Members of Congress introduced a resolution expressing the condolences of the House of Representatives to the people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan upon the assassination of Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and called on the United States to renew its efforts with international partners in the Human Rights Council and the United Nations General Assembly to promote religious freedom and tolerance in accordance with international human rights standards.
The bi-partisan resolution, H. Res 164, was introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey and co-sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia, Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York, Rep. Michael Capuano of Massachusetts, Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Rep. Daniel E. Lungren of California, Rep. Jackie Speier of California, Rep. Walter Jones, Jr. of North Carolina, Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, and Rep. Albio Sires of New Jersey.
The resolution recognizes the vision of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, for a nation of religious plurality and equality, and expresses support for the government’s actions to promote religious tolerance and the rights of minorities in the country including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani’s appointing the first cabinet-level official on religious minorities in 2008 and the allocation of a quota of 5 percent of all federal jobs for members of minority religious groups.
The resolution also recognizes that extremist groups for have used the blasphemy laws to trigger sectarian violence, intimidate members of religious minorities and others with whom they disagree, and exploit these laws for their own political ends including falsely accusing Muslims and non-Muslims alike for the settling of personal disputes,. The resolution further recognizes that the law is used against Muslims more than any other religious group.
In addition to expressing condolences on the assassination of the Minister, the resolution calls on the US to “assist efforts to protect the religious freedom of all Pakistanis through prioritizing the prevention of religiously motivated and sectarian violence, enhancing training for local law enforcement including emergency response and scene investigation, prompt and thorough investigation of any incidents of violence, and training of judges on inter- national human rights obligations.”
The resolution was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday.