See the brochure: Legge della blasfemia e la pena di morte in Pakistan tavola rotonda.doc
All the Associations of Pakistani Christians resident in Italy, during the Week of Christian Unity, have organized a Round Table to discuss Blasphemy laws and the added clause of death penalty in Pakistan as the only possible punishment recommended by the Federal Shariat Court. The roundtable is to be held on January 21, 2014 at The Convent of Jesus and Mary, Via del Corso 45, Rome. Participants will include Sara Fumagalli (Honorary President, Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy) Sarwar Bhatti (President, Pakistan Christian Orient Organization). The two sessions will be chaired by Stefano De Martis, Director TG2000 and Enzo Romeo, Director for Foreign Affairs of the State Tv Rai (Tg2). The topics under discussion and speakers are as follows;
Presided by Stefano De Martis, (Director TG2000)
Fr Albert Nadeem Yaqoob (OAD)
Pakistani Christians are co-founders of Pakistan
Marta Petrosillo (Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy)
The blasphemy law and its abuse
Cesare Mirabelli (Former President of the Constitutional Court)
Freedom of religion and international protection
Adan Farhaj (All Pakistan Christian League – Oversees Coordinator)
Pakistani Christians abroad and the future of Christians in Pakistan
Jeem Phey Ghouri (Chairperson; SACWA, SAMA)
The law of blasphemy: An intellectual perspective
Luca Volonte (Novae Terrae)
Liberation of Asia Bibi
Shahid Mobeen ( Pontifical Lateran University )
Death sentence for the illiterate
Enzo Romeo (Head of Foreign Affairs Editor – Rai TG2 )
Mr Luigi Bobba , ( Democratic Party )
Hon Helen Centemero (Forza Italy )
Hon Massimiliano Fedriga , (Lega Nord )
Hon Eugenia Roscella ( New Center Right)
Hon Mariastella Gelmini, (Forza Italy )
Attilio Tamburini ( Observatory for the religious freedom of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Rome
Luisa Santolini (Italy- Pakistan ISIAMED )
Pakistani Christians in Italy , the All Pakistan Minority Alliance – Italian Section , Pakistan Orient Christian Organization, All Pakistan Christian League – Section overseas , South Asian Minorities Association and South Asian Christian Writers Association .
Three Christians among those killed in the attacks in Baluchistan
Dismay, grief, fear, prayer: These are the feelings lived by the small Christian community in the province of Quetta, after the wave of terrorist attacks which yesterday, only in the city of Quetta, in the troubled province of Balochistan, caused 92 deaths and 155 injured. According to the claims of the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the community of Shiites and the Hazara ethnic group were targeted.
As reported to Fides Agency by Fr. Inayat Gill, OMI, pro-Vicar Apostolic of Quetta, among the victims in Quetta there are three Christians, who happened to be near the sites of the explosions, while some Christians are also among the injured. Two of the victims were Catholics and Fr. Maqsoood Nazir, of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), pastor of the Sacred Heart Church in the city center, is today celebrating their funerals. Immediately after the explosion, the pastor went to the scene of the attack to give his help and is taking care of six wounded.
Fr. Inayat Gill explains to Fides: “The situation is tense, it is difficult to explain these tragic events. The reasons are many: sectarian and ethnic hatred, but not only. There is mafia of land grabbing, there are political claims: the certainty is that many innocent civilians die.”
“As Christians – adds the pro-Vicar-we are a small minority, we live in danger, like other Muslim citizens, sharing their fate and their pain. Throughout the province of Quetta, there are about 70 thousand Christians, including 35 thousand Catholics. We are a very vulnerable community and the poorest. We have to be very careful. We cannot expose ourselves or actively participate in the celebrations of the three days of mourning, announced today by the authorities, otherwise we risk becoming a target for extremists: they would accuse us of being aligned with a faction in the ethnic conflict. We will pray for all the innocent victims in our churches continuing to give witness to our peaceful, quiet presence and close to the poor.” (PA) (Agenzia Fides 11/01/2013)
Over 200 Shiite Muslims accused of “blasphemy”
An official complaint with the prosecution for blasphemy was presented to the police in Multan (in Punjab) against 222 Shiite Muslims, of whom 72 identified and 150 unidentified. The complaint was filed by Sunni groups after a brawl which took place in Multan yesterday, following the religious procession of the Shiite, who celebrated the “Ashura” holidays that commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. As reported to Fides, the clashes began when some militant Sunni extremist organization, “Sipah-i-Sahaba,” tried to block or divert the procession of Shiite worshipers, saying that part of the journey was not authorized.
The outcome of the clashes between Shiites and Sunnis: 10 injured and 222 complaints. It seems that the Shiite threw stones at the flags and banners where the name of the Prophet Mohammed was written and are therefore guilty of blasphemy. Shiite leaders such as Fazal Shah and Ali Hussain Shah denied any wrongdoing, saying that no one threw stones at the flags, nor insulted the Prophet.
Local sources of Fides note that, as in many other cases, the accusations of blasphemy are instrumental and affect not only minorities but also Muslim citizens, helping to undermine social and religious harmony.
“The abuse of the law continues to cause discord and fuels sectarianism in the Pakistani society,” remarked to Fides Agency Prof. Mobeen Shahid, a Pakistani, an expert on issues related to blasphemy. Prof. Mobeen Shahid, a professor of “Thought and Islamic religion,” at the Pontifical Lateran University, is the author of a study, soon to be published, entitled “The blasphemy law and the case of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, organized together with N. Daniel, for the Institute of Political Studies S. Pius V, which will be presented to the European Parliament and the office of the United Nations in Geneva.
According to prof. Mobeen, “the cancellation of the laws of blasphemy in Pakistan is possible if the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights of Islam.” This is why ” popular consensus and discussion in the National Parliament is needed.” Popular consensus is possible only if one gives birth to a system of education,
” which reflects and incorporates both the Declarations for Human Rights”: This approach would allow a possible radical change of society, and could have the effect of the abolition of the blasphemy laws.” (PA) (Agenzia Fides 28/11/2012)
Church, school, library, computer lab, four houses and vehicles set on fire in Mardan – Pakistan
On September 21, 2012 a mob of several hundred Muslims men attacked the Church compound in Mardan city, 48 kilometers from the provincial capital of Khyber Paktunkhwa.
The mob broke through the main gate of the Church compound, attacked and set on fire St. Paul’s Sarhadi Church, St. Paul’s high school, the library, a computer laboratory and houses of four clergymen that includes Rt. Rev. Bishop Peter Majeed, Pastor Chand Masih, Pastor Ghulam Shad and the house of Ms. Shamshad, the Principal of the School. The mob also damaged and set alight the moveable property including a car and three motorcycles. Mr. Zeeshan Chand, 17, a son of Rev. Chand, was beaten by the mob who had to be hospitalized in Mardan.
According to Rev. Binyameen Barkat, 50, the treasurer of the Northern Diocese, Church of Pakistan, “We were under threats of such attacks since last week and had requested the local administration to provide security to the Church property, which they did however it was not enough to stop the aggressive armed men”.
Attackers brought kerosene oil, guns and sculls. They damaged the door, windows and stoned the Church. The mob desecrated the Alter, tore the copies of Bibles, prayer books and later put everything on fire, the source said.
“We immediately called the fire brigades, however the mob stoned and did not allow the fire fighters to enter into the Church compound” Mr. Barkat added.
Rt. Rev. Bishop Samuel Azaraih, the moderator Church of Pakistan has condemned the incident and called the faith leaders to put out the fire burning in hearts and minds of people due provocation such the recent film. The St. Paul’s Church was historical and built in early 1900s.
Rimsha is free; her case upholds the review of the blasphemy law
This morning the Pakistani judge Muhammad Azam Khan granted the bail for Rimsha Masih, a Christian teenager arrested in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy for having burned pages of the Koran. The fee for her release was set at 500 thousand rupees, about 4500 euro. The request for bail was accepted because the evidence was deemed insufficient to continue the detention of a minor, who suffers from mental disabilities. The ruling of the judge, first announced for 3 pm local time- after the Friday prayer – was then anticipated by surprise.
“The decision in favor of the child is positive for many reasons,” says to Fides Agency Professor Mobeen Shahid, professor of Islamic thought and religion at the Pontifical Lateran University. According to the professor, “for the first time it was possible to show clearly how the blasphemy law can be manipulated by false accusations. This helps the reflection already under way on possible changes in the procedures for the application of this law.” Shadid indicates some points that may be subject to adjustment: “Before accepting any complaint of blasphemy, necessary facts have to be rigorously screened through appropriate investigations. The accusers should be kept in isolation to prevent reactions to instigate hatred among the masses, until the accusation has not been proven. And if then allegations prove to be false – and this is also suggested by the Ulema – the accusers have to be punished.”
“Rimsha’s case – says to Fides father Inayat Bernard, co-director of the magazine “The Christian View” in Lahore – is an opportunity to review the whole application of the blasphemy law, which caused many victims in the past among religious minorities but also among Muslims, due to the many abuses. The new awareness that Rimsha’s case has generated in the Pakistani public opinion is a step forward and an opportunity not to be missed in Pakistani society to affirm the respect for human dignity and rights. As a Christian community we hope that the institutions, political parties and religious communities, in the light of recent developments, may converge in the common desire to avoid Pakistan in the instrumental use of religion.” (GV). (Agenzia Fides 07/09/2012).
Threats to Paul Bhatti
The legal front in favor of Rimsha Masih strengthens: yesterday two new witnesses were added to Hafiz Zubair, deputy imam of the mosque, confirming the accusations against Imam Khalid Jadoon of falsifying evidence. Rimsha’s story has found a broad consensus of moderate Muslim leaders such as Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, leader of the ‘”All Pakistan Ulema Council”. Nevertheless, the case fuels tension: Yesterday Paul Bhatti, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for National Harmony, very active concerning Rimsha’s case, was forced to remain locked up in his office, at the Ministry of Harmony, due to an alarm for his personal safety, for possible attempts on his life. Bhatti had to participate in a televised debate on “Dunya News TV” along with Tahir Ashrafi and Fr. Rehmat Hakam Michael, Vicar General of the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, but was only able to establish a link from his office. Bhatti today was assigned a new special escort and the Counselor went to the Senate for the assembly session.
Meanwhile, as anticipated to Fides by Fr. Francis Nadeem (see Fides 01/09/2012), it is confirmed that behind Rimsha’s case there is land mafia: some speculators wanted to drive Christians out from the suburb of Mehrabadi for economic reasons, since the value of the houses in that area of Islamabad has risen. For this reason they played up the blasphemy case, which was to serve as a crowbar. Most of the families in the suburb, say sources of Fides, are faithful fled from Gojra, a town set on fire by Islamic radicals in 2009, for an alleged case of blasphemy. It was the then Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities, to assign to the IDPs such housing on the outskirts of the capital. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 04/09/2012)
Pakistani Christian Minor, Allah Rakhi 10 years old, sexually abused by a muslim shopkeeper
The wave of anti-Christian violence has not stopped in Pakistan. Abuses continue to be perpetrated in the name of the blasphemy law and acts of sexual violence are carried out against underage girls from religious minorities, treated as mere objects for personal pleasure.
As the case of Rimsha Masih, the young girl with mental disabilities falsely accused based on the ‘black law,’ continues to draw the attention of the international community, the case involving another Christian girl came to light yesterday. On 25 August, Allah Rakhi, 10, was sexually assaulted by a Muslim scrap dealer. The girl, who is from a poor family in Yousafabad, Madina Town, Faisalabad, was brutally raped and left bleeding on the ground.
Local sources report that police filed a case against the accused rapist and arrested him, but details about the incident surfaced only in the last few hours.
Early reports say that the girl went to a store to sell some old items along with her 8-year-old sister Suneha. The scrap dealer, Muhammad Nazir, 60, told her that he would buy the items but had no cash to pay her. He invited the two sisters to follow him to his home where he would pay them. Once they arrived, he let only the 10 year old into the house.
After a while, Suneha entered the house where she found her sister, naked and crying. She then ran home and told her father who came back to get his older daughter. The latter was still lying on the floor where she had been sexually assaulted, unconscious and in pain. In the room, a TV was still on showing a porno movie, a source said.
A medical examination confirmed the girl had been raped. Thanks to the cooperation of a Christian activist, a case was filed against Muhammad Nazir. Even though he threatened to make Christians pay if they reported the incident, he was subsequently arrested,.
