Readout of Ambassador Saperstein's Visit to Pakistan to Promote Religious Freedom
Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein met with Pakistani government leaders, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and civil society activists, including representatives of Pakistan’s religious and ethnic minority communities, students, journalists, human rights attorneys, and business leaders in Pakistan April 12-16. In his discussions, he stressed that improving religious freedom conditions will advance Pakistan’s security and stability and further strengthen the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship.
In meetings with Pakistani government officials, including the Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, the Federal and State Ministers of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, and the Sindh Minister for Religious Affairs, Ambassador Saperstein expressed concerns about violent attacks against members of religious minorities, the application of blasphemy laws, and other forms of discrimination on the basis of religion. Ambassador Saperstein encouraged the government to protect members of religious minorities and their places of worship, implement due process measures to curb the frequent abuse of blasphemy laws, and fully implement the June 2014 Pakistani Supreme Court order on the rights of members of religious minorities under Pakistan’s constitution and international commitments.
Members of Pakistan’s minority communities described the need for reform of Pakistan’s secular and religious school curricula to promote religious tolerance, better implementation of existing laws and policies to protect the rights of all of Pakistan’s citizens, and full enforcement of restrictions on banned militant groups. Members of the Hazara Shia community from Quetta, Balochistan, shared their deep concerns about poor security, frequent attacks by militants on their community, lack of necessary medical assistance for victims of attacks, and the dearth of educational and employment opportunities for young Hazaras in Quetta. Ambassador Saperstein shared his serious concern about their plight and pledged his commitment to continue to monitor the situation closely and to advocate for progress.
Ambassador Saperstein also spoke with students and instructors at the International Islamic University in Islamabad and the Jamia Darul Uloom madrassa in Karachi. He explained his role in advancing international religious freedom. Students and instructors shared their personal experiences related to the topic and asked questions about the mechanics of how the United States advocates for freedoms of religion and expression globally. Ambassador Saperstein pressed his audiences to share their ideas about how the United States and Pakistan can cooperate to promote religious freedom.
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