Washington: Ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a broad coalition of 28 NGOs, religious leaders, and human rights advocates today asked President Barack Obama to address religious freedom issues in Pakistan.
The letter enumerated a wide array of issues facing religious minorities in Pakistan, ranging from archaic blasphemy laws to mass violence and attacks on religious sites to the forced conversion of more than 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls annually.
Signatories to the letter were part of International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable, a non-affiliated body of organisations and individuals that regularly convenes in Washington to address global human rights and religious freedom concerns.
Spearheaded by Hindu American Foundation (HAF) the letter details the attacks and harassment moderate Muslims face from both extremists and government authorities for speaking out in support of religious freedom.
"The broad-based coalition comprising of Hindu, Christian, Muslim, and atheist groups and leaders sent a clear message to President Obama that religious freedom in Pakistan is an urgent matter that must be addressed in any bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Sharif," said Jay Kansara, HAF's director of Government Relations.
"Conditions for religious minorities in Pakistan are deteriorating at an alarming rate and can no longer be ignored by the US," Kansara said in a statement.
"The Pakistani state will not achieve peace and stability so long as it continues to tolerate and sanction egregious and severe violations of religious freedom," said Samir Kalra, HAF's senior director and Human Rights Fellow.
"And unless the US shifts its policy priorities with Pakistan to supporting civil society, democratization initiatives, human rights, and religious freedom, the atmosphere of religious intolerance and extremism will only increase," he said.