Pakistani Christians moving to Thailand to escape violence. Europe and International Community remains an “unmoved silent observer”

KARACHI: It was on a warm October day that human rights activist Noel Alfonce received a call. A man simply asked him to stop his work or his 10-year-old daughter would suffer the consequences.

With a heavy heart, nearly six months later, he left his home and country behind for good.
“I wouldn’t have been bothered had they threatened me, but when it comes to your children, you sometimes have to take harsh decisions,” said the balding man, speaking over the phone from a busy marketplace in Bangkok as Thai announcements blared in the background.The ‘crimes’ that forced him out of the country were helping victims of forced conversions and their families and visiting the burned down and bullet-riddled churches after they were attacked. His actions irked the wrong people, and Alfonce, who had been working at the National Commission for Justice and Peace for the last four years in Karachi, had to wind up his work and leave.

Mass migration

There are no official figures but community members and activists say that thousands of Christians have left Pakistan and are seeking asylum in other countries.From Karachi, many Christian families have fled silently; from Dastagir, Pahar Ganj, Mianwali Colony, Akhtar Colony and Essa Nagri. A majority of them opt for Thailand, which offers cheap airfare and easy access to tourist visas.“Apart from personal attacks and threats, the Badami Bagh incident in Lahore and the church bombing in Peshawar have led to an increase in migration of Christians. Unemployment and lack of security are making them leave,” said former parliamentarian and minority representative Michael Javed.But Alfonce, whose bike was riddled with bullets when he spoke against a church attack in Karachi’s Mianwali Colony in 2012 and received death threats in September of last year after he condemned the killing of a Christian accused of blasphemy, has no one to share his grievances with.“Who do I complain to? The government has no writ and it is the terrorists who are in control now,” he said.With a quivering voice, he added, “I don’t know what I will do when my savings run out next month. I don’t know how we will survive.”

Preparing to move

For several months, 40-year-old Aslam Masih, a sweeper at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, had made up his mind to emigrate.Last December, when a PMT crashed down near his house in Taiser Town, plunging the Christian colony into darkness, his decision was made.“We had no light, no gas, no water. We had no better jobs. We were living like animals,” he said, also speaking from Thailand over the phone.A pastor, Moazzam, who had helped several Christians move to Thailand, was contacted and paid Rs100,000 to arrange for the travel of six family members of Aslam; for their visas, their tickets and their documentations.In order to arrange the amount, Aslam sold the house that he had built on the plot he received from authorities after being relocated from Lyari.His father, Mahar Bahadur Masih, who decided to stay back in Pakistan, did not want his son to leave. “I tried to stop him but he would say to me, ‘Bhool jaye Pakistan ko [Forget Pakistan]‘. Now my other son wants to go as well. I have no incentives to offer them in order to try and stop them from going.”

In the gutter-ridden lanes of Essa Nagri, Pastor Rafaqat Sadiq of The United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan has written five support letters and sent several emails to churches in Thailand. “I issue letters to the families that have migrated so that our churches there help them with accommodation and food,” he said.To strengthen their cases, asylum seekers sometimes also get fake cases registered at police stations, bribing officers Rs20,000 to do so, claimed Sadiq.

Life in Thailand is no bed of roses

Christian representatives in Thailand claim that there are 10,000 registered Pakistani asylum seekers, a majority of them Christians and the remaining mostly Ahmadis and Shias.But life in the country famous for its beaches and tourist spots is far from rosy for asylum seekers.Upon reaching Thailand, they file an asylum application to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and then wait patiently. They live in single-room apartments, or condos, often in cramped and crowded areas of Thailand.“Life is not easy at all. We are stuck here. We can’t work. I have seen Pakistanis begging on the road, asking money from foreigners. The asylum process takes a very long time,” said Alfonce. The former human rights activist, who is volunteering at a church school, has an interview set with the UNHCR in February 2016. He has been lucky; people have been known to be given dates in 2019.“After the interview, the UN will decide whether we qualify for asylum in another country or not. Till then, we are to support ourselves on our own,” he said.With the visit visa lasting only two months, people often dodge the Thai police, or pay bribes, in order to avoid being arrested for illegally staying in the country.” Seventeen Pakistanis were arrested just last week and sent to an Immigration Detention Centre,” he said.But for some, the harsh conditions are still preferable to those in Pakistan. Aslam’s eldest daughter, Parveen, who has a technical diploma, said that she can easily go out with her sisters and travel freely. “There is no danger to our lives here. I feel safe here. I don’t want to go back,” said Parveen.

