U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Calls for Strict Measures

Jun 21, 2003 10:34 AM EDT

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom requested President Bush to press Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on religious freedom, Reuters reported June 20. The commission, funded by the U.S. congress and appointed by the president, hoped a measure could be reached during the two presidents’ meeting on June 21.

"We believe that it is in the U.S. national interest to promote those elements in Pakistan, including within the government of President Musharraf, which are under increasing pressure from the forces of intolerance and violence," the commission said in its letter to Bush.

The letter specifically called for the increased protection of non-Muslims; the existent measures to bring attackers to justice are “wholly inadequate,” the letter stated. The letter cited legislation by the Islamist-dominated legislature in the North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan, the use of Pakistan's blasphemy laws and discrimination against the Ahmadi sect.

The commission recommended Bush solicit Musharraf to repeal discriminatory legislation, protect all places of worship in Pakistan, prosecute people responsible for religiously motivated attacks, and oppose attempts to stifle public debate on the grounds of religion.

By Pauline J.