10/22/2019, 15.07
PAKISTAN
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Government attacks human rights NGO that defends minorities

by Shafique Khokhar

Speaking before international bodies, Human Right Focus Pakistan president slammed violence done in the name of religion. Two officials visited the group president’s home, telling his wife that the family would face consequences if he did not stop smearing the country’s name. The association has been defending human rights since 1994 and will continue to do so.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), an NGO that defends human rights, including the rights of religious minorities, has been under undue pressure, President Naveed Walter told AsiaNews, and its staff and his family have been subjected to threats and intimidation.

In the past, “religious fanatics and persecutors found ways to create problems for our work. Now it is government officials who are putting pressure. They lie when they say NGOs have the right to work freely for minorities."

The NGO is worried about its future. The president notes that government officials have been using intimidation tactics against him, his family and members of his organisation. The HRFP office has been targeted daily by the government.

"They come to check documents, when they know that everything is in order,” Walter explained. “They create obstacles for our work, and refuse to renew papers. Our bank account has been blocked since July. They stop activists on the road.”

Ostensibly, the reason for this crackdown is a speech that the HRFP president gave to the United Nations Security Council, in which he denounced the violence perpetrated in the name of religion in Pakistan.

The government complains that he did not mention the Kashmir issue in his address, also claiming that he presented a negative image of the country at the international level in that and other meetings.

Given the situation, two officials went to the president's home and told his wife and son to get him to stop his activities; otherwise he and they could face consequences.

"They are after me,” Walter explained, “because I opened a 24-hour telephone line (0800-09494) to help religious minorities, support them in legal proceedings, and provide all possible assistance to victims of religious violence."

For the activist, “Despite pressures, HRFP will continue to promote and protect human rights,” as it has done since 1994. “There will be no solution to the problems of minorities until they are treated as equals.”

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