Washington: Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws were often used as justification for mob justice, a US State Department report on religious freedom in the country in 2015 said on Wednesday, which also took note of the incidents of violence and discrimination against the minority Shia and Ahmadi Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs.
"Throughout the year, attackers targeted and killed Shia and Ahmadi Muslims. Unknown assailants kidnapped individuals from minority religious groups, including Zikri Muslims and Hindus," the State Department said in its Congressional-mandated annual report on international religious freedom for the year 2015.
"Pakistan's blasphemy laws have often been used as justification for mob justice," it said.
"There were reports of continued efforts by societal actors to coerce religious minorities to convert to Islam and continued discrimination against Christians in employment," it said.
There were also attacks on the holy places, cemeteries, and religious symbols of religious minorities, it added.
According to Hindu and Sikh leaders, the legal uncertainty surrounding the process of registering marriages for their communities created difficulties for Hindu and Sikh women in obtaining their inheritances, accessing health services, voting, obtaining a passport, and buying or selling property, the State Department said.
The government announced the creation of a new Ministry of Human Rights but did not specify its authority or responsibility for religious minorities, it said, adding the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights continue to be responsible for protecting individuals against religiously based discrimination.
Although the Constitution devolved some authority and responsibility for the protection of religious minorities to provincial governments, legal experts said the full legal framework remained unclear.
"Minority religious leaders stated discrimination against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Ahmadis in admission to higher education institutions persisted," the report said.
Representatives of religious minorities said a "glass ceiling" continued to prevent their promotion to senior government positions, the State Department said.
"Although there were no official obstacles to advancement of minority religious group members in the military service, they said in practice non-Muslims continued rarely to rise above the rank of colonel and were not assigned to senior positions," it said.
The report also noted the continued violence and abuses committed by armed sectarian groups connected to organisations banned by the government, including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), TTP, and the now-disbanded Sipah-e-Sahaba.