Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has urged India to treat all minorities, including Muslims, equally, The Hindu reported on Sunday. Karzai’s comments come in the backdrop of the Citizenship Amendment Act that provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.

“We don’t have persecuted minorities in Afghanistan… the whole country is persecuted,” Karzai told The Hindu in an interview. “We have been in war and conflict for a long time. All religions in Afghanistan – Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs, which are our three main religions – have suffered.”

Karzai, who has lived in India for several years, has been seen as a strong friend of New Delhi. “The feeling in Afghanistan is very different to what the perception here in India may be,” he told the newspaper. “When I became president, the principal of a school, in his 90s, whom I had known for many years, came to see me. As he left, he said, ‘I have only one request: our Hindus and Sikhs have suffered a lot more [during the Taliban regime], and they deserve much more, so bring them back from wherever they have fled in Pakistan or India, and restore their properties’. That is the sentiment in Afghanistan. And I hope that sentiment would be reflected in India as well with regard to other Afghans, who are Muslim, as well.”

The Citizenship Amendment Act was approved by Parliament on December 11 and signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind on December 13. At least 26 people died in last month’s protests against the citizenship law. Of these, 19 died in Uttar Pradesh, five in Assam and two in Karnataka. The protests, which began at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi, first spread to other prominent colleges, and then on to the streets. In Uttar Pradesh, the police were accused of using excessive force against the demonstrators, and even detaining and torturing minors.