Cornerstone: Pakistan: Religious Identity and Religious Freedom

The role of religious identity in Pakistan has been an important part of the history of Pakistan. Many of the present day conflicts, from intercommunal violence to blasphemy laws, occur along the fault lines of religious communities. As Farahnaz Isphani has argued in her recent book, Purifying the Land of the Pure, there has been a sense in which rather than protecting the rights of all religious groups, the Pakistani state and society has sought to “purify” the community.  From its pre-independence population of 20.5% non-Muslims, the present number of non-Muslim minorities is estimated at less than 4%. The factors that have contributed to this are numerous and the present day implications for all Pakistanis – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – are concerning. Hostilities and restrictions have been directed not only at non-Muslims, but non-Sunnis or those who would defend views considered outside the accepted orthodoxy.

What are the current challenges that are faced by Pakistan’s religious minorities? What can be done to promote a religious freedom that protects the rights of all Pakistani’s to freely believe as they wish, act on those beliefs, and participate in all of life?

A series of experts from Pakistan and around the world have contributed articles answering these questions.