Belgium: As the world observes International Human Rights Day, Voice for Justice (VFJ) convened a meeting spotlighting the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan. Rights groups are vocal about the acute human rights abuses, including forced conversions, child marriages, and violence under false blasphemy accusations.
Joseph Jansen of VFJ called upon Pakistan to honour its obligations and foster tangible human rights improvements, highlighting that while the country economic benefits from the European Union's GSP+ status, critical human rights progress remains scrutinized. The EU has renewed this status for four more years, with the stipulation of tangible improvements in Pakistan's human rights practices.
Ashiknaz Khokhar, citing the EU report, detailed the continued challenges in protecting religious freedom and minority rights. Misuse of blasphemy laws, coerced conversions, and systemic violence against minorities remain pressing issues. He urged the government to demonstrate political resolve and take decisive action to address these shortcomings.
Shamaun Alfred brought to light the prolonged imprisonment of Anwar Kenneth on blasphemy charges, calling for his acquittal. He criticized the influential groups within Pakistan that hinder reforms aimed at criminalizing forced conversions and updating blasphemy legislation, indicating a lack of political commitment to safeguarding religious freedoms.
Nadia Stephen underscored the discrimination and violence faced by religious minorities, advocating for governmental action to ensure equality and security. She called for legislative reforms, including laws to criminalize forced conversions, revise blasphemy laws to prevent abuse and curb hate crimes and mob violence.
This meeting has brought into focus the urgent need for Pakistan to align its actions with international human rights standards and its GSP+ status obligations, ensuring a fair and just society for all its citizens.