikh pilgrims.  “Vandalism is also common as Hindu temples have been destroyed. Every year incidents of desecration and illegal encroachments of temples lead to fear, with officials giving false promises of rebuilding them.

In addition, in some areas extremist groups threaten minorities such as Sikhs to leave unless they pay a yearly tax, historically imposed on non-Muslims residing in Muslim lands. Other incidents of violence and discrimination include the attacks and disappearances of Shia men from their homes or even the country,” alleged the report. 
Further, the report says, “Women from religious minority communities are victims of religious violence and persecution. They are subject to abductions, rape and forced conversions. Incidents of rape and forced marriages of underage girls have been reported in higher numbers every year. According to verified reports of international NGOs, around 1,000 girls from religious minority communities are forcibly converted to Islam every year.” 

Moreover, the report says that the scale of the problem is likely to be much higher as many of the cases are not reported, or do not pass progress through the legal system.  The report urges Pakistan to take urgent measures to improve the condition of religious minorities, failing which there would be a serious need for the EU to re-evaluate the financial assistance from its budget to Pakistan.  The report narrates ordeal of five women (one Christian and four Hindus) Aneela, Sonia, Versha, Monika and Harinder with their pictures who according to report were allegedly raped and forced to convert their religion to Islam. All these five women furnished horrific details of what had happened with them. Pakistan Embassy in Brussels or Foreign Ministry in Islamabad have not commented on the report sofar.