In Pakistan there is a large gap between official government statements about religious freedom and the reality of life for religious minorities. At the moment the state is neither preventing nor punishing vigilantism, while the loudest, most aggressive voices of extremism intimidate and sideline other demands for free expression and debate.
The last few years have seen an increase in religiously-motivated violence in Pakistan, targeting both non-Muslim and Muslim minorities. Perpetrators are rarely brought to justice and, as a result, religious minorities are viewed as "easy targets". Other concerns include threats to human rights activists, lawyers and judges, and the abduction, forced marriage and forcible conversion of non-Muslim women and girls. Disproportionately high poverty and illiteracy levels add to the disempowerment of Christian and Hindu communities, leaving them more susceptible to abuse and less able to secure justice or compete on equal terms with other Pakistani citizens. Discrimination in the education and employment sectors is widespread.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws have long been a serious cause for concern. Little has been said publicly on the issue since the assassinations of Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, in early 2011, but the frequency of new cases is not decreasing and many in minority communities live in fear of their lives being destroyed by a blasphemy accusation.