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Religious Minorities in Pakistan

10 October 2002

Recent massacres of religious minorities in Pakistan have focused new attention on the predicament of minorities in a country that is generally perceived to be a homogeneous Muslim nation. In fact, besides five ethno-regional groups (Baloch, Muhajir, Punjabi, Pushtuns and Sindhis), there are numerous religious groups including Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus, together with several smaller Islamic groups.Pakistan has been ruled by the military for much of its existence. The political use of religion by governments and a weak civil society pose enormous challenges for minorities in Pakistan. Non-Muslim minorities and women in Pakistan are subject to harsh religious laws, while some minority Muslim groups face similar forms of discrimination. Constitutional amendments and the Blasphemy Law have deprived minorities of religious freedom and violated their rights as citizens. In addition, the decision of the current military regime to join the US-led coalition against terrorism has provoked popular resentment and an internal backlash by extremist groups with renewed violence against minorities.This report aims to enhance understanding of religious minorities in Pakistan and increase awareness of the need for the protection of minority and gender-based rights across communities. With a general election due this year, this report is timely and of direct relevance to both the international community and agencies concerned with Pakistan.

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Iftikhar H. Malik