The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan proclaims that all citizens are equal. Yet, it seems that this principle does not apply to minority religious communities that are frequently subjected to discriminatory practices and find it hard to secure their rights or get easy access to justice.
In theory, religious minorities are protected by a number of Constitutional provisions. However, their implementation has always been an issue and, with the rise of violent extremism, it is becoming more challenging to put these laws into practice.
Pakistan has enacted a number of laws to safeguard the rights of minority religious communities. However, their content and implementation has gaping holes that urgently needs to be acknowledged and addressed. To this end, the Pakistan Religious Freedom Initiative: Leaders of Influence (PRFI-LOI) – being implemented by The Asia Foundation (TAF) with the generous support of Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) – will not only aim to recognize and promote religious diversity in the country but also strive to create greater social and political awareness about challenges to minority religious freedom in Pakistan.
This project aims to create greater social and political awareness regarding challenges to minority religious freedom in Punjab and federal level to and bring about effective implementation of minority laws by enhancing the capacity of local executive and legislative bodies.
PRFI is based on an incremental approach, which involves identification of challenges faced by religious minorities, particularly Hindu and Christian populations in Punjab and on federal level. Primarily, an advocacy initiative, the project aims to amend discriminatory laws, procedures and policies, while also filling the gaps in legislation and regulatory mechanisms to extend greater legal, social and economic protection for the non-Muslim citizens. To this end, caucuses will be established in Punjab Assembly and in the Senate and National assembly to engage politicians and encourage them to generate a serious debate on the plight of religious minorities.
The project will also attempt to increase the capacity of different stakeholders to directly address any violation of religious freedom through a variety of activities which will include awareness building initiatives, legal and legislative trainings, and support for the promotion of freedom of religion and pluralism. In addition, the project will also require the sub-grantee to work with different stake holders to train and sensitize officials from law enforcement agencies, lawyers and elected leaders so that the individuals belonging to minority religious communities can get relatively easy and quick access to justice.