Since 2013, through the British Council, the Scottish Government’s international development programme has provided scholarships in Pakistan to more than 500 women from disadvantaged backgrounds to study in higher education and to more than 4,000 children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Of those scholarships, 1,200 were provided to children from minority backgrounds and 35 to women from minority backgrounds.
I seek assurance from the minister that, as he and other members of the Government have contact with the authorities in Pakistan, they will continue to argue for the case of minorities there. We hear about Christians being accused of blasphemy and
Ahmadis not being able to get identity cards.
The Scottish Government strongly condemns the persecution of all minorities—including the targeting of innocent people based on their beliefs—and the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan. The Scottish Government has repeatedly raised directly with the United Kingdom Government and officials from the Government of Pakistan concerns about the issues that John Mason mentioned, and we will continue to do so. We have been in contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which assured us that the British high commission in Islamabad will continue to support civil society and non-governmental organisations in lobbying the Government of Pakistan to honour, in practice, its international commitments, including those relating to freedom of belief.