US urges Pakistan to repeal blasphemy laws


by Xari Jalil

LAHORE: The United States has asked Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy laws. At the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held in Geneva on Monday and proceedings of which were seen online by Dawn, US representative Jesse Bernstein stressed that an anti-trafficking law that prohibits and penalises all forms of human trafficking must be enacted and implemented as soon as possible. It recommended that Pakistan must “undertake, track and report” investigation and prosecution of security forces who commit human rights violations and abuses.

Jesse Bernstein said: “We are also concerned about the International NGOs policy restricting operations of non-violent organisations.” Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif was heading the Pakistani delegation.

The UK, represented by Miriam Shearman, agreed with the issue of Pakistan’s lack of freedom for its religious minorities. It recommended a fully inclusive electoral roll without discrimination or religious bias, and establishment of an independent National Commission for Minorities from all faith communities, who should appoint their own representatives. The UK also said that Pakistan should set a clear timeline for the review of legislation carrying the death penalty with the aim of limiting the scope of crimes to which it applies.

India, represented by Sumit Seth, urged Pakistan to provide freedom to the people of Azad Kashmir by ending “illegal and forcible occupation”. It soon followed with a recommendation to dismantle special terrorist zones, safe havens and sanctuaries and take verifiable actions, including on “terror financing”.

It also laid stress on ending forced conversions and marriages of minorities. Pakistan accused India of trying to “sabotage the UPR platform with propaganda”.

Other countries included Spain, Senegal, Canada, the UAE, Iraq and Iran and all of them are part of the UPR.

While the UPR recommendations are not binding, it is important to take these recommendations, being part of the exercise. Also unlike UN conventions and their implementation, Pakistan has the freedom to refuse to accept any recommendation by the working group.

Khawaja Asif made the opening and closing remarks. Pakistan will announce on Thursday which of the recommendations it is going to accept.Dawn