Hoping for a better life

With many of the minority’s migrants being social workers and pastors, a human rights activist, also wants to leave.“My husband faced a blasphemy case when the landlord accused him of discarding Islamiat books. The case was settled when our neighbours supported us. But this is scary and alarming. I want to leave now,” said the Christian woman, not wanting to be named.Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Zohra Yusuf said that the state has failed to stand up for minorities. “It is unfortunate and sad that the minorities are leaving the country as they are being persecuted.” On the other hand, former parliamentarian and minority representative Michael Javed feels that incidents of Christians leaving the country are not being given importance. “When Hindu families were leaving Pakistan, everyone was raising the issue. But why are they silent over our migration? Are we not also citizens of the country?”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2014.See the link: http://tribune.com.pk/story/735724/packing-their-bags-christians-moving-to-thailand-to-escape-violence-insecurity/

Imprenditori pakistani all’estero finanziano il terrorismo in Pakistan e nell’occidente

Secondo le fonti locali 14 imprenditori pakistani sono stati fermati dalla Polizia Belga in quanto sostenevano le attività terroristiche in Pakistan. Le forze dell’ordine Belga hanno chiuso i loro negozi e tolto il permesso per le attività commerciali.
Questo arresto è solo una punta dell’iceberg del terrorismo presente in Pakistan che ha le radici anche nei paesi occidentali ed altri continenti. le attività commerciali dei pakistani anche in Italia richiedono più attenzione in quanto spesso diventano le fonti di reditto per finanziare estremismo islamico non solo in Pakistan ma anche nelle realtà locali.

Madrassa teachers rapes a minor in Mansehra in Pakistan: the victim threatens to commit suicide if the culprits are not brought to justice!

salma stephen
According to some analysists the practice of the abuse of the minor girls and boys going to madrassas for education is a common practice but till today very rarely the cases have been brought to the court. Often the minor girls going to learn the Holy Coran early in the morning go to the close by mosque and the local Qari, who is supposed to teach them the holy Quran, abuses them sexually and these innocent children remain silent not only for this “strange thing” happening to them by the person they would trust the most but they are also afraid of talking it in the family because it would bring dishonour to their families and afterwards no one will accept to marry them because they are not “virgin” anymore and are a disgrace for the family and society.

MANSEHRA:
The victim of Monday’s alleged gang rape in Mansehra has threatened to commit suicide if the perpetrators are not brought to justice. The 17-year-old resident of Mansehra, Parveen*, spoke to reporters over the phone from an undisclosed location on Wednesday.

She said her best friend Anum – who conned Parveen to get into the car with rapists – lost her mother three years ago and her father was bedridden with a bad back. Since Anum’s own family was unable to bear the cost of her education, Parveen’s family had been supporting Anum financially for the last two years, said the college student.

“This is how she decided to reward me, with an irremovable stigma, after trapping me for criminals who had destroyed the life of several innocent girls.

“I told her not to but she dragged me into the car. My trust in a friend destroyed my life.”

Weeping over the phone, Parveen claimed the accused rapists took advantage of the car’s tinted windows and loud music so no one could hear her screaming at the top of her lungs, crying for help.

Answering a question, the victim said she vowed to continue her struggle till she “sees the culprits hanged”.

This is now a test for the country’s judicial system, said Parveen. “The Peshawar High Court chief justice needs to mete out exemplary punishment to the accused or else I will take my own life, the responsibility of which will lie solely with the judiciary and the police.”

