The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), in conjunction with the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, sent a letter last week to Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan,who represents the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the United States.
The diverse coalition of scholars, interfaith activists, and organizations wrote to the Ambassador in hopes of engaging him in a constructive dialogue on recent and ongoing religious freedom violations faced by minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims.
Jay Kansara, HAF Director of Government Relations, who spearheaded the effort, offered the following comment:
“We look forward to engaging in a dialogue with Pakistan’s new envoy in Washington. We see this as a great opportunity for all stakeholders to proactively discuss ways to enhance religious freedom for Pakistani citizens of all backgrounds.”
The letter reads in part:
“We approach you in a good-faith effort as members of American civil society to build upon the recent visit to Pakistan by Ambassador Sam Brownback, representing the United States for International Religious Freedom. After his brief trip to Islamabad, where he had the opportunity to meet with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, other prominent government officials, and leaders of civil society, Ambassador Brownback expressed with great optimism that Pakistan has “a desire to change” in order to be removed from the United States’ Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list.
In recent weeks, however, the conditions of religious minorities have continued to deteriorate. While we were initially encouraged by the exoneration of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, and Dr. Abdul Shakoor, an Ahmadi Muslim, on false blasphemy charges, we are deeply concerned by the recent reports of abductions and forced conversions of dozens of young Hindu and Christian girls.”
In March of this year, another high profile case involving the abduction and forced conversion of two Hindu girls, Reena (14 years old) and Raveena (16 years old), from their homes in Sindh province, became international news. Despite assurances from Prime Minister Imran Khan of a thorough investigation to curb the abductions of young Hindu girls and the existence of laws prohibiting the marriage of minors, a court validated the conversion and subsequent underage marriages of the two girls.
Such incidents continue to plague the Hindu and Christian communities in Pakistan, as dozens of new cases emerge everyday.