Pakistan Establishes Center for Investigating Issues Faced by Minority Girls

On December 16th, two weeks after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan mandated a comprehensive investigation into forced conversion and marriages of primarily Christian and Hindu minority girls, the Prime Minister’s aide, Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, announced on social media the establishment of the Special Coordination Center. This Center will be tasked specifically with carrying out the examinations and investigations of these fradulent and coercive religious conversions and marriages.

“Special Coordination Center established at the office of the PM’s Aide Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi to address issues of minorities[.] No one will be allowed to make panic in the country on the issues of forceful conversions and underage marriages: Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi”

Not only on December 16th, but also in the days following, Mr. Ashrafi engaged actively on his Twitter account, sharing articles about the new Center and the government’s dedication to prevent minority girls from being coerced into religious conversion and underage marriage

On December 14th, Mr. Ashrafi attended a press conference in which he asserted that “any individual, group and Organization will not be allowed to settle their personal vendetta on account of Islam and ethnic differences” and that “any girl, either she is a daughter of a Muslim or non-Muslim is responsibility of the state to ensure [her] protection”, and, lastly, that “anyone in Pakistan will not be allowed to make extrajudicial killings in Pakistan on account of Religion.”

While these new developments have been eagerly anticipated and welcomed by the international human rights and religious freedom community, Mr. Ashrafi has now taken to Twitter to claim that ‘misuse of blasphemy laws’ in Pakistan has stopped, and that the world is succumbing to ‘propaganda’ against Pakistan. It should be noted that blasphemy law misuse has NOT been halted, as Christian converts Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel, who were falsely accused of blasphemy in 2014, are still awaiting their trial to appeal their death sentence. See Mr. Ashrafi’s recent tweets below:

Additionally, one of Mr. Ashrafi’s recent tweets calls attention to India’s routine mistreatment of its religious minorities. This is both ironic and hypocritical, as Pakistan has been recognized by the international community for its violations of religious freedom. The United States Department of State on December 7 designated Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern for “engaging in or tolerating ‘systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.'”

Jubilee Campaign welcomes Pakistan’s establishment of a Special Coordination Center to investigate cases of forced conversion and marriages of religious minority girls. At the same time, we hope that Pakistan will publicly recognize the continued misuse of blasphemy laws and take matters to release prisoners of conscience such as Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel, who languish in prison under false accusations of blasphemy.

Cover photo by Utenriksdepartementet UD on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)