“We are very poor and unable to fight with this kind of rich people,” Sarfraz Masih, the girl’s father, told AsiaNews. “We have been threatened,” but “we will fight for justice and will not step back because of threats or blandishments. My daughter is in critical situation and I have sent her to an unknown place for security reasons.”
For Fr Khalid Rashid Asi, vicar general of the Diocese of Faisalabad, “the lack of justice in Pakistan means that the rich and powerful think that they can commit such acts and get away with it,” which is what often happens.
Had such a terrible crime been done against a Muslim girl, “it is likely that all the Christian homes in the area would have been torched.” The law must be the same for everyone, the priest said, “and offenders punished.”
The Bishops: “With the truth concerning Rimsha’s case, the whole of Pakistan gains”
“To establish the truth concerning Rimsha Masi’s case, and the false accusations, is a gain, not only for the Christian community, but for the whole of Pakistan: it is a boon for democracy, for justice, for the respect of the law and the rights of all citizens. False accusations of blasphemy, in fact, have affected religious minorities but also hundreds of Muslim citizens”: This is what Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf, Director of the Commission “Justice and Peace” of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan says to Fides Agency, expressing, on behalf of the entire Catholic episcopate, “satisfaction and hope that the truth and the good will win in the sad story concerning the young Rimsha.”
Fr. Yousaf was present this morning, September 3, at the hearing in the Court of Islamabad that is dealing with the case and informs Fides that the Court has been adjourned to Friday, September 7. “We believe – he explained – that on Friday Rimsha will be free. Her release will be a victory of truth, but will also be a victory for the whole nation. Rimsha’s case will become an exemplary case: for a long time, in fact, Bishops and religious minorities, human rights defenders, have reported abuses of the blasphemy law. Now this distortion is before the eyes of all.”
The Director of the Commission “Justice and Peace” notes that “there have not been Islamic radicals demonstrations against Rimsha or in defense of the Imam arrested. Indeed, important Islamic leaders such as Tahir Ashrafi, of the ‘All Pakistan Ulema Council’, defended Rimsha and denounced the abuses of the blasphemy law, publicly condemning the Imam and asking to be punished.” The Mufti Naeem of the Mosque “Jamea Bin Nooria” in Karachi has even expressed willingness to “accept Rimsha and to take care of her and her family,” as a gesture of interfaith solidarity.
As reported to Fides, to give a national, legal and cultural prominence to Rimsha’s story and to make it a warning to all, the Catholic lawyer Kahalil Tahir Sindhu has asked the 17 judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to emit a verdict “suo moto”(on one’s own initiative) by reiterating the key points of the case. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 03/09/2012)
“Rimsha is innocent and will soon be free”: also Muslim lawyers in her defense
“Rimsha is innocent, there is no evidence against her. She will soon be free.” Paul Bhatti, Advisor to the Prime Minister for National Harmony and president of the “All Pakistan Minorities Alliance” is confident (APMA), on the case of the Christian girl accused of blasphemy. The proceedings before a court of first instance in Islamabad was once again postponed to Monday, September 3, also because the judge has changed, while the remand in custody for the young girl had been extended to 14 days. But the progress of the proceeding – despite the inflammatory speeches of the counter-party lawyer – seems to be decreasing: in fact, as reported to Fides by Bhatti, the tests carried out by the Medical Commission, who had defined Rimsha “a minor and mentally disabled,” was confirmed by the experts. And to follow the case of Rimsha, the APMA has appointed a team of five Muslim lawyers, who are all highly professional and work together with lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhry. Given the blatant injustice, given the legal process, given the public support, on behalf of institutions and also of Muslim leaders, the defense team express “confidence in a positive outcome.”
Meanwhile, the girl who remains in prison, is under the care of a female prison guard, who looks after her with loving care, but cannot help but notice the suffering she is going through: the child is traumatized, she often cries and looks for her parents. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 01/09/2012)
“Blasphemous burned at the stake”: culprits unpunished: no to summary justice
There is still no arrest of the culprits that, on 5 July, burned a Muslim man, Ghulam Abbas, probably mentally ill alive, only because he was accused of blasphemy in Chani Ghot, in the Diocese of Multan in South Punjab (see Fides 05/07/2012). A crowd of over a thousand Islamists broke into the local police station, wounding agents, took the man who was taken to the street, covered him with petrol and was burnt alive. As reported to Fides, civil society and Christian leaders are disappointed and concerned that, despite the investigation ordered by President Ali Zardari of Pakistan and a complaint registered by the police, ten days since the horrible act, no culprit has yet been identified and arrested. This attitude, note sources of Fides, threatens to “endorse the summary justice”, and a sense of “impunity” for those who “make their own justice.”
The civil society leaders have denounced the silence of the provincial government of Punjab and the lack of action by police towards the perpetrators. According to the Christian Sarfraz Clement, coordinator of the NGO “Action Against Poverty ‘(AAP)” it is shocking that the police have not arrested even one person.” The Christian Protestant pastor Mustaq Gill, president of LEAD (“Legal Evangelical Association”), told Fides: “In this crime some influential radical Islamic organizations are involved and is therefore very difficult for the authorities to proceed against them. In addition, the act was committed by an angry mob and it is difficult to identify a single culprit. In other cases, mass violence such as these have remained unpunished.”
As sources of Fides note, in Pakistan attempts to lynch the accused of blasphemy come one after another. Recently in Faisalabad (in Punjab), the police have rescued a man, accused of blasphemy and beaten by a mob instigated by the radical organization ” Dawat Tehreek-e-Islami”. Last month in Quetta (in Baluchistan), a Muslim mob stormed in a police station to try to stone to death a man accused of blasphemy. The police responded with tear gas and gunfire to restore order, in the riots two children were killed. In Karachi (in Sindh), a Muslim man, accused of blasphemy, in prison because of drugs, has repeatedly risked being killed by other Muslim inmates. The police have put him in a separate cell to protect him. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/7/2012)
Forced marriages: the most common crime against women
Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) – he most widespread crime against women in Pakistan is forced marriage, says a Report of the NGO coalition “Free and Fair Election Pakistan” (FAFEN), which counted the official complaints recorded in 77 district offices of the police in March 2012. Forced marriages have replaced rape at the top of the most common crimes against women. The Report, sent to Fides Agency, notes an overall increase in complaints that indicates greater awareness among the Pakistani women who suffer abuse. Out of the districts monitored, 27 are in the province of Punjab, 21 in Sindh, 19 in Khyber Pakhtunhwa, 9 in Beluchistan and one in the territory of the capital, Islamabad. The cases of forced marriages has risen from 314 to 653 and have grown significantly in the district of Lahore, capital of Punjab, where 222 complaints have been filed. 220 are cases of rape, while assault and harassment are 270, 37 cases of honor killings. Of the total number of criminal complaints (over 41 thousand) those involving crimes against women are 9% of the total. According to Fides Agency data, there are about 1,000 cases per year of girls belonging to religious minorities, Christian and Hindu, who are forced into Muslim marriage.
A new draft law to combat the phenomenon of forced conversions and marriages was presented to the government by the “National Commission for Minorities in Pakistan”, which in past months had raised the issue (see Fides 12 / 4/2012). In the draft decision, the Commission, as reported to Fides, asks that, as a measure to limit forced conversions, one does not allow the converts from the Muslim community to marry for at least six months after conversion.
The Commission, created recently, spoke against the backdrop of a controversy that has inflamed the nation, over allegations of forced Islamic conversion and marriage of three Hindu women in the province of Sindh.
According to the Commission, a magistrate, and not a police officer, should be in charge to record, independently, the declarations of the supposed converts. According to the procedures currently in force, however, it is the police to register an official complaint (“First Information Report”), submitted by a family member of a convert, in accordance with Article 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. A police records the statements which are then transmitted to the court. According to religious minorities, such statements are often falsified to favor Muslims. The National Commission for Minorities is presided by the Minister of Harmony and includes two Muslim MP’s, two Hindus, two Christians and a representative of the Sikh and Parsis community, as well as representatives of the ministries of interior, justice, national Harmony. As reported to Fides, the Minister of State for Harmony, Akram Masih Gill, remarked that the Commission will also address the “Council of Islamic Ideology,” to seek consensus on the new proposed law, since “there are cases where women are kidnapped and repeatedly raped,” to convert them.
The Commission will also send a draft of the “Christian and Hindu Marriage Act” – which recognizes the validity of such legal and civil unions – to MPs of religious minorities and other stakeholders, in order to finalize the bill and then present it in Parliament. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/6/2012)
Navi Pillay, High Commissioner of UN Counsel for Human Rights has met the National Commissione for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Pakistan. The High Commissioner was in Pakistan for the first time in a four day visit on the invitation of the Pakistani Government. NCJP has described the situation of human rights and the questions related with justice and peace in Pakistan.
Navi Pillay has met the Prime Minister of Pakistan, his adviser’s including Dr. Paul Bhatti and some other Federal ministers to be briefed upon the questions of human rights. Several promises have been made to improve the condition of religious minorities even if the government is trying to abolish the term of religious minorities because it can really highlight their condition in the international community. But by calling the religious minorities “pakistanies” where the government can say they treat all the citizens equally it can also deviate the international attention from the discrimination and persecution which makes their lives impossible.
The High Commissioner has not been able to ask for the cancellation of the blasphamny law, the real cause of the religious minorities persecution, but has promised to take the quetions of american drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Kashmir in the opportune platforms of UN.
Opening remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at a press conference during her mission to Pakistan are in the following:
Islamabad, 7 June 2012
Good afternoon, and thank you for coming.
Before giving a brief overview of my impressions during my four-day visit here, I would like to thank the Government for inviting me to Pakistan.
Since arriving on Monday, I have met with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, his Advisors on Human Rights and National Harmony, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I have also held talks with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court in Punjab Province, and with the Supreme Court Bar Association. While in Lahore, I also met the Senior Advisor to the Chief Minister of Punjab on issues relating to the devolution of powers to the provinces. And yesterday, here in Islamabad, I met the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Special Committee of the Parliament on Kashmir.
Civil society organizations, journalists and lawyers have for many years played a vital role in promoting human rights in Pakistan during military dictatorships and civilian governments alike, and I met many of their leading representatives in both Islamabad and Lahore.
Pakistan is at a very important juncture in its efforts to consolidate democratic civilian rule. Since the restoration of democracy in 2008, the Government has taken a number of key initiatives on human rights. During the past four years, for example, Pakistan has ratified the two key overarching international human rights treaties – the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
During my talks with the Government, I stressed the importance of translating these treaties into national laws. The Government has assured me that a draft national law on torture is very close to completion and could be adopted by the National Assembly in as little as three months time. This is very welcome news, since it is essential that a clear definition of torture and the fact that it is a crime under any circumstances must be enshrined in national law if the practice is to be eradicated.
Similarly, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires an updated legal framework before it can begin to bring tangible improvements for people with disabilities; and the two Covenants – which between them cover the entire range of fundamental human rights – inevitably require reviews and amendments of national laws to bring them in line with the State’s international obligations.
One of the most fundamental themes underlying both Covenants is that there should be no discrimination whatsoever. All rights should be available to all people in Pakistan, irrespective of their gender, religion, social group or any other consideration.
Pakistan has made some advances in this respect, but has a long way to go in other areas. For example, in its 18th amendment to the Constitution, Pakistan has made a progressive commitment to provide universal primary education, and I hope it will seize this opportunity to reform and update its school curricula and materials to better promote tolerance and human rights, especially with regard to religious and other minorities.
The government has informed me that it is undertaking a study to identify elements in the school curricula which incite discrimination against particular religious groups and minorities. Other forms of entrenched institutional discrimination – with the Ahmadis particularly badly affected – need to be tackled at the legislative, administrative and social levels. As the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, said in his address to the Constituent Assembly in Karachi on 11 August 1947, “You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State…”
After so many years during which so little progress has been made on issues relating to women’s rights in Pakistan, it is now possible to discern some breakthroughs, albeit still limited in scope. The National Assembly has adopted a number of important new laws designed to protect women and girls from violence, including the amendment to the penal code on the awful crime of acid attacks which scar not only the victims but Pakistan’s reputation at home and abroad. I have recommended that effective monitoring and reporting mechanisms are put in place to guarantee implementation and enforcement of these laws and that efforts are made to ensure women and girls have much better access to protection and redress.
The number of women in important positions has increased markedly in recent years. I was particularly impressed by the dynamic and determined Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, and I hope they are able to build on the momentum they have gained since the number of women in the Senate and National Assembly was increased through the reserved seats and quotas.
