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July 31, 2012

Religious freedom limited for minorities in Pak: Report

Washington: The U.S. State Department's annual International Religious Freedom (IRF) report for 2011 has revealed various instances of religious intolerance in Pakistan . The IRF report states that law enforcement personnel in Pakistan have reportedly abused religious minorities while in police custody. There was a general apathy shown by the authorities to persecute extremists, or those targeting religious minorities, it said. According to The Express Tribune, the report, which highlights the state of religious freedom in several countries, has stated that some government practices in Pakistan have limited the freedom of religion, particularly in the case of religious minorities. "Abuses under the blasphemy law and other discriminatory laws continued; the government did not take adequate measures to prevent these incidents or reform the laws to prevent abuse. Since the government rarely investigated or prosecuted the perpetrators of increased extremist attacks on religious minorities and members of the Muslim majority promoting tolerance, the climate of impunity continued," the report stated. It said there was an increase in intolerance and violence against minorities and those Muslims promoting tolerance. The report said extremist elements demanded "that all citizens follow their authoritarian interpretation of Islam and threatened brutal consequences if they did not abide by it". The only seemingly positive aspect of the report was that the government had taken some steps to improve religious freedom, by creating the Ministry of National Harmony. The report also claimed that some Urdu newspapers in the country "frequently published articles that contained derogatory references to religious minorities, especially Ahmedis, Hindus, and Jews." It said that some Sunni Muslim groups also published literature calling for violence against Ahmedis, Shia Muslims, other Sunni sects, and Hindus.

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