FO rejects ill-informed US report on religious freedom in Pakistan

(MANEND NEWS): Foreign Office has strongly rejected the baseless assertions made about Pakistan in the International Religious Freedom Report released by the United States.

At her weekly news briefing in Islamabad on Thursday, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said that such ill-informed reporting exercises about internal affairs of sovereign states are pointless, irresponsible and counterproductive.

She said Pakistan is proud of its religious diversity and pluralistic social fabric. She said Pakistan’s constitution sets a robust framework to safeguard and advance the rights and freedoms of all Pakistanis irrespective of their faith. These rights and constitutional guarantees are protected, upheld and reinforced by an independent judiciary.

The Spokesperson said Pakistan strongly believes that each state itself has the primary responsibility to promote and protect religious rights and freedoms of its nationals. With this understanding, she said, Pakistan has always engaged constructively with the international community in promoting mutual understanding on the important question of religious freedom and minority rights. In our interactions including with the United States, we have raised serious concerns about the steady surge in anti-Muslim hatred, racism and Islamophobia. She said we hope to work with international partners to counter these pernicious forms of religious intolerance, discrimination and Islamophobia.

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch welcomed the important statement made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Affairs on the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. She pointed out that the Special Rapporteur in his statement has warned against Indian plans to hold the G-20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar. She said we agree with the Special Rapporteur that the situation in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir should be decried and condemned and not pushed under the rug and ignored with the holding of the G-20 meeting. She asked the G-20 members to pay due attention to these observations and sage advice.

The spokesperson said Pakistan has a principled position on Jammu and Kashmir dispute which is rooted in the UN Security Council resolutions which call for its solution on the basis of the aspirations of Kashmir people under the UN supervised plebiscite. She categorically stated that Pakistan’s position on Jammu and Kashmir dispute has not changed.

Responding to a question, the spokesperson said Pakistan remains committed to the gas pipeline project with Iran. She said we are engaged with Iran to discuss the issues regarding the completion of this important project.

Condemning the recent violence in Gaza, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch called on Israel to adhere to its international obligations and respect the recent ceasefire agreement. She reaffirmed Pakistan’s unstinted support for the Palestinian cause and renewed its call for a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian state with Pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al Sharif as its capital.

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