Pakistan government slams religious freedom NGO: 'It defames us at the UN'.
According to a local newspaper, the federal government has asked the Punjab authorities to take action against the Centre for Social Justice, 'guilty' of denouncing abuses of the blasphemy law and forced conversions. In January, the Human Rights Council will have to pronounce on the situation in the country. The solidarity of Pakistan's civil society: "The government should respond to the issues raised instead of denying them".
Lahore (AsiaNews) - Lahore civil society has been alarmed by a report in the Pakistani Daily Jang News that the federal Ministry of the Interior has asked the Punjab government to take action against the Centre for Social Justice, an observatory led by Peter Jacob, a Christian activist and jurist. A report sent by the Centre to the UN Human Rights Council on violations of religious freedom with regard to issues such as anti-blasphemy laws and forced conversions is said to have triggered the action. The government in Islamabad reportedly categorised it as a collection of 'fake news'.
In its 42nd session, the Human Rights Council is about to carry out its fourth review of the situation in Pakistan, as part of the periodic reviews scheduled for each signatory country. Already on other occasions, the Centre for Social Justice had submitted its own documentation on the matter to the UN body, according to the procedures laid down for civil society organisations.
In a joint note circulated yesterday, 37 different associations in Lahore united in the Joint Action Committee for Peoples' Rights defended the Centre for Social Justice, denying the accusation of spreading false information. 'The contents of the report cited,' they write, 'reflect a verifiable situation on the ground regarding religious freedom. These issues are widely discussed in the courts, in parliamentary bodies and in the country's media'.
'The government,' the note continues, 'should constructively consider these recommendations to help resolve long-standing issues, which are a real source of embarrassment for the country. Pakistan's fourth review at the Human Rights Council is scheduled for January 2023 and the government has until October 2022 to submit its report. It can respond to the issues raised or even act to resolve them; but if violence in the name of religion continues, the government will be held accountable in all relevant fora'.