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Pakistan is denouncing a U.S. decision to place it on a list of countries Washington says are the worst offenders of religious freedom.
“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities… there are serious questions on the credentials and impartiality of the self proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise,” the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday in a strongly-worded statement.
The reaction comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his designation of “countries of particular concern” that allegedly have engaged in or tolerated ”systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
The countries on the blacklist are exposed to punitive sanctions, but Pompeo waived them for Pakistan, citing U.S. national interests.
Pakistan had until now been on a U.S. watch list for governments that have “engaged in or tolerated” severe violations of religious freedom.
While rebuking Tuesday’s U.S. pronouncement as “unilateral and politically motivated,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry noted Pakistan is “a multi-religious and pluralistic society” of more than 200 million people, mostly Muslims.
“Around four percent of our total population comprises citizens belonging to Christian, Hindu, Buddhists and Sikh faiths. Ensuring equal treatment of minorities and their enjoyment of human rights without any discrimination is the cardinal principle of the Constitution of Pakistan,” it said.
Ahmadis most persecuted community
The statement did not mention the Ahmadi sect, which critics say is the most persecuted minority in Pakistan. The constitution bars the community from “posing as Muslims” and from calling their worship places “mosques.”
U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback while defending downgrading of Pakistan reiterated Tuesday the challenges facing the Ahmadi community.
“The Pakistani government criminalizes the identification of Ahmadis as Muslims, and then also — and this one has really been difficult and troubling for a lot of people — the government often fails to hold accountable perpetrators of killings and violence against members of religious minorities targeted on account of their religious beliefs or affiliations,” said Brownback.
He cited, among other things, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as a cause for the downgrade of the country’s religious freedom ranking. The laws prescribe the death penalty for those found guilty.
Rights groups have long complained Islamist groups misuse the law to intimidate minorities in the country.
Insulting Islam or its prophet is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where mere allegations have led to mob lynchings. A former provincial governor, a federal minister, judges and lawyers are among those assassinated in Pakistan by extremists merely for calling for reform of the blasphemy laws to prevent their misuse or for hearing cases and defending alleged blasphemers.
In a historic judgement this past October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who had been on death row for eight years after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammad. The women denied the charges from the outset as an outcome of a local feud and the country’s highest court cited lack of evidence in overturning her conviction by a lower court.
Bibi and her family have been in hiding since her release. Her lawyer fled Pakistan shortly after the landmark court ruling announced on October 31, saying his life was in danger.
Bibi is awaiting a rehearing of her case by the Supreme Court and is residing in a safe place under government protection, say Pakistani officials.
Pakistan also arrested hundreds of Islamist activists and their leaders last month for staging days of mass violent protests to denounce the court for freeing Bibi.
The government has charged the detainees with treason and terrorism and officials have vowed to put them on trial in special courts.
“It’s our hope that they will, the new leadership in Pakistan, will work to improve the situation. There was some encouraging signs seen recently on how they’ve handled some of the recent protesting against the blasphemy laws, and we continue to watch very carefully what’s happening to Asia Bibi,” said Brownback.
China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are also included in the U.S. list of countries accused of committing severe violations of religious freedom. (VOA)
Holo, Tezos and potentially HUH Token are cryptocurrencies that have made long term holders a lot of money or could produce excellent profits in the future. Holo and Tezos may not have been heavily in the public eye in the grand scheme of cryptocurrency because more significant currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum exist. However, when examining the data, Holo and Tezos have produced large amounts of profit for those committed to holding the crypto.
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Revolution comes in many forms all over the world and its no surprise that the idea has seeped into the cryptocurrency world as well, but how does it differ from the blood baths that usually sprout from such gargantuan ideas.
Polkadot is a new creation from a co-founder of Ethereum and HUH Token is an emerging token that is set to take the crypto world by storm because of a very ingenious ecosystem that shares something in common with Polkadot.
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Why Will HUH Token Take Over?
HUH Token will revolutionise cryptocurrency because it's created an ecosystem of two co-existing blockchains that allow HUH Token holders to live in a greater equilibrium than holders of currencies that exist across one blockchain.
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Why Will Polkadot succeed?
Polkadot is the new open-source crypto platform that continues the revolution of Ethereum's co-founder, who aspired to have far reaching applications of Cryptocurrency that he himself could never have envisaged. Much like HUH Token's revolutionary use of the Polkadot's father blockchain: Ethereum.
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The answer to the above question is entirely down to your needs as Polkadot allows the holders to dance across currencies but HUH Token offer the potential for dual currency due to its one of a kind multichain.
