PAKISTAN Minorities urge new Pakistani government to defend religious freedom and their rights

Rwadari Tehreek urges the new Sharif government to overcome religious hatred, allow minorities to elect their own representatives and take action to end violence against women and children. A few days ago, a 12-year-old Christian girl was raped by a Muslim neighbor in Karachi.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Christians and other minorities in Pakistan have hailed the outcome of the constitutional crisis that has seen parliament back down vote of no confidence against Imran Khan.

With a new government led by Shehbaz Sharifthey are now demanding concrete actions to improve their conditions, which remain precarious, as evidenced by the latest incidents of violence and abuse.

Although his party is on the right and his personal record vis-à-vis minorities is not particularly impressive, Sharif will have to form a coalition government with a few national and regional progressive political parties.

According to freelance journalist Aftab Alexander Mughal, the new government should focus on two main goals, one short-term and the other long-term.

“The first is financial support for minorities to deal with extreme poverty and rising inflation,” Mughal said. AsiaNews. “Unemployed young people in particular should get grants and loans for technical training.”

For the journalist, the long-term objective should be that “the government minimizes discrimination and guarantees protection against allegations of blasphemy, kidnapping, forced conversions and forced marriages”.

Upholding democratic principles, such as freedom of religion and freedom of the press, is also important to human rights activist Suneel Malik.

The government “must revisit the regressive reforms based on religious education and promote [instead] an inclusive and equitable education system free from discrimination,” said Malik.

Rwadari Tehreek, a social movement created in 2015 precisely to counter intolerance and violent extremism in Pakistani society and promote respect for religious diversity, presented a series of recommendations to the new government.

First, the group, whose members come from different backgrounds and religions, said that all state institutions should ensure that there is no undue interference, avoid incitement to hatred and to political violence and be transparent in the electoral process.

Minorities should have the right to choose their own representatives in national and provincial assemblies and provincial grievances should be addressed.

Constitutional reforms are needed to end violence against the weakest groups in society, including women, children, workers and religious minorities.

On economic issues, workers should be guaranteed reasonable wages, unproductive spending should be reduced to save money, the number of ministers should be reduced, tourism and other sectors should be encouraged and policies must be implemented to meet the challenges of climate change.

Last but not least, actions must be taken to reduce intolerance and combat extremist attitudes in society. This includes zero tolerance for hatred and violence as well as educational reforms to counter their incitement.

These concerns are directly linked to real life, as evidenced by the latest act of violence that took place recently in Karachi involving a 12-year-old Christian girl who was raped by a Muslim.

The girl, who lives near Jinnah hospital, was assaulted by neighbor Muhammad Tahir, who is often drunk, her parents said.

“Our daughter went to the roof to get some clothes and came back after half an hour with her face swollen and her clothes stained with blood,” her mother said.

Despite the death threats, the family turned to Baji Nusrat, a social activist and secretary of the Life Line organization, and lodged a complaint at the Saddar police station. Authorities then arrested the girl’s attacker.

This episode is just another reminder of how much still needs to be done to ensure that human rights are fully respected in Pakistan.

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