Nevertheless, the overall picture of women’s rights in Pakistan, especially in rural areas, remains grim. A lot of attention has been given this week to the death penalty allegedly imposed by a local jirga in Kohistan on five women simply for dancing at a wedding. The full facts of this case remain to be established, but the allegations are illustrative of the type of restrictions and dangers many Pakistani women have to face, and how much further they have to go before they enjoy the fundamental freedoms to which they are entitled. The very low literacy rate of women and girls especially in areas such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is very worrying and calls for immediate actions and interventions. I urge the authorities to redouble their efforts to improve the situation of girls and women in all areas.
The Kohistan case illustrates another of Pakistan’s major problems, which is the existence of parallel justice systems such as jirgas and the separate harsh and inadequate legal system in the FATA, where some of the key protections contained in the Constitution do not apply. I welcome the fact that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has observed that jirgas are illegal, and also commend its decision to take swift and decisive action to get to the bottom of what precisely happened to the five women in Kohistan.
A much more detailed analysis of Pakistan’s legal system has been carried out by the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Ms. Gabriela Knaul, who published an initial analysis at the end of her visit on 29 May and will follow up with a more comprehensive report on the situation in Pakistan next June.
She was first of the UN’s independent human rights experts to be invited to Pakistan for 13 years. I am glad to hear confirmation that visits by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances will also take place in the near future, and have urged the Government to extend further invitations to other independent UN experts whose analyses and recommendations are extremely helpful in developing specialized responses to particular human rights problems. A visit by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, for example, would provide valuable guidance to the Government of Pakistan both on the issue of the legality of United States drone attacks on suspected militants in FATA, and on the spate of killings believed to have been carried out by militant and criminal organizations and state military intelligence agencies in Baluchistan, as well as in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and other parts of the country.
I welcome the President’s signature last week of the newly adopted law to establish a National Human Rights Commission in Pakistan, joining six other SAARC countries among more than 100 countries worldwide which already have independent national human rights institutions. I have urged the Prime Minister to ensure an open and transparent process to appoint commissioners of the highest calibre and independence, whose leadership will be the key to this institution’s success.
I am also pleased the Government has legislated to strengthen the National Commission on the Status of Women, and to link it with the National Human Rights Commission, and I hope it will follow suit with the enactment of a similar child right’s law and creation of a dedicated child rights commission, as well as the pending law on domestic violence.
I also commend the Prime Minister and President for the de facto moratorium they have maintained on the application of the death penalty during the past four years. In my meeting with the Prime Minister I urged him to cement this important legacy by reviewing the cases of the more than 8,000 people on death row, and reducing the number of capital offences contained in the Penal Code and other laws.
These are achievements of which the Government and the people of Pakistan, who have struggled courageously against military dictatorship, intolerance and extremism, can feel very proud. Pakistan will have an opportunity to report on this progress when it undergoes its second Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council in October 2012. That process should generate further recommendations for reform, and I hope these will be incorporated into a time-bound National Human Rights Action Plan.
This will be all the more important in the context of the significant devolution now underway from the federal to the provincial level under the 18th amendment to the Constitution. While I believe devolution has great potential to enhance human rights, care must be taken that it does not leave gaps in implementation and protection. Human rights are not just a federal government responsibility or a provincial government responsibility – they are an obligation at all levels that flows from the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution and in the international treaties Pakistan has ratified.
During my visit, I have had the opportunity to hear many different perspectives from the highest level of government to representatives of the most disadvantaged and excluded communities. It has left me with an impression of a country that has great energy and capacity which could take democracy and development to a new stage. But it is also a country where there is a fundamental problem of inequality, not only between the rich and poor, or between one region and another, but in equal protection under the law.
Equality before the law is not only the cornerstone of the international human rights treaties Pakistan has ratified, it is an essential building block for sustained democracy.
I have heard from various groups, including Ahmadis, Christians, Shia, Hindus, Sikhs and Dalits about their sense of injustice and despair when acts of violence, including deadly bomb attacks, and other abuses against their communities go unpunished.
I have heard about the vulnerability of religious groups, including Muslims, to trumped up blasphemy charges, and the difficulties courts and lawyers face in dealing with the intimidation, pressures and white-hot emotions surrounding such cases.
While acknowledging the enormous challenges facing the people, security forces and government of Pakistan, including constant vicious attacks by armed extremists and criminal organizations, I am concerned by allegations of very grave violations in the context of counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations. These include extrajudicial killings, unacknowledged detention and enforced disappearances. The issue of disappearances in Baluchistan has become a focus for national debate, international attention and local despair, and I encourage a really determined effort by the Government and judiciary to investigate and resolve these cases. Impunity is dangerously corrosive to the rule of law in Pakistan. For this reason, I welcome the Prime Minister’s recent initiative to relaunch political dialogue and development and to bring security operations in the province under greater civilian control. Yesterday, during my meeting with him, he promised a policy of “zero tolerance” for such abuses.
Equality before the law and true democracy will only be achieved if there is genuine accountability of ALL state institutions to the elected civilian government and independent judiciary. During my visit, I heard of many instances in which the abduction, killing and intimidation of journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers are alleged to have been carried out by powerful and largely unaccountable state institutions, especially the military intelligence services. This situation was brought into stark relief earlier this week, when it was revealed by Pakistan’s highly respected human rights defender and former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Asma Jahangir, that she has been informed by a reliable source of a plan “at the highest level of the security apparatus” to have her killed because of her courageous and outspoken exposure of human rights abuses.
I visited the home of Ms. Jahangir – who in addition to her many accomplishments in Pakistan is also well-known and admired internationally after a total of 12 years as a UN Special Rapporteur – in order to discuss this deplorable development and to offer my support. Yesterday, I discussed her case with the Prime Minister who assured me that the Government has provided her with extra security, and that he and the President have called her to inform her of their efforts to ensure her safety. I urge them to extend this level of responsiveness to other less known people who face similar threats, and to launch an investigation to identify the sources of these threats and take appropriate action.
Asma Jahangir’s situation, along with the still unresolved killing of the investigative journalist Saleem Shehzad in May 2011, and many other similar cases, drive home the unwelcome message that the democratic reforms and recent human rights advances in Pakistan can all too easily be undermined by certain non-state and state forces which do not care either for true democracy or for the human rights and well-being of Pakistan’s 190 million deserving citizens.
The country is facing many complex issues and major challenges, which will not be easily overcome. During my visit here I have offered the Government the assistance of my Office. We would be glad to help in any way we can in a sustained effort to improve the human rights of all Pakistanis.
Pakistan: Balochistan Militants Killing Teachers
Report by Pakistan Human Rights Watch
(Islamabad) – Militant groups in Pakistan’s Balochistan province should immediately stop killing, threatening, and harassing teachers and other educators, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Attacks and bombings by various nationalist, sectarian, and Islamist armed groups have damaged schools and universities, killing and wounding students, and severely harming education in Balochistan.
The 40-page report, “‘Their Future is at Stake’: Attacks on Teachers and Schools in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province,” documents the killing of at least 22 teachers and other education personnel by suspected militants between January 2008 and October 2010. The report – based on interviews with teachers, students, victims’ families and friends, and government officials in Balochistan – describes these attacks and their consequences for the quality of education in the province.
“Militant groups’ grievances against the Pakistani state are no excuse for shooting teachers dead,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By killing teachers, harming students, and targeting schools, militants only increase Balochistan’s problems and deprive its youth of the benefits of education.”
Education falls in the crosshairs of three distinct violent conflicts in Balochistan: militant Baloch nationalist groups seeking separation or autonomy for Balochistan target Punjabis and other minorities; militant Sunni Muslim groups attack Shia Muslims; and Islamist armed groups attack those who act contrary to their interpretation of Islam.
Although killings and other abuses by militants have been directed at individuals from all professions, education establishments, personnel, and students – particularly ethnic Punjabis – have been disproportionately targeted because militants view them as representatives of the Pakistani state and symbols of perceived Punjabi military oppression.
In one example, the Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the shooting death of Anwar Baig, a teacher, in Kalat in June 2009, because he supposedly opposed recitation of the Baloch nationalist anthem and hoisting the nationalist flag, instead of the Pakistani flag, in his school.
Fearing for their safety, many teachers have sought transfers, further burdening what is already the worst educational system in Pakistan in terms of education opportunities and outcomes. Since 2008, more than 200 teachers and professors have transferred from their schools to the relatively more secure provincial capital, Quetta, or have moved out of the province entirely. Nearly 200 others are in the process of making such transfers. New teachers are hard to find, and replacements are often less qualified than their predecessors. In ethnic Baloch areas of the province, schools are often understaffed, so any further loss of teachers severely jeopardizes children’s opportunities to receive an education. Many teachers who persevere at their posts say they are so preoccupied with security that their teaching has been adversely affected.
“To educate or to seek education in Balochistan today means risking your life and your family’s,” Hasan said. “By perpetrating such atrocities, Baloch nationalists are harming Balochistan’s development instead of advancing it.”
Balochistan has historically had a tense relationship with Pakistan’s government, in large part due to issues of provincial autonomy, control of mineral resources and exploration, and a consequent sense of deprivation. During the rule of General Pervez Musharraf, from 1999 to 2008, the situation deteriorated markedly. Two assassination attempts on Musharraf, in 2005 and 2006 during visits to Balochistan, resulted in a crackdown on Baloch nationalists by armed forces and Military Intelligence, its lead intelligence agency in the province. The recent surge in killings can be traced to the 2006 assassination of the prominent Baloch tribal leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and 35 of his close followers, and the murders of three prominent Baloch politicians in April 2009 by assailants believed to be linked to the Pakistan military.
Since 2005, Pakistani human rights organizations have recorded numerous serious human rights violations by security forces, including extrajudicial executions, torture, enforced disappearances, forced displacement, and excessive use of force against protesters. This is the first of two Human Rights Watch reports on the situation in Balochistan. The second report will document the pattern of involvement by Pakistan security forces in the enforced disappearances of ethnic Baloch in the province.
Inauguration of “Shahbaz Bhatti Street” in Foggia (Italy)
The Arché Cultural Centre, in collaboration with the Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy and other associations, has organized a conference on “Intercultural dialogue and minority rights. Confronting experiences” , to be held on May 19 in Foggia, Cesare Battisti Square, at 6:00 o’clock pm. The meeting has been promoted by the CSV Daunia, within the seventh edition of the “Volunteer work in Daunia Festival”.
Paul Bhatti, Shahbaz’s brother and Advisor to the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on National Harmony, will also participate at the conference. Following the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Paul left Italy – where he had been living for a long time – and his career as a doctor to succeed him.
Among the participants at the conference will be Don Stefano Caprio, in charge of the Office for Ecumenical Affairs of the Archdiocese of Foggia-Bovino, as well as some representatives of associations. The journalist Damiano Bordasco will chair the meeting.
All the citizens are invited to this event, which will provide opportunities for reflection and dialogue.
On Saturday 19 May, Paul Bhatti will be meeting pupils and teachers of several schools in Foggia. In the late morning, round about 1 pm, after a press conference at the city hall, he will attend a road dedication ceremony: the second side-street of Mezzogiorno Avenue will be dedicated to Shahbaz Bhatti. Michele D’Errico, member of the theatrical company “Il Cerchio di Gesso”, will read some extracts from the spiritual testament of Shahbaz Bhatti. Furthermore, the scholarship granted by the Chapel of the University of Foggia to a student from Pakistan, recommended by the Shahbaz Bhatti Memorial Trust, will be presented to the Minister Paul Bhatti.
All the events have been organized thanks to the detailed and capillary coordination of Prof. Lorenzo Scillitani.
Rights based CSOs demand protection of peoples’ rights
After a consultation meeting in Lahore, 12 rights based civil society organizations have strongly urged the Federal and Provincial governments to fulfill their commitments regarding peoples’ rights enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan. They demanded speedy process of establishing independent and autonomous Human Rights Institutions in accordance with the Paris Principles. “These steps are extremely necessary to upgrade the image of Pakistan and improve the deplorable human rights situation” said the statement.
We take a serious note of human rights violations by law enforcement agencies and militants at Karachi, FATA and Baluchistan. Necessary and immediate actions are needed to improve human rights conditions under the defined constitutional and legal framework.
“The statement underlined the need to take legislative and Administrative measures with regard to the security and protection of human rights defenders (journalists, lawyers and activists) and remedy for the survivors. The CSOs stressed to produce the victims of forced disappearances in the court and prosecute the culprits”.
