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Pakistan Rejects India ‘Smear Campaign’

by Newsweek Pakistan

In statement, Foreign Office slams as ‘reprehensible’ Delhi’s attempts to paint isolated incidents as persecution of minorities

New Delhi’s attempt to portray two isolated law and order incidents in Peshawar and Nankana Sahib, respectively, as instances of alleged persecution of minorities is part of a desperate smear campaign to distract global attention from state-backed terrorism in India-held Kashmir, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Monday.

In a statement issued to media, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “completely rejects” India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s drive to portray two unrelated events as examples of alleged systematic persecution. “Pakistan completely rejects these fabrications, which will in no way shield the BJP government from opprobrium by the international community on its illegal actions in IOJ&K [India-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir] and the adverse fallout of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens,” it said. “Pakistan is a diverse country where people from different faiths, including Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, live together,” it said, adding that Pakistan’s Constitution guaranteed equal rights to all citizens and “the Government takes this obligation seriously with zero tolerance against any discrimination.”

The Foreign Office was referring to two separate, and seemingly unrelated, incidents that occurred in the past week in the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan.

In the first, a protest broke out near the Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib following an altercation between the owners and customers of a local shop. Video footage of the protest showed a man calling for the Gurdwara to be razed to the ground and for Sikhs to be evicted from the region. The Interior Ministry and Foreign Office both clarified that the protest had nothing to do with religious strife and the instigator had been acting independently. He has since been charged with incitement and is currently under arrest.

P.M. Khan has condemned the incident, saying the protests and threats were against “his vision” and the protest leader would be prosecuted for his actions.

In the second, unidentified men shot dead a Sikh man in Peshawar. A police case has been registered and an investigation is underway. Despite this, India condemned, without evidence, the “targeted killing” of a religious minority in Pakistan.

In its statement, the Foreign Office said Pakistan has the highest respect and sanctity for all places of worship, including those belonging to minority Sikhs. “We categorically reject Indian allegations regarding any ‘attack’ and ‘desecration’ at the holy Gurdwara Nankana Sahib,” it said. “These blatant lies are yet another illustration of the quintessential RSS-BJP propaganda drive, which will fail.”

Referring to the Kartarpur Corridor initiative, launched last year to allow Indian Sikh pilgrims visa-free access to holy sites in Pakistan, the Foreign Office said it was a clear manifestation of P.M. Khan’s vision of religious harmony.

“The Sikh community, the world over, is aware of the importance that the Government of Prime Minister Imran Khan attaches to minorities and their places of worship,” it added. Additionally, noted the statement, “Indian attempts to politicize the tragic killing of a Pakistani Sikh youth are also mischievous and reprehensible.” It said a murder case had already been registered and the “law will take its course and those responsible will be brought to justice.”

Slamming India’s claims of being a ‘protector of minorities,’ the FO statement said BJP-backed forces were “responsible for the desecration and demolition of the Babri mosque, massive killings of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat, frequent incidents of mob lynching, and repeated hate crimes against minorities.”

The FO statement concluded by urging India to stop “feigning dishonest concern” over the plight of minorities in Pakistan. “The BJP government would do better by focusing on the ongoing human tragedy at home and protecting India’s minorities from ‘Saffron Terror,’” it added, referring to the clothing worn by members of the rightwing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that inspired the ruling BJP and counts Prime Minister Narendra Modi among its members.

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