Church, rights groups condemn racial profiling in Pakistan

March 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Islamabad, March 3, 2017: Pakistan opposition lawmakers, human rights activists and church groups have strongly condemned the racial profiling and harassment of ethnic Pashtuns in Punjab province in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.

Pashtuns, who make up an estimated 27.7 million of Pakistan’s total population are the second largest ethnic group in the country and most of them reside in the restive northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and along the Afghan border.

Pakistan also hosts about 3 million Afghan refugees who often find themselves on the receiving end of anti-militant crackdowns whenever a terrorist attack occurs.

After a recent wave of terrorist attacks that left more than 100 people dead, the Pakistan army, paramilitary troops and police launched a countrywide operation to round up hundreds of terror suspects.

Lawmakers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Feb. 29 unanimously passed a resolution against the harassment of Pashtuns in Punjab after police notices allegedly telling people to watch out for terrorists who look like Pashtuns caused outrage.

Opposition leader Imran Khan, himself a Pashtun, condemned the ethnic profiling. “Provincial governments must move to end this ethnic profiling which will only create hatred and polarization in our society,” Khan tweeted.

Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, national director of the Pakistani bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace, urged careful reporting amid ongoing rumors following terrorist blasts in the country. “This is what our enemies want: hatred and division within provinces and ethnic groups,” Father Mani said.

“It would be wrong on the part of the Punjab government to single out Pashtuns. There are other ways to investigate those facilitating terrorists. Pashtuns are equal citizens and can choose to live wherever they want,” he said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also expressed concern over instances of “apparent racial profiling” and “stereotyping” as the authorities tried to clamp down on militancy and terrorism in Punjab.

“The HCRP is aghast at the administration in at least some districts of Punjab issuing formal or informal orders, asking the population to keep an eye on suspicious individuals who look like Pashtuns,” the commission said in a recent statement.

“The stereotyping that makes suspects of an entire ethnic group needs to be unequivocally condemned and appropriate corrective measures introduced at the training and execution stages to prevent any recurrence. Safeguards must be announced to protect individuals from harassment or being treated as suspects because of their appearance or facial features,” the statement added.

Pakistan in recent days witnessed a wave of bombings claimed by Islamist militant groups which killed at least 130 people across the country. Bomb blasts killed at least 90 people at a Sufi shrine in Sindh province and eight people died in blasts in Lahore during two later incidents of violence in the later half of February.

– ucan

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