While appreciating the adoption of women and human rights friendly legislation (Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace 2010, Prevention of Anti Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011, The National Commission on the Status of Women, 2012). The group emphasized that the Federal and Provincial governments, relevant departments and ministries should take rapid steps towards implementation of these laws. The CSOs also demanded passage of the pending Bill of Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection).
The statement strongly recommended that the Provincial and Federal governments should introduce institutional mechanisms (Human Rights Commission, Provincial Commission on the Status of Women and Commission for Minorities) for the implementation and protection of human rights. We demand setting up the NHRC immediately. Due representation of civil society and concerned sections should be ensured and it should be protected against political and executive influences.
Rights based CSOs also assured their support to the Federal and Provincial governments and the relevant institutions to take comprehensive steps for the resolve of these issues.
The statement further said that the civil society of Pakistan have a full appreciation of the difficulties of transitional phase of democracy and will oppose any disruption of political process.
Issued by: Peter Jacob (Convener)
South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP)
Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO)
Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC)
Minority Rights Commission (MRC)
Justice and Peace Commission (JPC – MSLCP)
Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM)
Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA)
Tangh Wasaib Organization (TWO)
SUNGI Development Foundation
National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP)
Supreme Court urged to take a stand on forced conversions, uphold justice
Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf and Peter Jacob, the representatives of the Catholic (National) Commission for Justice and Peace have urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take a comprehensive look on the issue of forced conversions and a firm stand upholding justice and human rights. Referring to the recent cases of Ms. Faryal alias Rinkal Kumari, Ms. Haleema alias Asha Kumari and Ms. Hafza alias Dr. Lata, they said in a statement that the court procedures become an instrument of injustice when the principle of ‘free consent’ is applied loosely or selectively, and in disregard to the social realities.
“For instance, in one of the above mentioned cases but in many cases of so called conversions of minority women the courts have overlooked ascertaining the age of the converted and whether the marrying male (Bashir Ahmad) had taken permission from his first wife according to Muslim Personal Law. Applying the principle of free consent without looking at corroborative evidence and that too in the social context where religious freedom and gender equality is yet a pipe dream, can result in miscarriage of justice. The law and court procedures cannot work on an assumption that armed and unarmed, minority and majority, men and women enjoy the equal scope of free will in a weaponized, male dominated, violent and bigot environment.”
They further said “the Supreme Court judgment on April 18, concerning this issue has worried the religious minorities who already face an existential threat, demographically but also due to rising religious intolerance in the society. The court should have looked deeper into the issue and make a principled stand with far reaching impact. A court review of three different cases should have applied legal principles of safeguarding the vulnerable. At least the same safeguards that Chief Justice Iftekhar Muhammad Chaudhry had ordered in the Mr. Ludhani Vs. State case (SC 2005) by requiring surety for good treatment from husband and that the converted Hindu women could meet her parents after the marriage without fail.
The Supreme Court or the Government can control the damage to religious diversity by defining forced conversion according to international standards of religious freedom which inter alia includes a right to re-convert, while for us, irrespective of the free will rhetoric, if a conversion comes simultaneously with marriage and the newly converted cannot meet her parents, then it is not an exercise of free choice of religion beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court therefore should take full cognizance of the matter of conversions under duress and any cover up for crimes under the pretext of conversion.
The statement also said that Catholic (National) Commission for Justice and Peace would be happy to aid the Supreme Court or any other forum if a comprehensive review of the issues is desired to ensure equality of citizens.”
Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf Mani Peter Jacob
National Director Executive Director, April 20, 2012
Educational bias: Memorise the Quran for twenty extra marks
By Taha Siddiqui
“I deserved it and yet just because I am Christian, I have been put at a disadvantage,” Haroon says.
He found out about the discrimination on viewing the results at his test centre last month. “There was a separate column for Hafiz-e-Quran, and I found out that those who had memorised the holy book got 20 extra marks,” he adds.
Haroon got A grades in both matriculation and intermediate exams, but was an agonising 0.0255% behind the line for medical school in his final aggregate. This miniscule figure changed the course of his life.
“I know of students who did not perform well in the test and had lower marks in their matriculation and intermediate exams, but they got in, just because of these twenty marks,” he complains.
Haroon tried to show the university his three certificates in Bible education, but the authorities said they had no policy to accept these. Since Haroon’s parents are poor, his only hope was a government-run medical university, where fees are 10% of what private universities charge.
His father is a health worker and his mother a nurse. “I have seen my parents in this profession but only as support staff. Is that all Christians are destined to do?” he asks.
Haroon refused to give up. “My father could not afford a lawyer so I decided to approach a human rights organisation, who advised me to go to the courts for help.”
In his petition, Haroon maintained that under Article 25 his rights have been violated, as no person should be denied the same protection which is enjoyed by other citizens of Pakistan. Along with his documents, he submitted two letters, one from the Church of Pakistan and the other from the Bishop of Islamabad, clearly stating that Haroon’s religious education is at par with any Islamic education.
“Despite all relevant documents from competent authorities, the courts did not acknowledge this as a human rights issue,” says Peter Jacob, head of the organisation Haroon approached. “They are passing the matter on to the next authority, and we have been unable to get any positive response from anywhere,” Peter says, adding that there is a policy vacuum as the government never addresses educational bias.
The University of Health Sciences, which conducts the medical tests, seems to think it is not its domain to make policy.
“This is a sensitive religious issue, and we cannot change policy on our own. The same happens in engineering universities also, and it has been in place since the time of Zia-ul-Haq,” says Mohammad Atif, the head of public affairs at the university, adding that around 50 students were given 20 extra marks this year since they were Hafiz-e-Quran.
“We realise this is against human rights and have debated a lot on this policy, since minorities are being marginalised – but we follow government orders,” he adds.
While the university is at least debating the discriminatory nature of this policy, Punjab’s education minister showed little concern when contacted. “We cannot change the system because of a nominal amount of people,” said Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman.
Despite everything, Haroon remains hopeful. “I am as much a Pakistani as any Muslim, we are all equal citizens and the government will realise this,” he says.
Published in The Express Tribune with the International Herald Tribune, February 8th, 2012.
Hopes for Asia Bibi, but “the extremists would not accept her release”
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – “Even if her accuser changed his mind and withdrew the false accusations that led to Asia Bibi’s sentence for blasphemy, the Islamic extremists would not accept her release. Asia Bibi, for them, remains blasphemous for life and is in danger of life”: is what the Dominican Fr James Channan OP, Director of the “Dominican Peace Center” in Lahore says to Fides, commenting on the rumors circulating about the possible change in Qari Salam’s testimony, among the accusers of the woman. “We all hope for a peaceful and appropriate resolution, but I can say that today the radical Islamist groups, although not very strong on a political and parliamentary level, are very influential and very powerful in the streets and squares: they have a great mobilization capacity and militants ready for anything. Asia Bibi, if she were released, would certainly not be safe”, notes the Dominican, pointing out that an imam had even put a reward for who would kill Asia Bibi on his head.
While awaiting the date for the reopening of the appeal trial before the High Court of Lahore, Fr. Channan recalls the old problem of the judiciary system in Pakistan: “It is liable to pressure from Islamic extremists and far from guaranteeing justice, especially towards religious minorities”. According to the priest, “this is evident to the Courts of first instance, but is also valid for the Courts of Appeal: let us remember it was the Lahore High Court which stopped President Zardari, who wanted to give Asia Bibi presidential forgiveness, while today a former president of Lahore High Court is Mumtaz Qadri’s lawyer, Qadri confessed being Salman Taseer’s murderer, governor of Punjab”.
The fact that religious extremism is strong in the country, adds Fr Channan, is also demonstrated by “the long trail of excellent kidnappings and murders that follow: just think of the execration kidnapping of two European aid workers in Multan (the Italian Lo Porto and the German Johannes, ed), committed to helping flood victims” . Today, the Christian community in Pakistan, in particular, is concerned about a possible alliance of the “Muslim League-N” with small groups and fundamentalist Islamic religious parties, in sight of next year’s elections. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 25/01/2012)
Political pressure and false witnesses intend to cover up the case of “Maria Goretti of Pakistan”, as she is defined by the local Christian community: we are talking about Mariah Manisha, a Catholic girl killed on November 27, 2011 in the village of Samundari (diocese of Faisalabad) by the 28-year old Muslim, Mohammad Arif Gujjar, because she opposed to a rape, a forced marriage and conversion to Islam (see Fides 2 and 7/12/2011).
Fr. Khalid Rashid Asi, Vicar general of the diocese of Faisalabad, says to Fides: “High profile political leaders are moving to drop Mariah’s murder. We fear that the investigation could end up without having solved anything. Therefore, as local Church, we are following the case and we have taken it to the attention of the Commission ‘Justice and Peace’ of the Episcopal Conference”. “We will officially ask that the investigations into the case are assigned to a team of Federal prosecutors, to avoid problems of corruption and local contamination”, explains the Vicar of the diocese, anticipating to Fides the contents of an official statement that the Bishop of Faisalabad, Mons Joseph Coutts, will issue over the next few days.
According to information provided by the Commission “Justice and Peace” in Faisalabad to Fides, “investigations into the case continue, but in the village of Samundari, where there are very few Christians, some Muslim witnesses are ready to declare that the girl committed suicide, in order to exonerate the real culprit”. The Justice and Peace Commission has conducted its investigation and found that Arif Gujjar, had fallen in love Mariah, and had harassed and threatened her, since she had refused his advances.
The local Church, said Father Asi, “is waiting for the official conclusion of this story and then will evaluate the case from a spiritual point of view and examine the possibility to report it as a case of martyrdom”. In recent years the Catholic community in Pakistan, he concludes, “has several cases like this, where the believers, poor and humble, have preferred to die rather than abandon their faith under threat”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 13/12/2011)
“Ok for the word Jesus Christ in text messages”: the intervention of the Minister for Harmony closes the case (Agenzia Fides) – The incident has been overcome and the case is officially closed: as reported to Fides by political sources in Pakistan, the word “Jesus Christ” has been permanently deleted from the list of prohibited terms to be used in text messages, which will be officially distributed to telephone companies (see Fides 21/11/2011; 22/11/2011). As reported to Fides, the intervention of the Minister of State for Harmony was decisive, the Catholic Akram Gill, who raised the issue in the Cabinet of Ministers and in a personal interview with Mohammed Yaseen, President of the Pakistan Authority for telecommunications, noting that “this inexplicable measure does not help to create an atmosphere of religious harmony in Pakistan”. President Yaseen immediately modified the list, by officially deleting the name Jesus Christ from the list of prohibited words.
The Church in Pakistan has shown relief “to continue the work of evangelization with the new technologies”, while other organizations of loyal Pakistanis in Europe – like the “British Pakistani Christian Association” and the “Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy”, which had launched a pressure campaign – they expressed their satisfaction to Fides, hoping that the Pakistani public institutions “promote, in every action they do, tolerance, harmony, respect for everyone’s human rights”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 23/11/2011)
ASIA/PAKISTAN – Religious Minorities are on hunger
strike to protest the violence and the “paralysis of the
Hyderabad (Agenzia Fides) – The Hindu and Christian religious minorities have organized a hunger strike in Hyderabad to protest against the violence and to demand more protection to the government. The initiative was launched after the murder of four Hindu doctors in the town of Chak, in the northern province of Sindh (see Fides 08/11/2011): The police follows the trail of the members of a local Islamic group and has arrested 13 suspects. Political parties and civil society activists, many Christians and members of the Commission “Justice and Peace” of the Diocese of Hyderabad are on hunger strike, too. The Bishop of Hyderabad, His Exc. Mgr. Max John Rodrigues, told Fides: “We condemn the brutal act. I met with Hindu leaders: as Christians, we stand alongside the Hindu community and express our solidarity. As far as religious minorities are concerned, we live the same problems”. Fr. Samson Shukardin, OFM, head of the Commission “Justice and Peace” of the diocese, confirmed to Fides. “There is no security or safety for us. The episodes of violence are repeated over and over again, for reasons linked to fundamentalism or private vendettas. We are awaiting results of investigations and, if there is impunity, we will take other initiatives”.
