The UK parliamentary International Development Committee heard evidence on Tuesday (29 June) from Professor Mariz Tadros on the situation for religious minorities in Pakistan, as part of the Committees’ inquiry on UK aid to Pakistan.
In her role as Director of the IDS-based Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID), Professor Tadros shared the latest evidence from CREID partners working in Pakistan about the lived experiences of religious minority groups in the poorest areas of Pakistan, including those who are Christian, Hindu, and Shia Muslim.
Hate speech and blasphemy laws
On whether the situation for religious minorities in Pakistan is becoming worse, Professor Tadros replied: “Are partners are telling us clearly that the situation is deteriorating….with increases in three kinds of deterioration. Firstly, in hate speech, secondly, in the lived experiences that is differentially worse than other poor communities, and thirdly, targeting of religious minorities through the use of blasphemy laws. Which is acute in its impacts on communities, not just on individuals.”
Prof Tadros outlined how the Covid-19 pandemic had driven an increase of abuse towards religious minority groups, many of whom faced scapegoating and were blamed for Covid-19. Increases in online hate speech also included the example of the online hate against Ahmadis in Pakistan last year and the fact that online hate can spill over into offline life.
Violence against women and girls
When providing evidence on issues particularly facing women and girls of religious minority backgrounds, the concerns raised based on work by CREID partners included violence and discrimination and abduction for forced conversion and forced marriage, with some cases raising global media attention. Prof Tadros also pointed out that many female lawyers and activists in Pakistan who are unknown and do not receive media profile are also suffering frequent harassment and intimidation due to the work they do supporting religious minorities.
The Committee also asked for evidence regarding the impact of UK Aid programmes on girls’ education in Pakistan. Prof Tadros highlighted that while FCDO conducts gender audits across programmes, there is a great need to undertake religious minority audits, to find out how effective the education programmes are at reaching them. Without that data it is not possible to how well UK aid education programmes are reaching girls in Pakistan facing the intersections of poverty, religious minority and gender.
The House of Commons International Development Committee held the public evidence session in its inquiry UK aid to Pakistan to explore both the status of women and girls and that of religious minorities in the country to assess whether UK aid is targeted effectively to intervene in these areas. The full session including evidence from Professor Javaid Rehman, Professor of International Human Rights Law at Brunel University can be viewed on Parliament TV. The written evidence IDS submitted to the inquiry is also available on the inquiry website.
The Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID) is funded by UK Aid, from the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The programme provides research evidence and practical programmes to redress the impact of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, tackle poverty and exclusion, and promote people’s wellbeing and empowerment, in Egypt, India, Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan