Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif urged to protect rights of religious minorities

After claiming victory in the Pakistani elections, the Global Minorities Alliance is urging ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif to protect the rights of the country's suffering religious and ethnic minorities.

His party, the centre-right Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) stormed ahead in Saturday's elections.

Pakistanis turned out in their droves to vote despite the Taliban's deadly bombing campaign.

The party of former cricketer Imran Khan, Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), has become the second largest party in Pakistan.

The lead for the PML-N puts Sharif at the cusp of becoming Pakistan's prime minister for the third time.

Sheraz Khan, chief executive of the Glasgow-based Global Minorities Alliance, is calling upon Sharif to restore the ministry of Minorities Affairs, which was transformed into the ministry of National Harmony in 2011, following the assassination of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

"We would like to see an end to discrimination against minorities in public and private sectors," said Khan.

He also wants to see the Pakistani government introduce measures to stop the "misuse" of blasphemy laws, which human rights groups say are being used to discriminate against Christians.

The Global Minorities Alliance is particularly concerned about Christian woman Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 and has been in prison since, pending appeal.