Pakistan must honour its commitment to end discrimination against religious minorities
This statement was delivered on 10 July 2023 by Asif Aqeel in the name of MRG and our partners in Pakistan – Bargad, Bytes for All and Centre for Law and Justice – during the Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Pakistan at the 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Thank you Mr. President,
Minority Rights Group, together with its local partners Bargad, Bytes for All and Centre for Law and Justice have been working to address the very difficult situation facing those of minority faiths or no faith in Pakistan for over 5 years.
We welcome Pakistan’s acceptance of recommendations to put the National Commission for Human Rights in full conformity with the Paris Principle (recommendations 46.80 to 46.90). Pakistan needs a truly independent strengthened human rights and minority rights monitoring institution. We also welcome Pakistan’s commitment to fully implement the important 2014 Supreme Court judgement to adopt measures that protect religious minorities (recommendation 46.135). To better enable these groups to live in peace and without fear of violent attacks, we further call on the government to do more to educate the population about the dangers of discrimination and hate speech against all minorities, those of all faiths or none and ensure that all state bodies counter prohibited religious hate speech wherever it appears.
We furthermore welcome that Pakistan supports the recommendation to adopt all necessary measures to eradicate the forced conversion to Islam of women and girls belonging to religious minorities (recommendation 46.235). Pakistan’s commitment to adopt a nationwide minimum age of marriage of 18 for all should also help to combat this practice (recommendation 46.292).
We strongly regret that Pakistan did not accept recommendations to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law which would allow members of religious minorities to effectively challenge state bodies and other actors who, sadly, are known to discriminate against certain communities (recommendation 46.45). This includes Christians and Hindus working in the sanitation sector who face discrimination in recruitment, high job insecurity, inadequate health and safety despite providing a vital service for the whole community.
We nonetheless take this opportunity to remind Pakistan of its international obligation to ending discrimination and ensuring all benefit from equal treatment in all spheres of life which stem from the binding treaties on human rights that Pakistan is a party to but which remain unfulfilled for many Pakistani citizens today. I thank you.
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Photo: Screenshot from the advocacy statement video.