Scores of South Asian experts, members of the US Senate and House of Representatives flocked Capitol Hill to urge Pakistan to stop the persecution of ethnic and religious groups.
The delegates expressed their views during the ‘Minorities Day’ event organised by South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation (SAMAF) and Voice of Karachi (VOK) on Wednesday.
In his speech, the host of the event, US Congressman Thomas Garrett Jr., said that Mohajirs (Muslims who migrated to Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947) left their homes hoping for a better life but they weren’t welcomed in their new homeland.
“I clearly understand the plight of Mohajirs. They were forced to leave their homes hoping they are going somewhere they’d be welcomed, but they weren’t. They have a story that needs to be told. I am not advocating on behalf of any group to demand a radical change in policy, we expect our allies to treat their minorities with equality and dignity they so much deserve”, he said.
Echoing Garrett’s contention, Gilgit-Baltistan rights activist Sange Sering said that every ethnic and religious group in Pakistan is suffering at the hands of the “Punjabi-dominated military elite”. “Pakistani ruling elite does not believe in co-existence at all and is taking away everything away from minority groups”. The activist also assured that people of Gilgit-Baltistan will extend their support to organisations which are fighting this unjust vexation by the Pakistan authorities.
Speaking at the event, another US Congressman, Scott Perry, also urged the Imran Khan-led government in Pakistan to treat all ethnic and religious minorities equally. “We can all live together and practice our faith in peace and harmony. This is the way it is now in America, but that should be everywhere,” he said.
The US Congress member from Pennsylvania also added that the Trump administration must take South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation’s (SAMAF) lead on this and demand all its trading partners to treat their citizens equally. “We could not remain silent and we have to stand up to exercise the power and the authority to stop injustices, and we would do what we are expected to do.”
Pulitzer Prize winner journalist Pir Zubair Shah also highlighted the plight of all persecuted ethnic and religious groups and claimed that Pakistan has not taken any meaningful action against any terrorist, whether it is the so-called ‘good terrorist’ or ‘bad terrorist’.
“The lack of action is because of lack of interest. Pakistan Army decides such policies. Civilian government and civilian institutions have no say even in drafting of Pakistan’s foreign policy, let alone its implementation. When the US launched action in Afghanistan soon after the 9/11 tragedy, many in Pakistan, particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) region, had hoped something good could come out this tragedy, such as removal of terrorist’s groups operating in the region and introduction of a plan similar to the Marshall Plan. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen,” he noted.
“People of Pakistan have suffered enormously mainly due to the way the country conducted its role in the war against terrorism. Millions of people have been displaced, tens of thousands have died in terror attacks, tens of thousands have gone missing, and yet the terrorists continue to operate in the region. It is because of the current state of miseries that the people of KP are facing that Pashtun Tahffuz Movement (PTM) has emerged and is enjoying massive grassroots support,” Shah added.
A number of US Congressmen, a high-level representative on behalf of Ambassador-at-Large Sam Brownback and member of President Trump’s Asian advisory board, Puneet Ahluwalia, also attended the event.