Human rights activists have reported a negative trend in Pakistan’s violations of religious freedom, insisting 2020 saw a marked increase in persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.
Cecil Chaudhry, executive director of the National Commission of Justice and Peace, told UCANews that incidents of forced conversions and marriages, hate speech against religious and sectarian minorities, and killings in the name of religion had all increased in Pakistan during 2020, according to a report published Monday.
Pakistan stood at number 5 on the recently released World Watch List, an index of Christian persecution in countries around the world, compiled by the Christian aid organization Open Doors.
“Christians in Pakistan face extreme persecution in every area of their lives, with converts from Islam facing the highest levels,” Open Doors stated, and “all Christians are considered second-class citizens, inferior to Muslims.”
“Increasingly, Christian girls are at risk of abduction and rape, often forced to marry their attackers and coerced into converting to Islam,” the group found.
Some 1,000 girls are forced to convert to Islam in Pakistan each year, according to a report Monday from the Associated Press (AP). https://t.co/xcL1MddT1k
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) December 29, 2020
Open Doors also noted that “Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws are used to target Christians, and Islamic extremist groups vehemently ‘defend’ these laws, including attacking or killing those believed to have contravened them.”
Currently, 24 Christians are imprisoned in Pakistan on blasphemy charges and face 21 different cases at various stages, according to the Washington-based persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern.
“It is very sad that blasphemy continues to be used as an easy tool to settle personal scores and grudges against Christians and other religious minorities,” said Nasir Saeed, U.K. director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS-UK), following the recent arrest of three young Pakistani Christians on blasphemy charges. “Unfortunately, Pakistani society has become more intolerant than ever before.”
The World Report 2021 of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that attacks by Islamist militants targeting law enforcement officials and religious minorities killed dozens of people in 2020.
“The Pakistani government did not amend or repeal blasphemy law provisions that have provided a pretext for violence against religious minorities and have left them vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and prosecution,” the report said. “The death penalty is mandatory for blasphemy, and 40 people remained on death row as of late 2020.”
“Child marriage remains a serious problem in Pakistan, with 21 percent of girls marrying before age 18 and 3 percent marrying before 15,” it said. “Women from religious minority communities remain particularly vulnerable to forced marriage. The government has done little to stop such forced marriages.”
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) February 3, 2016
As bad as Pakistani religious persecution was in 2020, the year 2021 has not gotten off to a good start either.
As Breitbart News reported, on January 3, gunmen from the Islamic State terror group opened fire on a group of Hazara coal miners in southwestern Pakistan, killing eleven.
The miners were kidnapped near a coal mine in Machh, close to Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The militants blindfolded the miners and tied their hands behind their backs before executing them.