ISLAMABAD: US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson met with several prominent Shia and Sunni leaders at the Iqbal International Institute for Research and Dialogue at the International Islamic University (IIU) for a discussion on the need to promote religious freedom and reduce sectarian tensions in Pakistan.
Ambassador Olson was hosted by the Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad, Vice President of Academics, IIU, and Dr. Ahmad Yousaf al-Draiweesh, President of IIU. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner also participated in the discussion.
According to a press release, in his remarks, the Ambassador praised the religious leaders for efforts to foster mutual respect and harmony between Pakistan’s diverse religious communities, including among Muslims of different sects. The Ambassador underscored that the United States strongly believes that the freedom to practice one’s religion without fear of intimidation, death, coercion or any form of reprisal is a universal and basic human right.
“Religious freedom is fundamental to human dignity, and the United States stands committed to working with Pakistan’s government, religious leaders, and people to uphold religious freedom,” said Ambassador Olson.
As President Obama has said on several occasions, “We can choose to be defined by our differences, and give in to a future of suspicion and mistrust. Or we can choose to do the hard work of forging common ground, and commit ourselves to the steady pursuit of progress.”
The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to religious freedom and to working in partnership with Pakistan to confront violent extremists who continue to threaten innocent Pakistani and American lives.
Finally, Ambassador Olson expressed his deepest condolences on behalf of the United States government and the American people to the Pakistanis affected by recent terrorist and sectarian attacks in Hangu, Karachi, Quetta, and Swat. “The United States stands with the people of Pakistan in condemning these senseless and inhumane acts of violence,” said Ambassador Olson.