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November 7, 2017

Wilberforce A!ert: Trump Administration: Please Designate Pakistan a CPC

For the past 15 years, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended that the U.S. government designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its egregious human rights and religious freedom violations against Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus and Shi’a Muslims. Last week, a bi-partisan group of senators – Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Todd Young (R-IN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), James Lankford (R-OK), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) – sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, urging that he take into consideration the USCIRF recommendation and designate Pakistan as a CPC within the next week. The letter states:

“Discriminatory constitutional provisions and laws … continue to result in the unjust prosecution and imprisonment of individuals due to their faith … Religious minority communities also experience religiously motivated and sectarian violence perpetrated by terrorist organizations and societal elements with relative impunity.”

The deadline for Secretary Tillerson to declare such a designation is November 13, as the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act requires that it be made within 90 days of the State Department’s release of the International Religious Freedom report, which was published August 15.

Knowing of the looming deadline, 21CWI President Randel Everett and Distinguished Senior Fellow Frank Wolf sent their own letter directly to President Trump November 2, urging this administration to have the courage to make the designation.

Some of Pakistan’s most egregious violations include, but are not limited to, its blasphemy laws, anti-Ahmadi laws, and forced conversions. As of this time, at least 40 known individuals are being held on charges of blasphemy, with either a death sentence or life imprisonment looming above their heads. This includes the Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who has been languishing in jail for the past seven years. While Asia Bibi’s case may be one of the few that has received more international attention, at times it would appear that she has largely been forgotten. Complicating things further, according to USCIRF, her case was delayed in 2016 when a judge recused himself. Situations like this speak highly to the culture of impunity throughout Pakistan, as few judges desire to be involved in cases where if the ruling is in favor of the accused, it could result in the judge’s own death from mob violence.

In addition to the blasphemy laws, Pakistan has continued to maintain constitutional anti-Ahmadi provisions and laws. Ahmadi Muslims are considered heretics by Pakistan’s Penal Code, and it is considered a criminal act for Ahmadis to refer to themselves as Muslims or to share their faith. Sectarian violence against the Ahmadi community is not only allowed but protected, as is evidenced by the case in Punjab Province where three Ahmadi men were sentenced on blasphemy charges for tearing down posters that called for a boycott of the Ahmadi community in the name of Islam.

The forced conversion of Hindu and Christian girls to Islam has also remained a systemic problem, according to USCIRF, with an estimated 1,000 cases per year. While there have been some attempts in recent years to take legislative steps that would ensure the protection of these young women, the laws have not done much to reverse the culture of impunity, ongoing discrimination, harassment and coercion.

Well known as one of the worst violators of human rights and religious freedom, it is unfathomable that Pakistan may yet again remain undesignated as a Country of Particular concern. We must not let this happen.

Take Action:

1)     Read the letter that 21CWI President Dr. Randel Everett and Distinguished Senior Fellow Congressman Wolf wrote to the President about designating Pakistan a CPC.

2)     Call your senators and representative and request that they urge the State Department to designate Pakistan as a CPC by November 13.

3)     Sign the petition by the ACLJ calling for Asia Bibi’s release: https://aclj.org/persecuted-church/save-christian-mom-asia-bibi-from-execution

Category: Asia
Region: Asia
Keywords: Asia Bibi,Bibi,Pakistan,blasphemy laws,blasphemy,CPC,USCIRF,Marco Rubio,21st Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Wilberforce,21CWI

Abigail Berg

Abigail Berg is Director of Government Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.  Abigail graduated from Patrick Henry College in 2013 with a degree in Political Science. She worked on Capitol Hill for two years as an assistant and scheduler for Frank R. Wolf.  Upon Congressman Wolf’s retirement at the end of the 113thCongress, she spent 6 months in Egypt as a volunteer and teacher before returning to work for the 21stCentury Wilberforce Initiative.

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The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative is empowering a global movement to advance religious freedom as a universal right through advocacy, capacity building and technology.