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US criticises Pakistan over ‘discriminatory’ laws
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, Sept 15: The US on Friday blamed Pakistan for failing to protect the right of religious minorities and for allowing discriminatory legislation to continue.
In a 22-page, 14,000 words report on Pakistan, the US State Department once again underlined a 1974 constitutional amendment that places legal bars on the Ahmadiyya community and also listed the blasphemy and Hudood laws among these that discriminate against religious minorities.
“These laws are often used to intimidate reform-minded Muslims, sectarian opponents, and religious minorities, or to settle personal scores,” the report claimed.
The State Department was particularly critical of Hudood Ordinances that “impose elements of (Islamic) law on both Muslims and non-Muslims and different legal standards for men and women.”
The report also censured the NWFP government for continuing to “pass directives and legislation in accordance with the conservative … vision of its supporters.
The State Department, however, credited the Musharraf government for giving public calls for religious tolerance and for working with moderate religious leaders to organize programmes on sectarian harmony and interfaith understanding.
The government also maintained its ban on and actively attempted to curb the activities of sectarian and terrorist organizations, implemented a registration scheme for madressahs, and proceeded with reform of the public education curriculum designed to end the teaching of religious intolerance, the report added.
The State Department noted that on July 1, President Musharraf instructed the Council on Islamic Ideology to prepare a revised Hudood Ordinance that eliminates discriminatory treatment of women and minorities not later than August 2006.
“In addition, the president ordered the release of all women detained under the current ordinance. According to local non-governmental organizations, approximately 700 women had been released.”
The report noted that since last year, more than 110 deaths occurred due to sectarian violence, including terrorist attacks by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. Large numbers of victims came from both Sunni and Shi’a sects.
The State Department praised ‘some members of the MMA’ for making “efforts to eliminate their rhetoric against Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, and Parsis.” Under government pressure, many of its leaders joined various interfaith efforts to promote religious tolerance, it added.
AFP adds: The United States assailed Iran for its worsening treatment of religious minorities but also chided allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia.