LAHORE: A Human Rights Observer 2023 fact sheet reveals that the religious content against minorities increased in curriculum and textbooks during the year 2022 and a number of perennial and new challenges emerged in the education system.
The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) on Thursday issued the “Human Rights Observer 2023”, an annual fact sheet. The report covers five key issues impacting religious minorities including discrimination in the education system, prevalence of forced faith conversions, abuse of blasphemy laws, establishment of the National Commission for Minorities and jail remissions for minority prisoners.
The fact sheet showed that as many as 171 people were accused under the blasphemy laws, 65 per cent of cases surfaced in Punjab and 19pc in Sindh.
The highest occurrence was observed in the districts of Karachi, followed by Chiniot, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Dera Ghazi Khan, Nankana Sahib, Lahore and Sheikhupura. The highest number of victims (88) was Muslims, followed by 75 Ahmadis, four Christians, and two Hindus, while the religious identity of the two accused could not be ascertained. Four accused were extra-judicially killed — two in Punjab and one each in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2022 — which brings the number of extra-judicial killings to 88 persons in total during the period from 1987 to 2022.
CSJ fact sheet says 65pc of forced faith conversion cases reported in Sindh in 2022
At least 2,120 individuals had been accused of committing blasphemy between 1987 and 2022. The trend witnessed an increase in the aggregate abuse of blasphemy laws in Punjab in the past 36 years — above 75pc.
However, 52pc of the accused belonged to minorities despite their small ratio (3.52pc) in the population of Pakistan.
The fact sheet analysed 124 reported incidents of forced faith conversions involving girls/women from minority communities which included 81 Hindu, 42 Christian, and one Sikh. Twenty-three per cent of girls were below 14 years of age, 36pc of them were between the age of 14 and 18 years, and only 12pc of the victims were adults, while the age of 28pc of the victims was not reported. Sixty-five per cent of cases of forced faith conversion were reported in Sindh in 2022, followed by 33pc in Punjab, and 0.8pc each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
The establishment of the statutory National Commission for Minorities (NCM) remained pending.
As per the report, a weak and lopsided draft has now been presented in the parliament in March 2023 which may become a reason for further delay and the ultimate establishment of the NCM.
The fact sheet stated that no progress was made regarding providing remission to minority prisoners during 2022, despite the fact that this concession had been available for Muslim prisoners since 1978.
Peter Jacob, the editor of the human rights observer and executive director at the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), said the annual fact sheet carried recommendations to address the issues along with practical steps for the realisation and protection of the rights of minorities, and urged the government to take stock of these issues and enforce the human rights of minorities.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2023
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