Religious freedom under threat in Pakistan: US
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said more than two dozen people are on death row or serving a life imprisonment for blasphemy in Pakistan. Photograph: (Reuters)
Religious freedom is under attack in Pakistan, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said in a speech while releasing the 2016 International Religious Freedom Report.
"Religious freedom is under attack in Pakistan, where more than two dozen are on death row or serving a life imprisonment for blasphemy," Tillerson said.
The report said that religious minorities are concerned about the “inadequate” action on part of the government to address “coerced conversions” to Islam.
"Religious minorities said they remained concerned that government action to address coerced conversions of religious minorities to Islam was inadequate," the report, first under the Trump administration, said.
The report added that religious minority leaders continue to say that the government has failed to take proper action to protect minorities from bonded labour in the brick-making and agricultural sectors, a practice which is illegal and in which the victims were disproportionately Christians and Hindus.
The report said that according to Hindu and Sikh leaders, women from their communities face difficulties in obtaining inheritances, accessing health services, voting, obtaining a passport and buying or selling property because of the legal uncertainty surrounding the process of registering marriages for their communities.
The report also said that the government marginalises Ahmadiyya Muslims.
"It is my hope that the new prime minister (Shahid Khaqan Abbasi) and his government will promote interfaith harmony and protect the rights of religious minorities," Tillerson said after releasing the report.