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Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan face a bleak future in a country dominated by the Taliban. While the Islamic fundamentalist organisation claims that minorities would be secure, many are apprehensive based on previous experiences.
Afghan Sikhs and Hindus have returned to their homes in various regions of the nation after spending weeks at the Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita, a Sikh shrine in Kabul's Karte Parwan neighbourhood.
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Religious minorities' lives have been thrown into chaos after the collapse of Afghanistan's civilian government and the Taliban's takeover of the conflict-torn country last month.
After almost 140 Sikhs and Hindus were unable to board an Indian military evacuation flight from Kabul airport following a suicide bomb strike near the airport, around 250 Sikhs and Hindus remain in Afghanistan.
They risk a bleak future under the extremist Islamist administration because there are no flights out of the Taliban-led capital city.
India had evacuated over 600 people from the Afghan capital before the last American plane departed from Kabul airport. 67 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were among those killed, including parliamentarians Anarkali Kaur Honaryar and Narender Singh Khalsa.
the origins of Afghanistan's Sikh and Hindu community date back centuries, even before the country's founding.Unsplash
Is it possible for a non-Muslim to be an Afghan?
According to Inderjeet Singh, author of Afghan Hindus and Sikhs: History of a Thousand Years, the origins of Afghanistan's Sikh and Hindu community date back centuries, even before the country's founding.
"The history of Sikhs in modern-day Afghanistan can be traced back to Guru Nanak's tenure in the region, which corresponds with the birth of the religion itself in the 16th century," Singh told DW. "The Hindu religion's origins are far older."
However, those in authority have depicted them as outsiders or "foreigners," relegating them to second-class status in their own nation, regardless of the administration.
Puja Kaur Matta, an Afghan Sikh anthropologist who currently resides in Germany, argues, "Sikhs and Hindus are locals – not foreigners." When Taliban terrorists took over Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, her parents, who had roots in Ghazni and Kabul like many Sikhs and Hindus, immigrated to Europe.
Their population has shrunk from 60,000 in 1992 to less than 300 presently.
Also read: India hosting Taliban welcome meet
Segregation and harassment threats
Minorities held out some hope for equal rights under the deposed civilian administration, despite years of systemic and structural discrimination. However, two large assaults in 2018 and 2020 destroyed this optimism.
In the first suicide explosion, Khalsa's father was slain, and at least 25 Sikh pilgrims were killed in the 2020 Gurdwara shrine assault. Both assaults were claimed by "Islamic State Khorasan" (IS-K), a regional offshoot of the "Islamic State" organisation. The gang was most recently responsible for the suicide assault that killed at least 182 people at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Sikhs and Hindus worry that under the new Taliban administration, they would be forced to wear yellow tags to indicate their non-Muslim identity, as they were in the past.
"For their beliefs, Sikhs and Hindus have been targeted," Kaur adds.
"For fear of harassment, a generation of youngsters were unable to attend school. They couldn't even bury their loved ones without risking being stoned in front of others." The word "home" connotes a sense of security, which many communities have long since lost.
India's contradictory policies have left them in the lurch.
As India prepares to welcome Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan, its uneven attitude toward asylum seekers and refugees has left hundreds stranded. The government's stance toward asylum seekers varies significantly, depending on whether it is based on ties with the nation from which they are seeking protection or on local politics.
New Delhi said this month that it will provide shelter to Afghans of all faiths, not just Hindus and Sikhs. However, what the government states may not be representative of what occurs on the ground.
There is no openness regarding how people are given refuge since there is no protocol in place.
Aside from the uncertainty surrounding their refugee status, living in India is difficult. Delhi, which is home to the majority of the Afghan diaspora, is a pricey city. The majority of Afghans in this country do not have work licences. It is not possible to survive on handouts.
Dreams of a secure future
Sikhs and Hindus escaping Afghanistan desire to establish a new life — one that is stable — and give their children a great future.
Kaur Matta, now 29, was one of those children when her parents opted to leave Afghanistan, opening up a world of possibilities for her. She now wants to start a dialogue about her neighbourhood.
Even though a substantial number of Sikhs and Hindus leave Afghanistan, some families have chosen to remain in the nation as guardians of their places of worship – their legacy.
"We don't have a place to live," Kaur Matta says. If you're looking for a unique "People in Afghanistan refer to us as Indians. We are Afghans in India."
"All we want is a safe haven where we can live our lives without fear of persecution – a place where we may practise our faith, follow our traditions, work, and raise our children without fear of persecution."
Keywords: Afghanistan, Indians, Hindu, Sikh, Origin of Sikhs in Afghanistan