A life changed
The student of inter was conned by her friend to sit in a car Anum claimed belonged to her fiancé. Two men were in the car – a seminary teacher Qari Naseer and the driver, Anum’s friend Faizan. Hussain, the son of union council Jabori’s nazim Kala Khan, was picked up a little later.

Parveen was raped in the moving vehicle by Naseer and Hussain. The accused rapists were arrested under Section 376-2 of the Pakistan Penal Code on Monday night. Anum and Faizan have been charged for abetting the crime.

Not first-timers
According to the police, the men were involved in several other cases of molestation and abuse of college girls. They would make videos of the abuse to blackmail the girls later.

The accused were produced before the court of civil judge Lubna Zaman who sent them on a four-day physical remand.

By the time Naseer and the rest of the accused exited the court, residents had collected outside in protest.

They pelted the accused with tomatoes, eggs and sprayed ink on them, forcing the police to escort the culprits in an armoured personnel vehicle to an undisclosed location.

Later, activists, representatives of civil society and students protested in the city and blocked the roads for an hour. The protesters claimed had the police launched a drive against tinted windows, the girl would have been saved a horrific ordeal.

According to Mansehra DPO Khurrum, the police have recovered 22 SIMs, three cell phones, a memory card, a USB and fake number plates of the vehicle.

Briefing Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, the DPO confirmed all three men and the female accomplice have been arrested, read a statement issued on Wednesday. DNA tests have been conducted and forensic evidence has been forwarded.

Khattak directed the case be disposed on an urgent basis so the accused are unable to use any delaying tactics. “The decision should be made in hours, not days,” said Khattak. (*Name has been changed to protect the victim’s identity)

Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2014.
for the Link: http://tribune.com.pk/story/708448/a-violation-like-no-other-my-rape-case-is-a-test-for-the-countrys-judicial-system/

Joseph Colony suspects: Bail cancellation plea rejected

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LAHORE:
A bench of the Lahore High Court on Wednesday dismissed the Punjab govt’s appeal seeking the cancellation of bails to 83 suspects accused of torching more than 200 houses in Joseph Colony.

The bench comprising Justice Shahid Hameed Dar and Justice Ali Baqar Najafi on Tuesday had reserved judgment after hearing arguments from the defence and prosecution.

The Prosecution Department had filed the appeal stating that a trial court had released the suspects without considering the gravity of the situation. It said hundreds of Christians had lost their houses because of the suspects. Their actions had marred the image of Pakistan as well. The department urged the court to withdraw the bails.

The counsel for the suspects said the police had only put on a show by arresting the suspects…they had no evidence against them.

On March 2013, Badami Bagh police, on a complaint by Inspector Hafiz Abdul Majid, had registered an FIR against 83 nominated suspects and thousands of unidentified persons. The suspects are accused of setting alight houses in Joseph Colony in the aftermath of an alleged blasphemy incident.

The FIR was registered under Sections 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy houses), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapons), 149 (members of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common objectives), 397 (robbery, with attempt to cause death), 353 (assault to deter public servants from discharge of his duty), 186 (obstructing public servants in discharge of public functions), 324 (attempt to commit premeditated murder), and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

All suspects were granted bail by the Anti Terrorism Courts and their trials are still pending.

On March 27, 2014, an additional district and sessions judge sentenced Sawan Masih to death for committing blasphemy and fined him Rs2 million.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2014.

See the link:

http://tribune.com.pk/story/705519/joseph-colony-suspects-bail-cancellation-plea-rejected/

Human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman shot dead because he was defending a blasphamy case

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By Owais Jafri / Asad Kharal Published: May 8, 2014 at http://tribune.com.pk/story/705659/human-rights-lawyer-rashid-rehman-shot-dead/

According to police and eyewitnesses, two armed men opened fire at Rashid Rehman after entering his law chamber in Multan’s Kutchery Square, killing him on the spot. His colleague Nadeem Pervaiz Advocate and client Muhammad Afzal were seriously injured.

