Washington DC [USA], Nov 8 (ANI): A Pakistani Christian human rights defender has accused the country's government and security agencies of targetting him and his colleagues for helping the victims of religious violence.
Naveed Walter, who recently migrated to the United States, and runs an NGO called Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) in Faisalabad, said, "I am targetted for being a defender of religious minorities and religious liberties, particularly for assisting minorities through legal proceedings for their protection and bringing culprits to justice."The HRFP has been defending human rights since 1994. The NGO runs a 24-hour telephone line (0800-09494) and supports religious minorities in legal proceedings, as well as provides all possible assistance to victims of religious violence.
The reason for the crackdown against the NGO is a recent speech that Naveed gave at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), in which he denounced the violence perpetrated in the name of religion in Pakistan.
The government claims that Naveed did not mention the Kashmir issue in his address and presented a negative image of the country at the international level, both in the address and the side meetings.Naveed told ANI, "Different government departments have pressurised me during international advocacy efforts, whenever I have addressed international forums. They even visited HRFP's office, and pressurised my colleague, followed me and tried to scare my family at home and field.""They created problems in the renewal of the organisation's registration, blocked HRFP's bank account and when they couldn't stop me from doing my work by any of these hurdles, they threatened severely. We immediately relocated to the United States to be safe," Naveed said.
He further said that human rights defenders in Pakistan are being targeted when they raise their voices internationally.
"The authorities in Pakistan blame human rights defenders for damaging the country's image, just as how they blamed me, but they don't make the situation better and safer for minorities," he said.
"The HRFP staff is not afraid and will continue to work for the marginalised minorities and to protect the minority girls who are being abducted, forcefully converted and married off," he added.
He said that his organisation will continue to assist the families and victims of blasphemy by way of releasing them from prisons and raising the issues of discriminatory practices against the minorities.
The advocacy and awareness activities will also continue on local, national and international levels, Naveed said.
Religious minorities in Pakistan, be it Christians, Hindus or Sikhs, are being persecuted by state and non-state actors.
An estimated 1,000 women and girls from religious minorities are abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and then married off to their abductors every year. (ANI)