USCIRF to President Obama: Raise Religious Freedom Concerns with Pakistani Prime Minister

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 18, 2013| USCIRF

During his October 23 White House meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, USCIRF urges President Obama to raise concerns about the dire religious freedom situation in Pakistan, with both Muslims and religious minorities consistently confronting violence or jail.

"Based on USCIRF findings, Pakistan represents one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert George. "The September attack on All Saints Church that killed close to 100 worshippers underscores Pakistan's exceedingly poor religious freedom situation. The violence extremists perpetuate threatens all Pakistanis, including Shi'as, Christians, Ahmadis, and Hindus, as well as those members of the Sunni majority who dare to challenge extremists.”

"Given that President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif reportedly will be discussing how best to counter violent extremism, we urge the U.S. to incorporate concern about freedom of religion into these conversations,” said Chairman George. "To successfully counter violent extremism, Pakistan must have a holistic approach that both ensures that perpetrators of violence are jailed and addresses laws that foster vigilante violence, such as the blasphemy law and anti-Ahmadi laws. For the sake of his country, the Prime Minister should be pressed to take concrete action.”

USCIRF's 2013 Annual Report highlighted the dire state of religious freedom in Pakistan and that growing religious extremism threatens Pakistan's security and stability, as well as the freedoms of religion and expression and other human rights. Notwithstanding this alarming situation, the U.S. government has not designated Pakistan as a "country of particular concern.” USCIRF's Religious Violence Project found that religious freedom violations in Pakistan have risen to unprecedented levels, and the government continues to fail to protect Christians, Shi'a, Ahmadis, and Hindus. In addition, approximately 40 individuals are on death row or serving life sentences for allegedly blasphemous conduct, a statistic unmatched anywhere else in the world.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact Kalinda Stephenson at 202-786-0613 or kstephenson@uscirf.gov.

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