The protesters in Hyderabad, with flags and placards, stigmatize “the paralysis of the institutions” in the face of violence. “Muslim groups kill Hindus to terrorize them and force them to leave the province”, this is what is stated. Some Hindu civilian leaders, such as M. Parkas and Jagdes Kumar, have launched an appeal to the highest state institutions, highlighting the threats that the Hindu and Christian minorities suffer every day, the illegal occupation of land and buildings, and the phenomenon of “stolen brides”, Christian and Hindu girls that are kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam. One of these episodes, according to local sources of Fides, is at the basis of retaliation for the brutal murder of the Hindu doctors. Faced with such “inhuman, immoral and illegal” acts, the leaders have underlined that Minorities “believe in Pakistan’s peace, harmony and prosperity”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/11/2011)
ASIA/PAKISTAN – Four Hindus doctors in Sindh have been murdered: minorities without protection
“It is not the first time that members of our community have been targeted by extremists. And the police tend to support the criminals involved in such acts” complained Ramesh Kumar, president of the Pakistan Hindu Council, urging the government to “provide adequate protection to minorities”. The Hindu Council of Pakistan appealed to President Asif Zardari, who just a few days ago, during the Hindu festival of Deewali, had reiterated his commitment to protect minorities and ensure their equal rights.
Fr. Mario Rodrigues, Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Pakistan, told Fides: “It is another episode that clearly shows how the lives of minorities is insecure and with no protection”. Prof. Mobeen Shahid, Pakistani scholar and historian reminds Fides: “Religious minorities in Pakistan have always had a hard life and suffered mass persecution: let us remember sensational episodes in 1952 (in Moza matta), in 1962 (Anarkali, Lahore), in 1997 (in Shantinagar), in 2009 (in Gojra) as well as many other minor episodes. When a member of the minority, the Catholic A. R. Cornelius, became Judge of the Supreme Court, his new draft regarding the new Constitution was rejected because due to the fact that it was written by a non-Muslim citizen was unacceptable. Today it is clear that there is discrimination in education and society, and even those measures in favor of minorities (as a share of 5% of seats reserved in public administration) are not applied”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 08/11/2011)
ISLAMABAD (DAWN): The Pakistan Muslim League-Q has decided to quit from the government.
The decision took place in a Parliamentary Committee meeting held in Islamabad led by Party head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
Senior leader of PML-Q Faisal Saleh Hayat confirmed the resignation to DawnNews.
He said that his party members have resigned from the federal cabinet because the Pakistan Peoples Party has failed to resolve the energy crisis.
Hayat further said that the government never fulfilled their demands which were conditioned to the join the government.
He said that a letter has been submitted to the Speaker of the National Assembly to allot PML-Q opposition benches in the National Assembly.
“The year 2010-2011 was a ‘black year’ for minorities: simply remember the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti. But there is greater attention on behalf of the international community and media on these issues. This gives us hope, but also requires a continual verification of reports and investigation on cases that the Commission carries out continuously, and scrupulously”, says Peter Jacob, Executive Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission, the organ of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan, commenting on the report.
According to the data contained in the vast Report (145 pages) sent to Fides, religious minorities in Pakistan are victims of religious intolerance and social discrimination. They suffer attacks on churches and institutions; hostile religious propaganda, which stirs up hatred; blatant violation of religious freedom; forced conversions, forced expropriation of land and property. All this happens because in Pakistan – says the Report – “there are laws that violate the rights of minorities such as blasphemy” and because there is often “abuse of power by the police force and powerful politicians”.
Touching the “sore spot” of the blasphemy law, the Report cites at least 40 people charged with blasphemy, including 15 Christians, 10 Muslims, 7 Hindus and 6 Ahmadi. Between 1986 (the year when the law came into force) and 2011, those accused of blasphemy and murdered in extrajudicial killings have been 37, including 18 Christians and 16 Muslims. In the same period were 1081 were charged with blasphemy: among them 138 Christians, 468 Muslims, 454 Ahmadis, 21 Hindus.
The Report also dedicated a section to “crimes against women,” denouncing the lack of policies for their social advancement. In particular, women belonging to religious minorities are considered “objects” and are victims of murder, violence, rapes, kidnappings, forced conversions and marriages: The report describes in detail at least 15 examples.
Among the recommendations, “Justice and Peace,” asks the government “urgent changes in laws and public policies” to eliminate discriminatory laws against minorities and “to ensure civil, social, economic, cultural and religious rights “, providing “a framework full of respect for fundamental human rights”. This is why we need “to repeal the blasphemy law and compensate the victims.” In addition, the establishment of two permament Commissions are asked, one for Human Rights and one for Religious Minorities, with powers of Court, and the task of monitoring the situation. To this end, the Commission also invites the UN Special Observer on religious Tolerance to visit Pakistan. A point is also about “the necessary modification of the education system in Pakistan”, which adversely influences the younger generation and tends to assimilate religious minorities. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 15/09/2011)
The anti-terrorist court (ATC) has ordered the confiscation of Former President Pervez Musharraf’s movable and immovable assets in the Benazir Bhutto murder case
The court heard the case at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. Today, after taking into account the details presented by the FIA regarding Pervaiz Musharaf’s assets, the court ordered to confiscate Pervaiz Musharraf’s tangible properties and freeze his assets. As per details provided by FIA, Pervaiz Mussharaf in addition to a farm house in Chak Shahzad, also owns a land measuring one-Kanal in Gwadar. Moreover, he has assets worth eighty million rupees and one hundred and seventy thousand dollars in nine different banks. Later, the court adjourned the hearing till September 10. (Ptv)
» 08/25/2011 11:55
Punjab: Muslims kidnap 14 year old Christian to convert her to Islam
Mehek Masih was taken from her home in broad daylight and under the threat of a gun. Muslim man intends to “purify her” making her “Muslim and my mistress.” Archbishop Saldanha cases of this type are “frequent,” the law does not protect minorities. One of the many “crosses” that Pakistani Christians have to endure.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – A group of Muslims have kidnapped a 14 year old Christian girl from her home under the threat of a gun and in front of witnesses. The incident occurred on August 17 last in Shisharwali, residential area of the city of Gujranwala, Punjab. According to reports from the Pakistan Christian Post (PCP), Mohammad Tayeb Butt along with four other Muslims raided the house of Rashid Masih in broad daylight, pointed the gun to the head of his daughter Mehek forcing her to climb aboard a white car .
Two young Christians, Imran Masih and Mehboob Masih, tried to rescue the girl, but Mohammad Tayeb pointed the gun at them and threatened to shoot. “She is a Choori” the Muslim shouted, at Mehek, using derogatory and insulting Punjab slang, to define a Christian (for example, when Muslim restaurant owners or street food vendors reject minority religious customers, ed) . He also added that the Choori Mehek will be purified “convert to Islam and become my mistress.”
Sources report that the local Christian activists from the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) have tried to report the incident to the police. But the agents did not want to open an investigation – as is often the case – at the expense of an influential Muslim personality.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, the Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore and former president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference Mgr. Lawrence John Saldanha stresses that such cases are “common in Pakistan,” and families “can do little or nothing” to save the victims from their captors. He adds: “The Muslim family has an advantage, because the law favors them.”
Added to the tragedy of the kidnapping, the prelate continues, are “the future difficulties that the unfortunate young girl will suffer in the Muslim family.” These are “sad and tragic” episodes for the Christian community and represent, concludes Mgr. Saldanha, “one of the many crosses that the small minorities (even the Hindus) without hope must bear in Pakistan.” (DS)
Farah Hatim: Franciscan International presents the case to the UN
(original photo of Farah Hatim: Catholic girl kidnapped, raped and forced to convert to Islam in Rahim Yar Khan, the example of the hypocrisy of the Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif Group)The Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy together with the All Pakistan Minority Alliance is assisting the family locally and Farah Franciscan International has filed the application at the UN Human Rights Council. Here are the details recounted by the agency Fides:
ASIA/PAKISTAN – The case of Farah Hatim arrives at the High Court of Punjab, the Catholic girl Islamized by force
Multan (Fides Service) – The High Court in Punjab will judge and determine the truth about the case of Farah Hatim, the Catholic girl kidnapped, Islamized and forced to marry a Muslim man in the city of Rahim Yar Khan in southern Punjab ( see Fides 25/6/2011 and previous days). This is what Paul Bhatti, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for Religious Minorities Affairs in Pakistan and leader of APMA (All Pakistan Minorities Alliance) tells Fides. APMA had tried to mediate in recent days, asking the Muslim family with whom Farah is now, to meet the girl, repeating the official request by a judge of the Court of First Instance in Rahim Yar Khan. The attempt failed (see Fides 07/07/2011) because the family did not appear and the judge himself said to “consider the case closed”.
For this reason APMA decided, in agreement with the girl’s family, to appeal to the High Court in Punjab. A complaint has already been presented and they are waiting for the date of the hearing, where the judge will call Farah, the family of origin and the Muslim family to hear the different versions on the matter and ascertain the will of the young girl. “We had no choice. Given the stubborn attitude of closure of the Muslim family, we want justice to go ahead and that Farah can express herself: this is why we have sent lawyers to lodge an appeal to the High Court”, Bhatti tells Fides.
The judge may hear Farah publicly but also privately. If the impression is that the girl, frightened or intimidated, does not tell the truth (pleasing her persecutors), he may decide to transfer her for a period of time in the “Darul Aman” (“House of Peace”), a governmental institute with many offices in major cities across the country, which welcomes and holds under police protection, battered or kidnapped women. The institute is a work strongly desired by Asma Jahangir, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and active in defending the rights of Pakistani women. The lawyers of APMA, who are taking care of the appeal, would like Farah to be transferred there in order to avoid the possibility of her “disappearing”. Fr. Yousaf Emmanuel, Director of the “Justice and Peace Commission” of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan, has welcomed this step, insisting that “the Church of Pakistan, which in the past saved and deals with protecting many young Christian girls, is close to Farah and her family, and intends to give all possible support for a happy ending to this sad event “. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/07/2011)
Islamabad, August 19, 2011: In super session of National Assembly Secretariat’s Press Release dated 16-08-2011, revised Press Release is issued.
56th meeting of the Standing Committee on Human Rights was held on 16th August, 2011 at 11:00 am in the Committee Room No.07, Parliament House, Islamabad. Mr. Riaz Fatyana, MNA/ Chairman Standing Committee on Human Rights chaired the meeting. The agenda of meeting was as under:-
1) Present Status of Human Rights.
2) Complaint against discrimination and violation of Human Rights in grant of promotions, recruitment and utilization of Welfare Fund in National Bank of Pakistan (NBP).
3) Progress report on:-
a) Implementations of two conventions ratified in 2010 i.e. Covenants Against Torture (CAT), International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCP).
b) Briefing on inclusion of new portfolios and responsibilities in M/O Human Rights.
4) Briefing on: -
a) Facilities of Local Purchase medicines to the Federal Govt employees and their dependents in addition to reimburse as per Ministry of Finance (Regulations Wing) letter No.F.6(1)R-10/2010-171-2011 dated 24th March, 2011.
b) Discrimination due to fixation of age limit in provision of free vaccination/medicines from Federal Government to patients of Hepatitis “C” in Government Hospitals.
5. Consideration/approval of minutes of meeting of Sub-Committee on Human Rights (Food Adulteration) held on 25-07-2011 under convenership of Ms. Fouzia Habib, MNA.
6. Consideration /approval of minutes of meeting of Sub-Committee (Capacity Building) held on 28-07-2011 under convenership of Dr. Mehreen Razzaque Bhutto, MNA.
7. Any other item with the permission of the Chair.
Mrs. Samina Mushtaq Pugganwala, MNA, Mrs. Shakeela Khanam Rashid, MNA, Ms. Raheela Baloch, MNA, Ms. Fauzia Habib, MNA, Dr. Mehreen Razzaque Bhutto, MNA, Mrs. Sumaira Yasir Rashid, MNA, Dr. Araish Kumar, MNA and Mrs. Kishwar Zehra, MNA, were present in the meeting.
The Committee expressed dissatisfaction on briefing of Dr. Mirza Abrar Bag SEVP/ Group Chief NBP on affairs of NBP. The Committee expressed concern that merit and transparency is not ensured by National Bank of Pakistan in recruitment, promotions policy and distribution of Welfare fund, which is a violation of Human Rights as per Article of 125 of Constitution. How come huge amounts of Rs 4 to 10 Million were awarded to officers of NBP. SEVP, NBP admitted that all Group Chiefs were granted cash award ranging from Rs. 20 lack to Rs. 80 lacs. He informed that President NBP was awarded Rs. 01 Crore and 20 lacs excluding the perks, privileges/salary. Rs. 80 lacs were awarded to Dr. Mirza Ibrar Baig SEVP. The SEVP, NBP could not give facts and figures about Provincial quota, gender quota, minority quota and employees/son quota in the Bank, on which the Committee expressed serious concern as NBP was not well prepared for the briefing before the Committee. The Committee directed NBP to furnish full details relating to recruitment made in NBP since 2003, (Provincial, gender, minority and employees/ son quota in NBP) and details of distribution of welfare fund to officers. The matter was deferred for two months, President as well as Dr. Mirza Ibrar Baig, SEVP, NBP will attend the meeting.
