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March18,2018

In a new setback for Pakistan’s Christians and other religious minorities, Islamabad’s High Court has ruled that Pakistani citizens must declare their religion when applying for identity documents such as birth certificates, national I.D. cards, voter’s lists, and passports. Every citizen’s true religion must also be visible when applying for jobs in the government, judiciary, armed forces, and other civil services.

For Pakistan’s many religious minorities, this High Court ruling further develops pre-existing fears and anxieties; fears of being victimized, marginalized, and discriminated against by the majority Sunni Muslim population.

When Pakistan was established, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah sought to create a state in which every citizen would be free to practice their religious beliefs. He envisioned a nation in which every citizen had equal rights and opportunities to thrive and prosper, irrespective of religious affiliation. The enforcement of this new ruling corners religious minorities and promotes division amongst Pakistani’s, going against the foundation laid by the founding father. 

A similar initiative was taken to add citizen’s religious beliefs to national identity cards in 1992, but it was curbed when Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti, then leader of the Christian Liberation Front, led the Pakistani Christian community in large-scale protests. He believed that Christian’s and other religious minorities would be socially and economically excluded from the rest of the nation by having to declare their religion, fearing that intolerance and hatred would spread throughout the entire nation.

Today, Pakistan’s religious minorities continue to be victims of oppression and discrimination on a regular basis and this new ruling by Islamabad’s High Court puts minorities under greater subjugation. They will suffer the brunt of this ruling when applying for jobs and seeking government services, diminishing their opportunities to flourish and prosper and separating them from mainstream society.

International Christian Voice strongly urges the Islamabad High Court to review its decision for the betterment and future prosperity of Pakistan; for the sake of interfaith harmony, equality, and national peace.

Exclusive footage of Shahbaz Bhatti\'s interview

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