Report Launch | Status of Religious Minorities

ISLAMABAD: A report on the status of religious minorities in Pakistan, titled ‘A Question of Faith’, was launched by the Jinnah Institute. The report is a research study, compiled over the period December 2010 – April 2011 and documents the deterioration in the political, social and economic status of members of religious minorities in Pakistan, particularly the rising tide of vigilante violence against them. The report was prepared in consultation with members of several religious minorities across the country, human rights organizations and policy experts. It lists recommendations for the redressal of grievances through constitutional amendments, political and judicial reform, sensitization of media and revision of educational curricula that imparts discrimination or hatred against minorities.

Findings of the report indicate that minorities in the country connect strongly with a Pakistani national identity, even as they are persecuted on the basis of their religion. It is emphasized that that the Pakistani state needs to take steps towards ensuring that citizens of the country do not continue to fall victim to cruelty and vigilantism and that a critical mass of Pakistanis has to help arrest the discrimination and persecution against minorities.

Sherry Rehman, President of Jinnah Institute, introduced the report and spoke about the need to reinstate the model of inclusive citizenship envisioned by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Mariam Faruqi, lead researcher and author of the report, gave a presentation on the findings and key recommendations contained in the study. Advisor to Prime Minister, Paul Bhatti, stated that a collective effort was required by all concerned to uphold values of human dignity, justice and peace and to create rights for minorities. Joseph Francis, Director CLAAS recalled the historical discrimination against the Christian population and pointed towards laws that lead to systemic discrimination. Krishan Sharma, prominent minority rights activist, presented a list of recommendations from his research paper that demanded repeal of those laws. Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch commented on how laws relating to minorities in Pakistan were effectively instruments of coercion and questioned the sustainability of liberal pluralism in the country.