The Committee directed Secretary Ministry of Human Rights that necessary fomalities for Budgeraty provisions in view of new Port folios of Ministry of Human Rights should be completed without further delay.
With regard to implementation of (ICCPR) in CAT ratified in Pakistan in 2010, the Committee directed Ministry of Human Rights to initiate the consultative process with all concerned stake holders at National and Provincial level to implement the provision of these treaties. It is further desired that the Pakistan obligations to submit intial reports on status of implemenationof above mentioned treaties should also be started immediately.
The Committee approved minutes of meeting of Sub-Committee on Human Rights (Food Adulteration) held on 25-07-2011 under Convenership of Ms. Fouzia Habib, MNA. The Committee also approved minutes of meeting of Sub-Committee (Capacity Building) held on 28-07-2011 under convenership of Dr. Mehreen Razzaque Bhutto, MNA.
Latest list of Ministries and portfolios issued by office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan on the 11th of August 2011:
There are Two non-muslims in the cabinet:
Dr. Paul Bhatti as the adviser of the Prime Minister with the Status of Federal Minister and Akram Masih Gill as the Minister of State, Minister Incharge, for the ministry of National Harmony. Ministry of National Harmony is not mentioned among the Federal Ministries.
Ch. Pervez Ellahi
i. Defence Production
Makhdoom Amin Fahim
Dr. Arbab Alamgir Khan
Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar
Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh
Finance, Revenue, Planning and Development, Economic Affairs and Statistics.
Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar
Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat
Housing and Works
Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain
Human Resource Development
Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan
Information and Broadcasting
Mr. A. Rehman Malik
Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo
Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan
Senator Moula Bakhsh Chandio
Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs
Haji Khuda Bux Rajar
Dr. Muhammad Farooq Sattar
Dr. Asim Hussain
Petroleum and Natural Resources
Senator Babar Khan Ghauri
Ports and Shipping
Sardar Al-Haj Mohammad Umar Gorgeij
Mr. Ghous Bux Khan Maher
Mr. Anwar Ali Cheema
Mr. Riaz Hussain Pirzada
Professional and Technical Training
Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour
Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah
Mir Changez Khan Jamali
Science and Technology
Engr. Shaukat Ullah
States and Frontier Regions
Syed Naveed Qamar
Water and Power
Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani
Engineer Amir Muqam
Ms. Samina Khalid Ghurki
Mir Israrullah Zehri
2. MINISTERS OF STATE
Sardar Bahadur Khan Sehar
Mr. Muhammad Raza Hayat Harraj
Housing and Works
Sheikh Waqas Akram
Human Resource Development
Mr. Akram Masih Gill
Dr. Nadeem Ehasan,
Rana Asif Tauseef
Khawja Sheeraz Mehmood
Sardar Shahjehan Yousaf
Professional and Technical Training
3. ADVISERS TO THE PRIME MINISTER
Dr. Paul Bhatti
Adviser to the Prime Minister with the status of Federal Minister
Mr. Ghulam Farooq Awan
Adviser to the prime Minister on
Law, Justice and parliamentary Affairs, with the status of Federal Minister
Mr. Muhammad Basharat Raja
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Industries, with the status of Federal Minister
Mr. Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Human Rights, with the status of Federal Minister
04. SPECIAL ASSISTANTS TO THE PRIME MINISTER
Mr. Kamal Majidulla
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Water Resources and Agriculture in Management Scale-I (MP-I)
Syed Qasim Shah
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister with the status of Minister of State
Mr. Ahmad Yar Haraj
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister with the status of Minister of State
Kidnapping, forced conversion to Islam and forced marriage of a Catholic girl Arifa Alfred
Ms. Arifa Alfred is a Catholic girl of 27 years of age, a college student, from Nawa Killi, Quetta. She is the daughter of Mr. Alfred Sundar and Ms. Parveen and a sister of two brothers Mr. Adnan and Mr. Zeeshan. Arifa was kidnapped by a Muslim man, Mr. Amjad in May 2009. He was assisted by Arifa’s trusted friends Ms. Rebecca and Ms. Lubna. Rabecca coordinated a pre-planned kidnapping. At the moment of the kidnapping Arifa was in her friend Rebecca’s house. Arifa was given drugs in a cup of tea after which she fell unconscious. Then she was taken away by Mr. Amjad to a locality in Quetta called Labor Colony. When Arifa returned to her senses she found herself in Amjad’s house. Amjad told her that she had converted to Islam and had married him. Amjad showed her fabricated marriage certificate. Arifa denied this and said that how could he have made the marriage certificate since she was unconscious. She said that she was a Christian and had never married him. She was constantly drugged, locked in the house and beaten severely during the period of two years. She was given mental and physical torture. She attempted to flee the house several times but failed as she was always locked. The night before August 1, Amjad had beaten Arifa severely. She suffered many internal injuries. On August 1, 2011, Arifa found for the first time in two years the door of the house unlocked. She did not miss the chance and fled the house with injuries. She took a rickshaw and went to the civil hospital where she was given primary treatment. Then she went to her brother Adnan who had recently returned from abroad after two year. Only on his return the family told him about Arifa’s ordeal. He then took her to the police station and lodged a complaint against Amjad but the police has done nothing so far to bring the culprit to justice. On the other hand, police inspector said that he was happy that Arifa had converted to Islam.
Now Arifa and her family are on the run to save their lives since they have received death threats from Amjad’s party. Amjad holds that Arifa is a Muslim and his wife and cannot go away, otherwise she will be killed along with her family. On the other hand Arifa states, “I am a Christian and have stood always steadfast in my Christian faith and continued to pray to Jesus Christ and Blessed Virgin Mary in my heart for liberation during these two years of captivity.”
Arifa is reunited with her family but she with her family is under serious death threats.
In occasion of the national day for minorities in Pakistan President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari received a delegation of the minority representatives headed by Dr. Paul Bhatti, advisor to the Prime Minister for minority affaris and president of
APMA political party founded by martyre Shahbaz Bhatti, and Akram Masih Gill, Minister of State and incharge minister of the Federal Ministry for National Harmony. The President assured the delegation of the State’s intentions, in respect of the constitution of Pakistan and the treaty signed at the UNO commission for human rights, to protect the minorities. The President thanked the minorty representatives for the contribution all the minorities are giving for development of Pakistan.
Here is the press release given by the President’s office:
President Zardari assures minorities of equal rights
ISLAMABAD, Aug 11 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the government stands committed to ensure equal rights for minorities as enshrined in the Constitution and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. In a message on Minorities Day, the President said the recognition and respect for the minorities rights is part of the Pakistan Peoples Partyâs Manifesto. He said it is an occasion to recognize the important role, played by the minorities of Pakistan in nation-building, the sacrifices rendered by them, and the problems and issues, faced by members of minorities.
He said it is the day to renew the commitment to protect their rights and to draw them fully in the mainstream of national life. President Zardari said Islam and indeed all true religions, stress higher values like equality, social justice and respect for human rights. He said Islam lays special emphasis on equal and just treatment of the disadvantaged and the minorities.
The President said August 11 also has a special significance in the national calendar. He mentioned that it was on this day in 1947 when the Father of the Nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his historic speech to the members of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, had laid down the foundations of a modern, tolerant and progressive Pakistan in which every one will have equal rights, regardless of creed, caste and gender.
He said that speech of the Quaid-e-Azam marks the state policy towards minorities, rooted in the freedom to every one to profess his religious beliefs freely and without fear or interference.
President Zardari expressed the confidence that after passage of 18th Amendment, the provincial governments will continue to ensure equality, freedom and security for all communities so that they can freely profess and practise their religions and also safeguard their legitimate and rightful interests.
He said Minorities Day is an opportunity that reminds to reaffirm solidarity for the betterment of humanity and for a prosperous Pakistan.
Address of the Founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah
on 11th August, 1947 to 1st Constituent Assembly
Mr. President (Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah): Ladies and Gentlemen, I cordially thank you, with the utmost sincerity, for the honour you have conferred upon me — the greatest honour that it is possible for this Sovereign Assembly to confer — by electing me as your first President. I also thank those leaders who have spoken in appreciation of my services and their personal references to me. I sincerely hope that with your support and your co-operation we shall make this Constituent Assembly an example to the world. The Constituent Assembly has got two main functions to perform. The first is the very onerous and responsible task of framing our future constitution of Pakistan and the second of functioning as a full and complete Sovereign body as the Federal Legislature of Pakistan. We have to do the best we can in adopting a provisional constitution for the Federal Legislature of Pakistan. You know really that not only we ourselves are wondering but, I think, the whole world is wondering at this unprecedented cyclonic revolution which has brought about the plan of creating and establishing two independent Sovereign Dominions in this sub-continent. As it is, it has been unprecedented; there is no parallel in the history of the world. This mighty sub-continent with all kinds of inhabitants has been brought under a plan which is titanic, unknown, unparalleled. And what is very important with regards to it is that we have achieved it peacefully and by means of a revolution of the greatest possible character.
Dealing with our first function in this Assembly, I cannot make any well-considered pronouncement at this moment, but I shall say a few things as they occur to me. The first and the foremost thing that I would like to emphasise is this — remember that you are now a Sovereign legislative body and you have got all the powers. It, therefore, places on you the gravest responsibility as to how you should take your decisions. The first observation that I would like to make is this. You will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a Government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State.
The second thing that occurs to me is this. One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering — I do not say that other countries are free from it, but, I think, our condition is much worse — is bribery and corruption. (Hear, hear.) That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand and I hope that you will take adequate measures as soon as it is possible for this Assembly to do so.
Black-marketing is another curse. Well, I know that black-marketers are frequently caught and punished. According to our judicial notions sentences are passed, and sometimes fines only are imposed. Now you have to tackle this monster which today is a colossal crime against society, in our distressed conditions, when we constantly face shortage of food and or the essential commodities of life. A citizen who does black-marketing commits, I think, a greater crime than the biggest and most grievous of crimes. These black-marketers are really knowing, intelligent and ordinarily responsible people, and when they indulge in black-marketing, I think they ought to be very severely punished, because they undermine the entire system of control and regulation of food-stuffs and essential commodities, and cause wholesale starvation and want and even death.
The next thing that strikes me is this. Here again is a legacy which has been passed on to us. Along with many other things good and bad, has arrived this great evil -the evil of nepotism and jobbery. This evil must be crushed relentlessly. I want to make it quite clear that I shall never tolerate any kind of jobbery, nepotism or any influence directly or indirectly brought to bear upon me. Wherever I find that such a practice is in vogue, or is continuing anywhere, low or high, I shall certainly not countenance it.
I know there are people who do not quite agree with the division of Indian and the partition of the Punjab and Bengal. Much has been said against it, but now that it has been accepted, it is the duty of every one of us to loyally abide by it and honourably act according to the agreement which is now final and binding on all. But you must remember, as I have said, that this mighty revolution that has taken place is unprecedented. One can quite understand the feeling that exists between the two communities wherever one community is in majority and the other is in minority. But the question is whether it was possible or practicable to act otherwise than has been done. A division had to take place. On both sides, in Hindustan and Pakistan, there are sections of people who may not agree with it, who may not like it, but in my judgment there was no other solution and I am sure future history will record its verdict in favour of it. And what is more it will be proved by actual experience as we go on that that was the only solution of India’s constitutional problem. Any idea of a United India could never have worked and in my judgment it would have led us to terrific disaster. May be that view is correct; may be it is not; that remains to be seen. All the same, in this division it was impossible to avoid the questions of minorities being in one Dominion or the other. Now that was unavoidable. There is no other solution. Now what shall we do? Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations there will be no end to the progress you will make.
I cannot emphasise it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities — the Hindu community and the Muslim community — because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalese, Madrasis and so on — will vanish. Indeed if you ask me this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain its freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free peoples long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 millions souls in subjection; no body could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, no body could have continued its hold on you for any length of time but for this. (Applause.) Therefore we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State (Hear, hear). As you know, history shows that in England conditions some time ago were much worse than those prevailing in India to-day. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. (Loud applause.) The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist: what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen, of Great Britain and they are all members of the nation.
Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.
