Wilson Center Experts

Farahnaz Ispahani

Public Policy Scholar
Asia Program

T (202) 691-4396 // F (202) 691-4001

Democracy; Democracy Promotion; Democratic Transition; Gender; Gender EqualityHuman Rights; Pakistan; South Asia; Middle East and North Africa;Egypt
Former Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan. Politician, Writer, Women & Minority Rights advocate
“Protecting Religious Minorities in Pakistan & other Muslim Majority Nations”

Farahnaz Ispahani is a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. She is a Pakistani politician who served as a member of Parliament and Media Advisor to the President of Pakistan. At the Parliament she focused on the issues of terrorism, human rights, minority rights and US-Pakistan relations. Ms. Ispahani spent the formative years of her career as a print and television journalist. Her last journalistic position was as Executive Producer and Managing Editor of Voice of America’s Urdu TV. She has also worked at ABC News, CNN and MSNBC.

Project Summary

Pakistan’s religious minorities are widely viewed as embattled and under attack. This project undertakes a comprehensive analysis of Pakistan’s policies towards its religious minority populations, both Muslim and Non-Muslim, before proposing policy reforms Pakistan can undertake to ensure their protection. A historical overview will be taken in the context of expanding Islamaization and evaluate state policy and legal provisions and their impact on the status of religious minorities. It is not only Pakistan where Muslim and Non-Muslim minorities are under attack. This is a phenomenon prevalent in a number of Muslim majority countries and spreading rapidly. The broader aim of this project is to look at Pakistan and other Muslim Majority countries such as Indonesia and Egypt.

Major Publications

Pakistan Peoples Party

Farahnaz Ispahani is a Global Fellow, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. She is the author of the recently published book "Purifying the Land of the Pure: The History of Pakistan's Religious Minorities. Oxford University Press, 2017. Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani has been a leading voice for women and religious minorities in Pakistan for the past twenty five years, first as a journalist, then as a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, and most recently as a scholar based in the United States. An advocate of Pakistan’s return to democracy during the military regime of Pervez Musharraf, she served as a spokesperson and international media coordinator for the Pakistan People’s Party, working alongside the late Benazir Bhutto. During her tenure in parliament (2008–2012), she was a member of the Human Rights Committee and the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. In 2013–2014, she served as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she completed a book on the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. In 2012, she was listed among Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers, as well as Newsweek Pakistan’s Top 100 Women Who Matter. During her fellowship, Ms. Ispahani is exploring women’s political participation in the Muslim world, both in terms of their progress toward gender equality under democratic systems and the converse rise of women as agents of extremist propaganda within the world of the Islamic State. FARAHNAZ ISPAHANI is Senior Fellow, South and South East Asia Action Team at Religious Freedom Institute also.

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