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Pak asked to reign in Islamic extremism

world Updated: Jun 16, 2007 13:22 IST

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has deplored the "abuse" of blasphemy laws in Pakistan and asked Islamabad to make serious efforts to combat Islamic extremism in that country.

The Commission also asked the Bush administration to "forcefully" raise these "serious religious concerns" with Islamabad.

Urging Pakistan to "decriminalise blasphemy", the Commission said that country should make "much more serious efforts" to combat Islamic extremism in the country.

Pakistan government's political alliance with Islamist political parties, which "affords an inordinate amount of influence to these groups, has a "strong negative impact on freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief" in that country, it said.

The "repressive measures" exacerbate religious tensions rather than advance freedom of religion and have no place in a country that claims to respect rights, the Commission said.

"These insidious laws," it said, "constitute a severe violation of the universally guaranteed right to the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief and lend themselves to misuse and abuse."

Pakistan's blasphemy laws are "inherently arbitrary, and they de facto restrict freedom of speech and other freedoms guaranteed by international human rights norms," said Felice D Gaer, Commission Chair.

The blasphemy laws, the Commission said, are one of the many ways in which the government of Pakistan severely violates the internationally guaranteed right to religious freedom.