Islamabad: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday expressed concern over attempts to smother freedom of expression and opinion in the country.

The remarks were made in the context of the recently concluded Asma Jahangir Conference 2021.

"HRCP is increasingly alarmed by attempts to smother freedom of expression and opinion in the country--from the PTA's ham-fisted bid to disrupt internet services to the venue of the Asma Jahangir Conference and detractors questioning its funding, to the Pakistan Ulema Council's demand that the state takes action against the convenors for having allegedly 'defamed' the army and judiciary," HRCP said in a statement.

"In an environment where marginalised voices--particularly those from Baluchistan and grassroots movements such as the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement--have to fight to be 74 heard on human rights, such steps are at odds with the government's claim that Pakistan's media is 'free'.

Religious and sectarian minorities suffer systematic discrimination and violence in Pakistan, an expert panel said during a seminar in Lahore.

This issue of discrimination against minorities was raised during the Asma Jahangir Conference 2021, where the speakers discussed the theme of 'Freedom of Religion and Belief' on Sunday.

"Despite all discrimination, we own this land and accept the Constitution of Pakistan," said speakers while attending a session on "Impact of extremism on religious and sectarian Minorities" on Sunday, The News International reported.

Prominent Pakistani academic Pervez Hoodbhoy said that the two-Nation Theory and the Objectives Resolution laid the basis for the systematic discrimination of minorities in Pakistan. He said that the Christians, Hindus and Parsis, over time, chose to leave Pakistan due to discrimination and violence.

Lal Chand Malli, Member of the National Assembly, said the government, under the Ministry of Human Rights, had formed a parliamentary committee to protect minorities against forced conversions, but the law was blocked at the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

A representative of the Hazara community termed Hazaras "double minority" as they faced systematic discrimination. "The extremists are empowered due to encouragement by the state as Hazaras suffer gross violations of human rights," Jalila Haider said.