ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday condemned India’s Citizenship Amen­dment Act (CAA) of 2019, labelling it a discriminatory move by a “Hindu fascist state” aimed at presenting India as a sanctuary for persecuted non-Muslim minorities from neighbouring countries.

“Evidently, the legislation and relevant rules are discriminatory in nature as they differentiate amongst people on the basis of their faith,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said at the weekly media briefing while commenting on the controversial Indian law that took effect on Monday, marking the first time Delhi has established a religious criterion for citizenship.

The CAA was originally approved by Indian parliament in 2019, but its implementation was at that time suspended after deadly protests broke out in the country over the legislation. The Modi government, however, attributes the delay in implementation of the law to Covid-19 pandemic. Its enactment just ahead of the upcoming polls in India leaves little doubt about the political motivations behind the move.

The new Indian law offers a fast-track to citizenship for religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who arrived in India before December 31, 2014. Specifically, it applies to Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians. These individuals are now encouraged to seek citizenship through an online application process. Notably absent from the list are Muslims, who constitute the majority in the aforementioned countries.

FO says law discriminatory in nature, differentiates among people on basis of their faith

Ms Baloch said: “These regulations and laws are premised on a false assumption that minorities are being persecuted in Muslim countries of the region and the facade of India being a safe haven for minorities.”

She recalled that the National Assembly of Pakistan had on December 16, 2019, passed a resolution against the CAA, arguing it contravenes international norms of equality, non-discrimination, and international human rights law.

The spokesperson criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government for its role in the political, economic, and social victimisation of Muslims and other religious and social minorities within India, including Dalits.

“The discriminatory steps further expose the sinister agenda of transforming India into a Hindu Rashtra,” Ms Baloch said as she drew attention to India’s own track record with minorities.

Her criticism of the mistreatment of minorities in India is supported by recent international critiques, including a call from a group of UN Special Rapporteurs for India to undertake corrective actions to safeguard human rights and protect minorities ahead of the national elections.

The international community, including the United States, the United Nations, and human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, has expressed apprehensions regarding the CAA.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has labeled the act as “fundamentally discriminatory” and a violation of India’s international human rights obligations.

The US State Department has also voiced its concerns, emphasising the importance of religious freedom and equal treatment under the law.

Missile test notification

The spokesperson flagged India’s non-compliance with Missile Test Notification Timeline.

“Pakistan has taken note of the Indian missile test on the 11th of March. The advance notification was shared by India but it did not follow the three-day timeline as stipulated in Article 2 of the Agreement on Pre-notification of the Fight Testing of Ballistic Missiles,” Ms Baloch said. “The agreement on pre-notification we believe must be complied with in letter and spirit,” she said.

India had on March 11 tested its first domestically-produced Agni-V missile capable of carrying multiple warheads.

The 2005 bilateral agreement requires both countries to inform each other in advance of any ballistic missile tests. Pakistan emphasises the importance of adhering not only to the spirit but also to the letter of this agreement to ensure regional stability and avoid potential misunderstandings.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2024

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