Thursday August 11, 2022

US urged to remove Pakistan from list of countries violating religious freedom

By Our Correspondent
November 21, 2021

LAHORE: Religious scholars of different schools of thought have taken exception to the US State Department's decision to include Pakistan in the list of countries reported with concerns for violating religious freedom, calling the decision against the facts and urged the US administration to remove Pakistan from the list.

They were addressing a joint press conference on Saturday with Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and Middle East affairs and Chairman Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC). They emphasised that the US State Department's announcement is not fair but politically motivated, as Washington used to turn a blind eye on atrocities against the minorities in India, particularly against the Muslims. Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi and others said that completely ignoring the persecution against Muslims hinted that US’s decision is politically motivated.

The religious scholars said that US administration should change its attitude towards Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Islamic countries, adding that US measures against its opponent countries in the name of religious freedom cannot be supported in any way. Tahir Ashrafi said PUC with coordination of Interfaith Harmony Councils has called a joint meeting of all religious schools of thought and minority religions on Sunday, November 28. The religious leaders said that the situation of interfaith and inter-religious tolerance and harmony in Pakistan is better than many other countries and a clear example of this is the celebrations and gatherings of the Sikh community, Hindus and Christians in recent times in Pakistan with respective religious rituals. Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said the constitution of Pakistan guarantees full protection to all minorities and takes care of their respective rights. Minorities in Pakistan have complete freedom according to their religions and there is no restrictions anywhere for minorities in the country. He also stated that the incumbent government has also taken various steps in the curriculum regarding religious tolerance and inter-religious harmony in the country.

He categorically rejected the allegations that blasphemy laws were being misused or that religious conversion was being carried out in Pakistan on the basis of coercion. He said such incidents have come to an end and during the last one year, any instance regarding misuse of the blasphemy law has not been reported in the country. Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said that for the last one year now, ‘we have been inviting those organisations and NGOs which are spreading such rumors that they should talk to the government and the scholars according to the facts, till date no organization or NGO came forth with respective facts and truth.’ He said no religious riots had taken place in the country during the last one year and two isolated incidents had taken place in which the culprits were arrested and their cases were going on in the court.

The religious leaders said that the rights of all the minorities in Pakistan, including the Qadiyanis, are categorically enshrined in the constitution and law. Muslims and non-Muslims all have to live their lives in Pakistan in accordance with the constitution and law, said religious scholars, and added that including Pakistan in such a list by the US administration is a politically motivated decision and excluding India from this very list makes it clear that the rights of minorities are not the only issue for US institutions and the US State Department. All these decisions are being made to create a specific atmosphere against Pakistan, Islamic countries and China, in which, God willing, the United States will fail. Tahir Ashrafi was flanked by leaders of different religious schools of thought and members of Mutahida Ulema Board including Allama M Hussain Akbar, Allama Syed Ziaullah Shah Bukhari, Maulana M Khan Leghari, Allama Abdul Wahab Rupari, Dr. Raghib Hussain Naeemi, Mufti M Ali Naqshbandi, Maulana M Shafi Qasmi, Maulana Aslam Siddiqui, Maulana Mufti Kifayatullah, Maulana Abdul Ghaffar Qasmi, Maulana M Ashfaq Patafi, Maulana M Umair, Maulana Asadullah Farooq, Maulana M Aslam Qadri, Maulana Shamsul Haq, Qari Mubashir Rahimi and others.