USCIRF Welcomes Establishment of Pakistan’s National Commission for Minorities as a First Step
Washington, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomed the Pakistani government’s recent establishment of the National Commission for Minorities.
In a June 2014 ruling, the Pakistani Supreme Court directed the government to form a commission “to monitor the practical realization of the rights and safeguards provided to the minorities under the Constitution and law.”
“We are encouraged by the formation of the National Commission for Minorities as a governmental body promoting the rights of religious minorities within Pakistan; it’s an important step in Pakistan’s continuing journey towards the protection of religious freedom,” stated USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava. “USCIRF encourages the Pakistani government to empower the Commission with the proper authority to meet its intended purpose as defined by the Supreme Court.”
“We regret that the March visit scheduled for Commissioner Bhargava and myself to Pakistan had to be postponed because of COVID-19. We welcomed the invitation to visit and are grateful that Pakistan has actively engaged with USCIRF on issues of religious freedom,” USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore said. “The establishment of the National Commission for Minorities is undoubtably a step in the right direction, though more steps are certainly required. The prime minister, and his government, have the ability to move Pakistan forward, if they so choose, and we will look forward to seeing it.”
Among USCIRF’s concerns are also the conditions under which this governmental body was formed, in particular the surge in anti-Ahmadiyya hate speech and incitement to violence surrounding the decision to exclude them from the Commission. While recognizing Ahmadis’ right to self-identify as Muslims, and therefore not a minority group, USCIRF is troubled by the ongoing discrimination they face within Pakistan, which the decision to exclude them has highlighted.
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended Pakistan to be re-designated as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom violations due to “the systematic enforcement of blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya laws, and authorities’ failure to address forced conversions of religious minorities—including Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs—to Islam.” A key policy recommendation for the U.S. government was to encourage Pakistan to “create the National Commission for Minorities’ Rights as mandated by the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at [email protected] or Danielle Ashbahian at [email protected]