Religious minorities, such as Christians, Hindus, and atheists, are in more danger than ever within the borders of Pakistan. The country has been placed on a United States watch list for countries of concern over “severe violations of religious freedom.” The purpose of the watch list is to improve the respect for religious freedom in the designated countries. The radical Islamic political party, Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) has overtaken the capital city, Islamabad, and openly made death threats against the Ahmadiyya community. The Ahmadis are an Islamic sect that was excommunicated by an amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution, and, under Pakistani Penal Code, an Ahmadi can be jailed for arbitrary actions such as reading the Koran or using Islamic titles. In December 2017, suicide bombers killed nine Christians inside Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta and injured around sixty others. Hundreds of religious minorities await trial under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, with at least 19 on death row. In March 2017, the interior minister described minorities as “enemies of humanity” and vowed to carry out the issue to its “logical conclusion.” These actions by the government are violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

On March 9, 2018, a Pakistani court ruled that citizens are required to declare their religion when applying for identity documents. The high court in Islamabad declared that citizens who disguise their religious affiliation were guilty of betraying the state. This ruling piles further pressure on the Ahmadi community, a group that has already fallen victim to mob violence and attacks since the sect was declared non-Muslim in 1974.

In the past year, Pakistan has seen an increase in violence related to blasphemy. This increase has followed encouragement of discriminatory prosecution by the government, as seen in the government’s failure to repeal discriminatory laws and dangerous rhetoric inciting hatred against minority groups. The government of Pakistan currently has no adequate protections in place to combat the persecution of women, religious minorities, and transgender groups and has no system to hold violent criminals accountable. For instance, in April 2017, a mob dragged a 23-year-old university student from his dormitory and shot him over accusations of blasphemous remarks. In May 2017, a 10-year-old was killed when a mob attempted to storm a police station where a man accused of blasphemy was being held.

In 2008, Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 12 of the ICESCR provides that states party to the Covenant recognize the right of all people to enjoy the highest standard of physical and mental health. Pakistan is violating this right by continuing to encourage violence against religious minorities. Article 2 of the ICCPR provides that each state party to the Covenant “undertakes to respect and ensure to all individuals” the rights recognized in the Covenant “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion.” The same article also provides that each state party to the Covenant endeavor to take the necessary steps to adopt laws that give effect to the rights recognized in the Covenant. Pakistan has not upheld its commitment to providing protection of basic human rights to all people in its jurisdiction. The government has gone beyond simply making life difficult for religious minorities to actively and purposefully endangering their lives.