We thank the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief for his report in which he has outlined priorities of his mandate.
Despite challenges which are faced by every society today, as a multi-cultural and multi-religious country, Pakistan is committed to promote and protect freedom of religion or belief for all. The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees equal rights and status to all citizens, irrespective of religion. It has several Articles that safeguard against any form of discrimination.
The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in its suo moto action in June 2014 held that every citizen of Pakistan is free to exercise the right to profess, practice or propagate his or her religious views, even against the prevailing or dominant views of his or her own religious denomination or sect. It accords protection to members of all religions and criminalizes incitement of religious hatred. The comprehensive recommendations of this Judgment are being implemented.
The Government has always strived to establish an inclusive society in which people of various faiths can live in harmony and has established 124 Interfaith Harmony Committees at the district level and has convened a number of conferences to promote interfaith harmony. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony is formulating National Interfaith Harmony Policy.
Festivals of various religions are officially celebrated in Pakistan in which political leaders, including Prime Minister and President participate. These festivals include Christmas and Easter for Christians, Holi and Diwali for Hindus, Biasakhi and Birthday of Guru Nank for Sikhs, Nauroze for Zoroastrian, Eid-e-Ridvan for Bahai’s, Festival of Lights for Buddhist community and Chelum Jhust for Kalasha people.
In December 2014, a National Action Plan to Combat terrorism was devised which included steps, among others, countering hate speech and extremist material, ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organization, taking effective steps against religious persecution, registration and regulation of madrassas, ban on glorification of terrorism and terrorist organizations through print and electronic media and dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists, which are being implemented.
The free and active media in Pakistan continues to foster respect for religious diversity. A number of civil society organizations are also working in Pakistan for the promotion of interfaith dialogue and harmony and we appreciate their valuable contribution.
I thank you.