5 members of US Congress condemn human rights violations in Sindh province of Pakistan

Letter sent to Nawaz Sharif.

By Sujeet Rajan

NEW YORK: Congressman Brad Sherman, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, along with four other members of Congress – Kerry Bentivolio, Adam Schiff, Tulsi Gabbard, and Tom Petri – have sent a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to express deep concern over human rights violations in the Sindh province of Pakistan.

Sindhi activists have been regularly persecuted and detained, and even violently targeted through enforced disappearances and brutal murders.  Religious minorities in Pakistan, including Hindu Sindhis, have faced discrimination and attacks by extremists on their houses of worship, said a press release issued by the office of Sherman to The American Bazaar.

The letter urges the Prime Minister to “address the situation accordingly by strongly countering these actions and policies throughout the Pakistani government.”

Sherman in a statement said: “We are urging Prime Minister Sharif to do everything in his power to protect the Sindh community, as well as religious minorities, from attacks. The Sindhi community includes tens of millions of people in Pakistan who are striving to preserve their language and culture, but Sindhi activists are subject to enforced disappearances and sometimes targeted killings.”

Gabbard, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement: “Violence against minorities everywhere is an unacceptable violation of human rights. In Pakistan, we’ve heard reports of torture, executions and disappearances of peaceful and politically active Sindhis and Balochs who are Hindu, Christian, Shi’a and other religious minorities. These religiously and politically motivated attacks are abhorrent, and I strongly urge Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take action to address these troubling offenses. The Government of Pakistan must stand up for human rights, and against violent radicals who seek to persecute and kill those with differing beliefs.”

The text of the letter sent by the five members of Congress is below:

His Excellency Nawaz Sharif
Prime Minister
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Islamabad, Pakistan

Dear Honorable Prime Minister Sharif,
We share your desire for a peaceful, stable, and free Pakistan where all citizens can prosper.

We write with deep concern for the declining human rights situation in the Sindh province of Pakistan.

Sindhi activists are regularly persecuted for voicing their concerns about government policies. We are greatly troubled by reports of repression and attacks on nonviolent, politically active Sindhis — attacks that include enforced disappearances, torture, and executions.

One horrific example includes the case of Maqsood Qureshi and Salman Wadho who were allegedly shot and then burned alive inside of their car while traveling to a political rally in Karachi.  We stress the need for those responsible for ordering these killings, and similar attacks, to be held accountable for these appalling violations of basic human rights.

There are similar reports regarding Baloch political activists, with mass graves being discovered in the province of Balochistan.

The human rights violations are not only political, but also religious in nature.  Hindu Sindhis experience increasing encroachments on their ability to freely practice their religion.  Accounts of Hindu temples in Sindh being forcibly entered and desecrated represent an affront to the rule of law and basic tenets of religious tolerance. 

Christians, Shi’a, and other religious minorities in Sindh have also deeply suffered.  Scores of Pakistani Shi’a and Christians have been killed or injured in attacks, many of them in Karachi and Hyderabad.  Christians are regularly detained, tried, imprisoned, and even sentenced to death for allegedly violating blasphemy laws.  Houses of worship have been attacked, as well.   

We believe that all persons should be free to practice their religion and should not be immersed in fear because radicals deem them to be blasphemous. 

We fear that certain radical and violent groups are allowed to act with impunity by elements of Pakistani security forces.  If this is true, we urge you to address the situation accordingly by strongly countering these actions and policies throughout the Pakistani government.

We believe that the basic provisions of human rights can and should be provided by the Government of Pakistan to Sindhis and the Baloch alike.  We urge you to seriously address these concerns and work to make Pakistan a free and fair country for all to live in, where religious minorities are not persecuted and differing political beliefs are not met with violence.

Thank you for your attention this critical matter.

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