Pakistan has rejected a recent report of the United States State Department on the international religious freedom, which criticised Pakistan’s action on securing religious freedoms for minorities. Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said in a statement on Friday that the US report on Pakistan was “a compendium of unsubstantiated and biased assertions”. The statement also declared that Pakistan does not support such national reports making observations on the internal affairs of a sovereign State and therefore rejects these observations

What was in the report that provoked high officials to reject it in such harsh words? According to the report released by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), religious freedom conditions in Pakistan “generally trended negative” in 2018, as extremist groups and societal actors continued to discriminate against and attack religious minorities, with inadequate protection from the government. The report also critiqued the blasphemy law and touched upon the issue of forced conversions of non-Muslims.

To say that the very prevalent issues of blasphemy law misuse and forced conversions do not exist, when we saw such cases in the past year, and that the assertions in the report are a lie would not be correct. Yet more than pointing out the inaccuracies in our defensive statement, perhaps we ought to question why we take offence at the US making observations on our internal affairs, when we glee if the same occurs in the case of India? When the same organisations publish reports on Indian occupied Kashmir, we hold them up as proof of Indian atrocities and we criticize India when it denies the reports and limits access to observers

Indeed, as fate would have it, despite our contentions that the report did not focus on India’s atrocities on Kashmir, the same report also condemned the Indian government’s inability to curb violent attacks on the country’s minority Muslims. It seems like irony that India also rejected the report and echoed the same sentiment as Pakistan’s reply to the US- that it did not welcome foreign entities directing internal policies.

It seems then that both India and Pakistan pounce upon any international report which condemns the religious persecution in the other country, but cannot accept it when the same foreign authority criticises their own. We cannot have it both ways- Pakistan, at least, should rise above and work towards fixing our shortcomings. We do not want our country to be an unsafe place for minorities, as India has become.