“The incident took place at 8:45pm,” said City Police Officer (CPO) Sultan Ahmed Chaudhry, in the jurisdiction of Chehlak police station.

Rehman, who was also the coordinator for the Punjab office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), had been facing threats for pleading the case of a blasphemy suspect.

In a report published in The Express Tribune on April 13, Rehman said he was threatened by five people, both inside and outside the court, for representing Junaid Hafeez – a man accused of committing blasphemy using his Facebook account. Two of those who threatened him were part of the prosecution team in the case, he had said at the time

In addition to them, three unidentified men had also warned him to drop the case or he would not be able to come to court to represent Junaid, according to the deceased lawyer.

The Special Branch of the Punjab police later alerted law enforcement agencies, according to another report published in The Express Tribune on April 29. No case was registered against the three men at the time, however, even though Rehman had submitted an application in this regard.

Sharing details of the incident with The Express Tribune, a senior police official said two young men entered Rehman’s chambers around 8pm and said they wanted to contract a court marriage. After they left, two other men came to Rehman and made the same request, he said. Once the second pair left, the first two came back and opened fire at everyone in the office.

“This sequence of events suggests the incident was a target killing,” the police official said. “The two groups and their odd requests were likely a pretext to ensure they had the right target.”

He said the possibility that the men who threatened Rehman earlier were involved in the killing could not be ruled out.

Eyewitnesses narrated a similar sequence of events. “Two men entered Rehman’s chambers as petitioners first, and then masked themselves and opened fire after entering the office a second time,” one witness said.

Although they rushed to the spot upon hearing the gunshots, witnesses said the attackers had fled the scene by then.

The deceased and the injured were rushed to the Nishtar hospital, where doctors pronounced Rehman dead, while his colleague was said to be in critical condition.

Police asks minorities to secure themselves but when asked for arms license the request was refused!

RAWALPINDI:
A directive by the Punjab government to enhance security for minorities’ places of worship has resulted in station house officers (SHOs) passing on the buck by issuing a long list of measures to be taken by the administrations of temples and churches.

After a recent directive issued by the home department for the security of minorities’ places of worship, Christian and Hindu worshippers complained that no steps had been taken on ground. According to a story published on March 31, the home department had directed the police to tighten security in view of possible terrorist attacks.

According to a notice issued by various SHOs to temples and churches of the garrison city, the administrations have been asked to take nine steps for their protection. These include the installation of CCTV cameras, storing one month’s footage, securing the place with barbed wire, eight-foot high boundary walls, setting up a police post on the roof, proper lighting and hiring security guards from a registered company which is verified by the police.

Entry gates and barriers should be installed as well, states the notice. Also, the police should be informed before the start of a ceremony so that they can make security arrangements. Representatives of minorities said provision of security is the responsibility of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB).

“ETPB is the guardian of all temples and it is their responsibility to provide funds for security requirements,” said Hindu-Sikh Social Welfare Council President Jag Mohan Arora. In 2010, we received the same notice and we informed the police as well as EPTB officials, but the latter paid no heed despite repeated requests and visits, he added. “We are in the habit of lamenting after a tragedy occurs but who cares.”

We cannot even arrange sufficient funds for religious ceremonies, how can we set aside such a huge sum to implement these steps? asked Ashok Chand.

Dr Samuel Titus, chairman Clergy Association of Pakistan and pastor St. Paul’s Church, Rawalpindi, said security is provided to big churches only on special occasions. After a suicide attack on a church in Peshawar, the government allowed us to make our own arrangements but when we applied for arms licences, the government rejected the applications.

“We have urged the government to permit arms licences for churches,” he maintained. We are capable of protecting our worship places but the government should also take some initiative. It is impossible for a security guard to stop an attacker equipped with sophisticated weapons with a stick.