Well, gentlemen, I do not wish to take up any more of your time and thank you again for the honour you have done to me. I shall always be guided by the principles of justice and fair-play without any, as is put in the political language, prejudice or ill-will, in other words partiality or favouritism. My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and co-operation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest Nations of the world. (Loud applause)
“WAR AGAINST TERRORISM” IS IT PAKISTAN’S FAVOUR TO USA OR A NATIONAL NEED?This ia a question raised after this artical published by the New York Times:
Holding Pakistan to AccountPublished: July 28, 2011
The Obama administration’s decision to suspend $800 million of its $2 billion in annual security aid to Pakistan inevitably raises the question of why the United States should continue to give Pakistan any military aid at all.
The White House acted after Osama bin Laden was found living near Pakistan’s leading military academy and Pakistan then expelled American military trainers. Islamabad should see this as a serious warning that Washington has all but run out of patience with its double games. Both sides will pay a high price if this goes on too long.
Ending all military aid would be a serious mistake. This country tried that before with disastrous results. In the 1990s, Washington — incensed about Pakistan’s illicit nuclear program and no longer worried about a post-Soviet Afghanistan — cut off nearly all support. Pakistan’s military and the rest of the country are still bitter about it.
A total cutoff would destroy any hope of Islamabad’s continued cooperation, as limited and cynical as it is, which is essential to defeating Al Qaeda and other militants. The Pentagon needs Pakistan as a supply route for troops in Afghanistan. If there is any possibility of a political deal with the Taliban, Pakistan will have to be involved.
Ending $1.5 billion in annual civilian assistance — for energy, schools and other projects — would make even less sense. The aid needs to be better managed, but the hope is that over time it will contribute to a more stable, less suspicious Pakistan.
The administration’s challenge is how to calibrate the military aid suspension to maximize leverage without pushing Islamabad even closer to the extremists or to the edge. We don’t minimize the difficulty. If there is any chance of getting the Pakistanis to clean up their act, and fending off deeper cuts in Congress, this is the moment.
Of the military aid withheld, $300 million was to compensate Pakistan for deploying 100,000 troops on the Afghan border to combat terrorism. They are battling militants in the FATA region — and taking casualties — but not the Haqqani network targeting American troops in Afghanistan. An additional $500 million worth of equipment — body armor, rifles, radios, night-vision goggles and helicopter spare parts — hasn’t been delivered or is being held in Pakistan until the government grants visas to the American trainers and to 200 or more diplomats and civilians assigned to the United States Embassy in Islamabad. After suggesting that they didn’t need American aid, and would rely more on China and Iran, Pakistan’s powerbrokers may be taking the suspension more seriously. Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Inter-Services Intelligence, visited Washington recently and a senior American official said those talks made progress.
President Obama has offered Pakistan a broad relationship and its best chance to chart a new path. Rather than seize this opportunity, Pakistan’s leaders have stoked intolerance, anti-Americanism and an exaggerated fear of India. Perhaps most delusionally, they continue to see the fight against extremists as a favor to Washington. They are running out of time to salvage Pakistan’s future.
Mr. Obama needs to keep working with Islamabad. But he is right to show that the days of unconditional American support are over.
Pakistan’s Floods One Year On: Flood Victims Continue To Face Long Term Challenges
By Mishael Ali Khan
This month marks a year since Pakistan faced the worst floods in its history. The deluge devastated and submerged entire villages, roads, bridges, water supply and sanitation infrastructure, agricultural lands, livestock as well as washing away houses and health and education facilities. The floods affected over one tenth of Pakistan’s population (20 million people), 84 districts and left 1.8 million homes damaged or destroyed, claiming the lives of nearly 2000 people.
A year later, many private, non-government and government agencies continue to help villages recover and rebuild through a variety of projects, but millions continue to face long term challenges that need to be addressed by the government and donors funding these initiatives.
Building the Resilience of Vulnerable Communities
The geographical scale of the floods made them the largest humanitarian crisis Pakistan has faced mobilising a number of local and international organisations. The groups provided emergency shelter and relief, including food, water and health and sanitation facilities to the most vulnerable and affected. However, the number of donors willing to fund early recovery and long term rehabilitation projects were few. Therefore, many communities devastated by last year’s floods have yet to rebuild their homes and livelihoods. Reconstruction is estimated to cost over ten billion dollars, close to a quarter of the national budget. The slow pace of recovery and reconstruction makes millions of people vulnerable to another disaster. Five million people continue to be at risk from floods this year, and more than 52 percent of last year’s flood victims continue tofear floods this monsoon.
Well over thirty thousand people continue to live in camps in Sindh alone, and more than 800,000 people still have inadequate housing, including those that have returned to their villages. Others are reluctant to return because they feel that adequate measures have not been taken to prevent flooding this year. The fear of losing their homes and livelihood again causes them to stay in camps or other makeshift areas putting them at greater risk of disease and malnutrition.
Vulnerability and poverty are closely linked; the majority of those whose livelihood was completely destroyed by the floods were people and communities already living in poverty.Even though emergency response efforts prevented a major food crisis and disease outbreak, the need for humanitarian organisations to invest in long-term projects that better prepare communities for natural disasters in the future is imperative. One year on, donors are being urged by non-profit and civil society organisations to invest in measures to reduce the impact of disasters as part of their overall aid packages.
In a recent statement, a country director for a key aid organisation said that “Pakistan is a disaster prone country and has been flooded 67 times since 1947.” Neva Khan from Oxfam urged that, ‘Pakistan needs to act now. Investing in measures today that reduce the impact of disasters is essential to save lives and safeguard development gains in the future.”
Oxfam is one of many third sector organizations that have been stressing the importance of the government’s role in flood rehabilitation efforts. Without the government’s willingness to collaborate with NGOs, millions will still remain vulnerable and dependent on international aid.
The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) early recovery project in Sindh is one example of many initiatives by development agencies to ensure long term rehabilitation of flood victims. Working with a local organization in a village in Sindh’s Jati tehsil, the project aims to reconstruct 198 houses, install solar powered street lights, rehabilitate community infrastructure and assist with vocational training for women and girls.
But, it hasn’t all gone according to plan. So far, only 25 houses have been built and these still require roofs. The process has been slow since the village is entirely dependent on aid provided by such projects. The government has not invested in basic infrastructure including roads, electricity and gas in the area, forcing the UNDP to start from scratch.
The project’s painfully slow pace of progress has left many villagers still struggling to put three meals on the table. Despite this, the presence of such organizations gives them assurance that relief is still coming, and that there is still hope. However, this case highlights a governance deficit at a critical moment, without which none of these projects can be sustained in the long run. There is still a huge need for a coordinated and collaborative effort between the government and non-government agencies to build people’s resilience through such projects.
Many donors have pointed out that a holistic collaboration between the government and NGOs helps ensure funds are not duplicated or wasted. Long-term, sustainable projects cannot happen without such an approach. Pakistan’s government must act now.
 Report: UN office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. January 2011
 Oxfam American Press Release: One Year On Pakistan Still Unprepared for Monsoon Floods. July 26, 2011.
 July 2011 ‘ 5 Million at Risk of Floods This Year
 Report: Plan International Pakistan Floods one year on: July 2011
 Article in Express Tribune, July 25, 2011: ‘ In The Neediest of Cases In A Village Named Mazdoor
“Equality?” Human rights and the Quranic interpretation by the Federal Ministry of Pakistan for Human Rights
See the official highlights of the Federal Ministry:
Government of Pakistan Ministry of Human Rights
(Office of the Secretary)
I have analyzed with rapt exegesis the write-up titled PAKISTAN: THE
GOVERNMENT WANTS IMPUNITY ON ITS TRACK RECORD OF GROSS
VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS authored by Baseer Naweed, Senior
Researcher, Asian Human Rights Commission.
2. I do not see eye to eye with the author rather consider the text to malign the
Government of Pakistan without knowing or to the least making an endeavour to
decipher the reason, intent and ramifications of the reservations to the two (02)
treaties namely ICCPR and CAT.
3. In order to allay the fears rather illusion of the writer that the Government
of Pakistan ratified the treaties merely to hoodwink the polity of nations is a highly
4. I shall through the media of this reply attempt to retrieve the wrong done to
our beloved country.
5. The term “torture” as defined in the Convention abbreviated as CAT means
any Act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental is
intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him
information or a confession.
6. Alas my friend, who from the very composition, does not seem to be a legal
expert should have at least bothered to consult a lawyer practising on the criminal
side to ensure whether there was any legal, moral or ethical necessity of including
the definition and punishment for the word “torture” in the penal code. To provide
some knowledge for the writher’s benefit, the Indian Penal Code, presently
Pakistan Penal Code was enacted as far back as 1861 by no one other than our
colonial rulers and in their wisdom the word “torture” was neither defined nor
punishment provided, for good reasons.
- 2 -
7. Torture means inflicting pain by bare hands or using some instrument
causing simple or grievous injury or to facilitate Commission of an offense by the
offender or to put a person in fear of death or injury to extort valuable security or
confession. Article-14(2) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan
enjoins & forbids confession to be obtained by practising torture. Why this
hullabaloo then. Why should the government change the domestic law when its
legal provisions are already in consonance with International Conventions.
8. The aforesaid acts of Commission and Omission are not only defined in the
Penal Code but also their punishment is provided. Torture as defined in the
Convention is fully covered by these definitions. It is for this reason that the
legislator did not repeat the definition as repetition and redundancy is abhorred in
Law. Argument that the Government did not define torture as a criminal offence
makes no sense rather falls in line with the proverbial making mountain out of a
9. Once again the author has failed to decipher the true import of article-3 of
ICCPR. Gender equality of civil and economical rights as explained in the ensuing
sentence violates the Islamic Law. On the death of an owner holding property in
his name, the inheritance is shared by the heirs in a manner whereby the boy gets
two (02) shares and the girl one share. The precept has its origin from the Holy
Quran. Can you as a Muslim defy the primary source of Islam. I bet you can not
do it otherwise the consequences are well known and it is for this reason that the
reservation was made.
10. Article-6 of the ICCPR in Clause-II allows sentence of death to be
imposed only for the more serious crime in accordance with the law in force at the
time of the Commission of the crime. Clause-IV gives the right to everyone
sentenced to death to seek pardon etc and the authority allowing pardon is allowed
to exercise power in favour of the convict in all cases without making any
exception, traversing across the realm of judicial pronouncements.
- 3 -
11. There is thus a visible contradiction in Clause-II & IV of Article-6,
and precisely for this reason the reservation was moved to clarify that the authority
empowered to grant pardon is not bound to do so in each and every case, further
the domestic law titled Juvenile Justice Ordinance, 2000 prohibits passing
sentence of death of a person below the age of eighteen (18) years.
12. The reservation taken to article-7 was with respect to certain punishments.
Stoning to death has been ostracized from the statute book relating to offence the
Zina (Enforcement of Hadd Ordinance) 1979 and now is part of the general
criminal law which is the Pakistan Penal Code whereby sentence of death is
executed by hanging. If the author has in mind a better mode of execution of death
sentence I would well come him to make us aware. Further sentence of amputation
of hands etc are have their origin in Islamic Law, therefore, it was made part of the
code in the year 1992. This sentence can not be executed unless a medical
practitioner certifies that the punishment can be executed without causing harm to
the other parts of the body. I share your euphoria to inform you that from 1992
uptill now such punishment has not been imposed, therefore, the question of
execution does not arise. Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries have this law
on their statutes.
13. The next paragraph is a figment of your imagination and I loathe to answer
it. It manifests your ignorance and lack of study about the various articles and their
reservations relating to ICCPR.
14. Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan guarantees to its citizen’s
freedom to profess religion and manage religious institutions. Similarly freedom
of association, thought and conscience are firmly embedded in our Constitution as
its tenor can be gathered by going through its text. Para-3 of article-18 of the
ICCPR is reproduced to clear the mist which has enveloped the mind of the
author. “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to
such limitations as prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public
safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of
- 4 -
Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan also places similar restrictions while
granting freedom to its citizens to profess religion in article-20, opening para is
reproduced for facility of reference “Subject to law, public order, and
morality.” The reservation placed on article-18 of the ICCPR is to make all &
sundry aware that the Pakistan as a nation would not tolerate sacrilege of its
religion and the holy book of Quran in the garb of assumed belief that article-18
bestows a right to abuse and criticize the faith and religion of others with
impunity. Similarly, article-19 of ICCPR which guarantees the right to freedom of
opinion and expression is also subject to certain reservations in Para-3 (a) (b). The
reservations placed on these two (02) articles by the Government of Pakistan is to
ensure that utterances violating the religion of Islam do not constitute abrasion of
law, public order and morality. The author’s remarks about these two (02) articles
are sham, baseless and indicate lack of knowledge and understanding of the
reservations placed by the Government of Pakistan while ratifying the treaties.
