Canada asks Pakistan to protect minorities | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Canada asks Pakistan to protect minorities

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Canada stepped in this week to tell the Nawaz Sharif government that it should take “swift” and “unerring” steps to ensure that terrorists cease attacks on Pakistan’s religious and ethnic communities.

It is no secret that of late every province in the country has seen a rise in these unjustified attacks on Pakistani citizens with the government watching helplessly.

Canada is just not pointing out the obligations to the government but also taking an extra step to help Pakistan through two projects, “which promote dialogue and greater recognition of Pakistan’s religious diversity, (which) will encourage discussion within the Pakistani Parliament and broaden awareness of religious freedom.”

One of the projects of $1,000,000 beginning in 2014, aims to generate debate at the highest level in Pakistan’s policy-making institutions; to implement rights guaranteed by the Pakistani Constitution; to advocate for positive change on inclusiveness issues; and to disseminate resource materials.

The objective of the second project is for one-year ($200,000) to document injustices faced by non-Muslim Pakistanis and to examine the status of freedom of religion among Pakistanis, who are guaranteed this right under Pakistan’s Constitution. The project deliverables will include research reports, video recordings of testimony by members of religious minority communities, consultations with stakeholders and informed policy advocacy with parliamentarians. Participants in the project will seek to identify practical approaches to increase awareness of the plight of religious minorities by liaising with local journalists, activists and academics.

Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, who concluded a week-long visit to Pakistan where he announced these two projects to be supported by the Religious Freedom Fund.

“Pakistan is a country with a multi-faith and multicultural character, which is similar in ways to Canada’s,” said Bennett. “We remain very concerned by repeated incidents of religiously motivated violence in Pakistan and the callous disregard of extremists for the rights of individuals of all faiths to practice their religion in peace and security, “ he said in a statement from the Embassy of Canada.

Earlier the Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird was quoted as saying, “Terrorist attacks against Pakistan’s religious and ethnic communities highlight the need for the Pakistani government to take swift and unerring steps to bring terrorist groups, including those that equip, train and deploy them, to justice.”

“Canada will continue to work with its allies to help the people of Pakistan address the challenges they face and to encourage freedom throughout the region,” he said in a statement.The Religious Freedom Fund, which is managed by the Office of Religious Freedom at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, aims to increase the capacity of organizations in various countries to directly address violations of freedom through a variety of activities, including awareness-building initiatives, legal and legislative training and support for the promotion of freedom of religion and pluralism.

The project specifically seeks to advance the implementation of the rights guaranteed in Articles 20 to 28 of Pakistan’s Constitution, the associated rights of religious communities, and Pakistan’s international human rights obligations.

The partner organisation will set up inclusiveness caucuses within the Pakistani Parliament and in Pakistan’s provinces; facilitate the establishment of a National Commission for Human Rights; provide sensitivity training to influential members of the media; develop an advocacy strategy for policy change; develop and disseminate resource materials; and hold regional workshops on inclusiveness throughout Pakistan.

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