U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, in a message warning against travel to Pakistan, cites Islamabad’s enforcement of the nation’s strict blasphemy laws, which have primarily targeted Christians and other minorities in the Sunni Muslim-majority country.
“Sectarian violence remains a serious threat throughout Pakistan, and the Government of Pakistan continues to enforce blasphemy laws. Religious minority communities have been victims of targeted killings and accusations of blasphemy,” states the U.S. State Department in the travel warning issued on Wednesday.
“Throughout Pakistan, foreign and indigenous terrorist groups continue to pose a danger to U.S. citizens,” it adds. “Evidence suggests that some victims of terrorist activity have been targeted because they are Americans. Terrorists and criminal groups have resorted to kidnapping for ransom.”
In its updated message, the Trump administration warns American citizens against all non-essential travel to the Pakistan.
U.S. aviation authorities have also issued a warning to American airmen.
“The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a NOTAM [Advisory Notice to Airmen] concerning the risks to civil aviation operating in Pakistan, particularly at low altitude, during the arrival and departure phases of flight, and when on the ground, due to extremist/militant activity,” notes the State Department.
“Targeted attacks against government officials, humanitarian and non-governmental organization (NGO) employees, tribal elders, and law enforcement personnel are common,” it adds.
This year, thousands of extremists in Pakistan took to the streets to rally in support of a man executed for killing a governor who wanted to change the country’s harsh blasphemy laws.
More than 100 people are reportedly detained in Pakistan on blasphemy charges every year.
“In Pakistan, law courts are known for their manipulation of laws which are used as a tool discriminate minorities,” reported Pakistan Christian Post in October 2016.
The Pakistani government has not carried out a blasphemy-related death sentence, but numerous Islamic extremists have taken their version of justice into their hands.
Protests have repeatedly erupted across Pakistan with demonstrators calling for the execution of Christians accused of violating the country’s blasphemy laws.
Pakistan has launched an effort to crackdown on anti-Islamic “blasphemy” on social media.
The U.S. company Facebook has reportedly agreed to remove about “85 percent” of so-called “blasphemous” content at the request of Islamabad.