Pakistan’s new prime minister Imran Khan is facing criticism after failing to appoint a single member of a religious minority group onto his cabinet.
“As an offence to many, the new team doesn’t include a single member from the minority groups in the country as neither a Hindu, Christian or a Parsi has been given the portfolio for interfaith harmony,” reports national newspaper Pakistan Today.
Khan had raised hopes among religious minorities when, in his first speech following his election victory, he said he longed to return Pakistan to the vision of its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was a champion of religious tolerance.
In a famous speech in 1947, Jinnah told his citizens: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
Khan echoed this pledge, stating: “I am saying to you today, that for the first time, Pakistan’s policies won’t be for the few rich people, it will be for the poor, for our women, for our minorities, whose rights are not respected.”
But at the same time, Khan has spoken in support of the country’s strict blasphemy laws, which have been used disproportionately against religious minorities – Pakistani Christians, for example, make up only 1.5 per cent of the total population, but over a quarter (187) of the 702 blasphemy cases registered between 1990 and 2014 were against Christians.
The most famous example is that of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother-of-five on death row since 2010.