Rawalpindi Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Mian Maqbool said, “We have already taken steps to protect churches and temples.” On special occasions like Diwali or Christmas we provide foolproof security to them. “We even provided parking space which was protected.” At the same time, he brought up the issue of a shortage of police personnel, while speaking about enhanced security.

A delegation is expected to arrive for celebrating Besakhi from India on April 10 for which we have made arrangements, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, by Fawad Ali, April 5th, 2014.

See the link: http://tribune.com.pk/story/691476/limited-responsibility-police-ask-minorities-to-secure-themselves/

Sawan Masih: Conferenza Stampa nella Sala Stampa di Palazzo Montecitorio. Pakistani Cristiani in Italia e i parlamentari italiani insieme per salvare Sawan Masih

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CONFERENZA STAMPA
mercoledì 2 aprile ore 10.00
Sala Stampa di Palazzo Montecitorio
Ingresso Via della Missione, 4

Pakistan: l’ennesima ingiustizia ai danni della minoranza cristiana. Giovedì 27 marzo il tribunale di primo grado di Lahore ha condannato a morte per blasfemia il 26enne cristiano Sawan Masih, accusato di aver insultato il profeta Maometto. Per denunciare l’accaduto e sensibilizzare l’opinione pubblica, l’Associazione Pakistani Cristiani in Italia, in collaborazione con alcuni parlamentari italiani rappresentati dall’on. Paola Binetti, ha indetto una conferenza stampa che si terrà mercoledì 2 aprile alle ore 10 presso la Sala Stampa di Palazzo Montecitorio. Nel corso dell’evento sarà presentata la campagna di raccolta-firme “Salviamo Sawan Masih”, a cui è già possibile aderire inviando una email all’indirizzo salviamosawanmasih@yahoo.it, indicando nome e cognome.
Interverranno tra gli altri: on. Paola Binetti, deputato UDC; on. Rocco Buttiglione, UDCPTP; on. Lorenzo Cesa, UDCPTP; on. Gian Luigi Gigli, deputato PI; Sara Fumagalli, presidente onorario Associazione Pakistani Cristiani in Italia; Marta Petrosillo, giornalista esperta di libertà religiosa; prof. Mobeen Shahid, fondatore Associazione Pakistani Cristiani in Italia.
Il verdetto emesso dal Tribunale di primo grado di Lahore non rappresenta soltanto una nuova condanna a morte di un cristiano accusato di blasfemia, ma una prova tangibile della disparità di giudizio nei confronti delle minoranze religiose. Nel marzo 2013 la denuncia contro Sawan Masih ha scatenato l’ira di oltre tremila musulmani che si sono scagliati contro il quartiere cristiano dove l’uomo viveva, Joseph Colony, incendiando 178 abitazioni, una ventina di negozi e due chiese. Oltre 400 famiglie hanno perso la casa, eppure gli 83 uomini ritenuti colpevoli dell’attacco sono stati tutti rilasciati su cauzione. Mentre il giovane cristiano è stato condannato a morte.Intanto dal carcere di Lahore Sawan Masih continua a proclamarsi innocente. La denuncia per blasfemia è stata presentata da un suo amico musulmano, Imran Shahid, con il quale il giovane cristiano aveva avuto un’accesa discussione a causa di una proprietà immobiliare.
È questo un ulteriore esempio dell’uso improprio della cosiddetta legge sulla blasfemia – corrispondente ad alcuni articoli del codice penale pachistano – spesso sfruttata per risolvere questioni personali e colpire le minoranze religiose. La commissione nazionale di Giustizia e Pace della Conferenza episcopale pachistana ha recentemente denunciato il notevole aumento delle accuse di blasfemia contro i cristiani. Su 32 casi registrati nel 2013, infatti, 12 di questi hanno riguardato imputati cristiani: si tratta del 40% delle denunce, in un paese in cui la minoranza cristiana rappresenta appena il 2% della popolazione.
Per informazioni:
Marta Petrosillo
+393476413344, petrosillomarta@gmail.com

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