A US bipartisan panel which monitors religious freedom and persecution around the world, expressed grave concern over reports that Hindu and Christian minority communities in some parts of Karachi, Pakistan were being denied food, aid and other basic necessities amid the coronavirus crisis.
According to reports, the coronavirus "aid is reserved for Muslims alone" and an NGO named Saylani Welfare International Trust selectively handed out food to the majority community of Pakistan and denied providing relief materials to the minority community. "The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is troubled by the reports of food aid being denied to Hindus and Christians amid the spread of COVID-19 in Pakistan," the panel released a statement airing their concerns.
Food must not be denied because of one's faith
USCIRF Commissioner, Anurima Bhargava stated that his panel finds the report to be very troubling and stressed on the fact that food, aid and basic necessities must not be denied to a person on the basis of his or her religion. Anurima urged the government of Pakistan to intervene and distribute food for all in these times of distress.
"These actions are simply reprehensible. As COVID-19 continues to spread, vulnerable communities within Pakistan are fighting hunger to keep their families safe and healthy. Food aid must not be denied because of one's faith. We urge the Pakistani government to ensure that food aid from distributing organisations is shared equally with Hindus, Christians, and other religions minorities," she said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan must lead the way and not fall in the religious trap
USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore stated that Prime Minister Imran Khan must stand up to the challenges facing the nation and lead the way during difficult times and not fall in the trap of religion, as that adds more trouble to an already troubled nation. "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."
Commissioner Moore continued, "In a recent address by Prime Minister (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.
Also, even in the 2019 annual report, USCIRF noted that Hindus and Christians in Pakistan had to "face continued threats to their security and are subject to various forms of harassment and social exclusion".