US agency criticizes food aid denial to Pak Hindus, Christians

A US agency on religious freedom has criticized the denial of food aid to Pakistani Hindus and Christians battling the COVID-19 virus, saying that “these actions are simply reprehensible,” and warning Pakistan it could create another crisis.“Troubled by reports of food aid being denied to the minority Hindus and Christians in Pakistan,” the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said. “As COVID-19 continues to spread, vulnerable communities within Pakistan are fighting hunger and to keep their families safe and healthy. Food aid must not be denied because of one’s faith,” USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava said.

She urged the Pakistan government to “ensure that food aid from distributing organizations is shared equally” with all religious minority groups in the country. The Hindus and the Christians constitute a small population of the Muslim majority Pakistan and are often discriminated against and denied basic human rights.

The USCIRF noted that the Karachi-based NGO Saylani Welfare International Trust has been refusing food assistance to Hindus and Christians, arguing that it is only “reserved for Muslims”. USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore said: “In a recent address by Prime Minister Khan (Imran Khan) to the international community, he highlighted that the challenge facing governments in the developing world is to save people from dying of hunger while also trying to halt the spread of COVID-19.” “This is a monumental task laying before many countries. Prime Minister Khan’s government has the opportunity to lead the way but they must not leave religious minorities behind. Otherwise, they may add on top of it all one more crisis, created by religious discrimination and inter-communal strife,” he added

The USCIRF in its 2019 Annual Report had noted that Hindus and Christians in Pakistan continue to face threats to their security and are subjected to various forms of harassment.

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