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Pakistan: Religious Freedom

Volume 475: debated on Thursday 1 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to monitor the treatment of (a) Christians, (b) Ahmadiyyas and (c) other religious minorities in Pakistan following the recent elections in that country. (201338)

The UK supports freedom of religion and condemns instances where individuals are persecuted because of their faith or belief. With our EU partners, we have raised our concerns over the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan and the frequent abuse of the blasphemy legislation. Since the elections, we have continued to meet with representatives of minority organisations both in London and Islamabad to monitor the treatment of minorities and inform policy. Our high commissioner in Islamabad recently met Pakistan’s Minister for Education, who also has responsibility for minority affairs. We will continue to monitor the situation and raise concerns about the treatment of minorities with the Government and encourage reform or repeal of discriminatory legislation through the National Assembly.

We endorse the recommendations made by the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) in its report of 16 April 2008 which stress the need for increased participation of minorities in the election process. A comprehensive and well-harmonised plan of action to support democratic institutions in Pakistan will flow from these lessons, taking full account of the EOM recommendations.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is undertaking a Universal Periodic Review on the human rights records of a number of countries including Pakistan in May. The UK is participating in this dialogue and will raise the treatment of minorities during the process.

We will continue to encourage Pakistan to fulfil commitments under the UNHRC. We welcome Pakistan’s decision to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Convention against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We look forward to early implementation of these instruments which we believe should safeguard the rights of minorities in Pakistan.