15. The Sub-Para-2 of article-12 is in direct conflict with the law of Pakistan
which places prohibition through the exit control list on those persons who are
needed in the country to face trial of the charges for which they have been
indicted. In any case Sub-Para-3 of article-12 dilutes the effects of Sub-Para-2.
The Government therefore, placed reservations on this article to invoke its own
domestic law if required, which was essential for national security and public
order. Once again I am compelled to remark that the language used by the author
is not only derogatory but smacks of lack of knowledge. The ignorance of the
author once again comes to light when he criticizes Government of Pakistan
having placed reservations about article-25 of the ICCPR. The Government is
supportive of democratic values in all fields. Coalition of various political parties
at the center as well as the Provinces highlights the democratic pattern adopted in
the country. The reservation of the Government to this article was with respect to
the right of the voter to contest for every post be it that of the President or the
Prime Minister of Pakistan. This clause is in direct conflict with article-41 and 91
(as amended) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan which ordains
that the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan shall be a Muslim.
- 5 -
The Constitution of Pakistan envisages an Islamic State which is the right of every
Government to choose its form whether it be religious in nature or secular. Once
again the ignorance exhibited by the author is amplified to unimaginable
16. I am sure author must be in the know that reservations are to be removed or
discussed within the time sought by the Government ratifying the treaties. The
subterfuge interjected in this paragraph indicates the bias in the mind of the author.
17. Answering the fusillade and outburst of the author with regard to
reservations taken up by the Government of Pakistan while ratifying International
Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment, commonly known as CAT, it is to be mentioned that article-3 is
dependent on the extradition treaty entered into by the Government with another
sovereign country. Para-2 of article-3 of CAT explains the conditions of exercising
the discretion in Para-1 of the said article. The key word in Para-2 is the consistent
pattern of gross flagrant or mass violations of Human Rights in the country where
the person has been be extradited.
18. A detailed explanation regarding the reservation to torture has been
dwelt in the preceding paragraphs of the reply while discussing reservations on the
word “torture”. Section-511 of the Pakistan Penal Code looks after those criminals
who abet or attempt the commission of an offence being the consequence of
19. Article-6 is consequence of article-3 and the reservation made by the
Government of Pakistan to this article is in pursuance of the reservation of article-
3 of CAT which has been reasonably explained.
20. The author is totally oblivious that the sovereignty of Pakistan is
subject to a continuous war against terrorism throughout the country.
- 6 -
Not only the army of Pakistan is involved in rooting out the menace but civilian
population including the women and children, are subjected to suicide bombing.
The cold blooded killings have now been extended to mosques and shrines. I am
amazed that the author feigns knowing the insecurity prevalent due to these acts,
and has the temerity to speak about the alleged torture committed in Pakistan by
its citizens. Before writing the article I wish the author to have come to Pakistan to
see the tribulations being suffered by the people of Pakistan. Torture is being
committed against the peaceful citizens of Pakistan by the terrorists and not by the
Government against its peaceful citizens. Neither the valiant army has committed
any torture rather the loss of thousands of Officers and Jawans of the army who
have laid their lives while facing the scourge of terrorism bears ample testimony
that so much force is used in self-defence as it is necessary. The Government has
not arrogated to itself the mechanism allegedly used by the former dictators to
torture the people defying its authority.
21. The author should in future, when his mind refuses to accept wisdom
& philosophy, instead of wielding his pen inking nothing but rubbish, should have
recourse to Human Rights Division of Pakistan for clarity of understanding the
view points of a sovereign state taken by way of reservations to any International
Convention, Covenant or treaty.
JUSTICE (RETD) RIAZ KAYANI
HUMAN RIGHTS OF PAKISTAN
Dated : 29th October, 2010
22 July 2011
Christian League launched to protect rights
ISLAMABAD: All Pakistan Christian League (APCL), a political party has been formally launched on Thursday with a vivid manifesto for a strong and democratic Pakistan, besides determination to protect the rights of Christian community and struggling for their proper representation in federal and provincial services. The announcement to launch this party was formally made by its Chairman Professor Salamat Akhtar. Founder of the party and Co Chairman Nawaz Salamat and other office bearers were also present on the occasion.
Briefing the media about the manifesto of the party, Professor Salamat Akhtar said best way to cope with problems confronting Christian community is to introduce a party that can represent them in a befitting manner.
He said All Pakistan Christian League will be the first representative party in Pakistan purely of Christians since 1972. Organization of the party is underway all four provinces as well as abroad in US, Germany and Denmark. Professor Salamat said Nazim Sajjad has been nominated as President APCL Islamabad Region, Zeeshan Joseph as President APCL Punjab, James Allah Dita as President APCL Rawalpindi while Huber George as President APCL US, Ch. Yusuf Akhtar as President APCL Germany. He appeared resolute to deal strongly with internal and external threats with unity and continue efforts till elimination of this scourge. Professor Salamat said his party believes in freedom of media and will support it. The APCL supporters on the occasion reposed full confidence in the leadership, and vowed to make it stronger through concerted efforts. staff report
Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy together with the family of Farah Hatim thanks all the international community, NGO’S, government institutions and all the friends who have tried to work along to save Farah Hatim! Unfortunately Farah has decided to remain with the husband who kidnapped her. Along with the family we are convinced that the the decision is result of death threats and it is also suspected that she is pregnant. So because of the present strange society of Pakistan where a girl is not welcom with these problems, even if the family was willing to welcome her and her child.
Here are further details narrated by the article of Agenzia Fides:
ASIA/PAKISTAN – The Punjab High Court closes the case: Farah Hatim stays with the Muslim family
invia articolo printable version preferiti Bahawalpur (Agenzia Fides) – The Catholic girl Farah Hatim will stay with her Muslim husband. This is what sources of Fides in Bahawalpur say, where today, July 20, the hearing before the local branch of the Punjab High Court was held. The appeal before the High Court was presented by the APM (All Pakistan Minorities Alliance), after a court of first instance had turned down the request to meet the girl, who according to family members was kidnapped and forced to marry a Muslim man in the city of Rahim Yar Khan (see Fides 12/7/2011).
In tears, Hatim Farah appeared today before the judge of the High Court of Punjab, Bahawalpur section. When the judge asked her the question “which family do you choose”, the girl, after an interminable silence, replied: “Both.” The Court argued that “this is impossible”, the question was repeated. At that point, Farah chose her new Muslim family.
So the curtain drops on a case that has enthralled the Christian community public in Pakistan, concerned about Christian girls who are kidnapped and forced into an Islamic marriage, more than 700 cases are reported every year. The judge allowed Farah to have a private talk with her family of origin for 10 minutes. The girl, say sources of Fides, reported that she was indeed “taken in” but she also confided, visibly shaken, that “she cannot come back”. According to Farah’s family, the reasons for her choice are not clear: they could be due to death threats or intimidations, but also the possibility that the girl is pregnant. In this case, according to the customary law of Pakistan, Farah cannot help but stay with her husband, because if repudiated, she would be “labeled forever” and no man would ever want her by his side.
“Beyond the possible reasons, when the court asked her the most important question, Farah said she wanted to stay with her Muslim husband, marking her destiny forever. From now on, the family of origin no longer has any authority over her, even according to the law ” note sources of Fides.
The High Court had set the hearing for yesterday, July 19, ordering the police of Rahim Yar Khan to take the girl. The agents did not execute the order yesterday, saying the judge was ill. The judge issued a new ordinance requiring the police to conduct the girl before the Court today.
In any case Farah’s family confirmed to Fides their concern for the girl’s destiny, saying they are “not convinced” of the story’s outcome. This is why they ask the international community to put pressure on the Pakistani government to review the case. Local sources of Fides say that Farah was however victim of a network that carries out ” women trafficking”, with ties in the hospital where Farah worked and in the world of politics, to provide girls to politicians in sight. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 20/07/2011
Taliban claim killing of key Karzai adviser
Updated at: 1011 PST, Monday, July 18, 2011
KABUL: The Taliban on Monday claimed the overnight killing of one of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s key advisers, who died along with a lawmaker in an attack on his home in Kabul.
Jan Mohammad Khan, the former governor of southern Uruzgan province and a key ally of the embattled president, was killed along with an MP for Uruzgan.
“We killed Jan Mohammad Khan. We made him pay for his deeds,” Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, told by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Khan, a long-standing Karzai ally and key tribal chieftain, was killed in the attack that the interior ministry said was carried out by two assailants.
The gunmen targeted the house late Sunday and a standoff lasted until the early hours of Monday. One police officer and the two assailants were also killed, the interior ministry said.
The assassination comes less than a week after the president’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai was shot dead by a close friend at his home in the southern province of Kandahar, in an attack also claimed by the Taliban.
A senior government official speaking anonymously told that Khan’s death was a major blow for the US-backed leader.
“He was very close to the president. His death is as important as Ahmad Wali Karzai’s death,” the official said. (AFP)
Hina Rabbani Khar to be new Foreign Minister
Updated at: 1340 PST, Monday, July 18, 2011
ISLAMABAD: Hina Rabbani Khar will be the new Foreign Minister of Pakistan as Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has sent the summary to President Asif Ali Zardari, Geo News reported. Prior to this development Hina Rabbani Khar was serving as the State Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Hina Rabbani Khar is schedule to travel to New Delhi later this month for foreign minister level talks. The position of Foreign Minister fell vacant when Shah Mehmood Quereshi was snubbed during the Cabinet reshuffle because of his stance on the diplomatic status of Raymond Davis.
President, PM should resign, says Qureshi
Updated at: 1602 PST, Saturday, May 07, 2011
LAHORE: PPP central leader and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi while terming the unilateral US operation in Abbottabad as offensive said that president and prime minister should tender their resignations.
Talking to mediamen in Lahore Press Club, former foreign minister demanded to urgently convene party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting, where he said would demand prime minister and president to quit.
Qureshi said that if CEC meeting would not be called then he would later announce his future plan.
Former minister lamented that president had time to write an article in foreign newspaper while he had no time to address the nation.
He said that a thorough inquiry should be conducted into the issue.
The Shahbaz Bhatti Memorial Trust though got registered in April 2011 but it has begun with the first devoted step of Shahbaz Bhatti (late) when he being the founder of many Projects of Interfaith, Human Integrity, Fundamental Rights of all Humankind irrespective of Religion, Colour, Class and creed. He fought for the real station of a man until he sacrificed his life and assassinated on 2nd March 2011. The website is available in six languages. The vision of the Trust is that the world is under social, religious and civilization’s wars that ultimately take world away from human values and weakening the social bindings among the all human beings. It has become a huge threat for all human beings lest, these racism, religious; civilizations’ wars devastate the world. Therefore, it is a big need to bridge the social, religious and civil gaps among the human beings so that they come closer to each other and understand the other creeds and religions.
The time also urges that all superpowers and neighbor countries respect the line of boundaries of the other countries so that general public could be safe from bloodsheds and wars. If we want real peace in this world then we have to support each other for basic human rights and reconciliation from grass roots to top level.
The Project Interfaith Harmony and Dialogue is trying to do that at National and local level in Pakistan and as well in the world through building liaison with international and national organizations, so that real peace can take place in this world.
The website can be viewed at this link: http://sbmt.org/index.html
Personal Bible of Shahbaz Bhatti has been brought by the Community of St. Egidio and deposed at the Basilica of St. Bartholomei, basilica dedicated to the martyres of the third millennium by Pope John Paul II. The liturgy was presided by bishop Joseph Coutts, the new president of the Catholic Bishop’s conference of Pakistan, Paul Bhatti, special advisor to the prime minister for minority affairs with the status of minister, took the personal bible which Shahbaz used to read every morning before going to work and deposed it at the alter dedicated for the asian martyres. At the ceremoney were present ambassadors to Italy and the Holy See of different countries, Italian Parlimentarians, members of the St. Egidio along with the Founder and the president of the community. Pakistani christians and the clergy was also present to commemorate this significant moment.
The video of the event can be viewed at the following link:
ASIA/PAKISTAN – The case of Farah Hatim arrives at the High Court of Multan, the Catholic girl Islamized by force
invia articolo printable version preferiti Multan (Fides Service) – The High Court in Multan will judge and determine the truth about the case of Farah Hatim, the Catholic girl kidnapped, Islamized and forced to marry a Muslim man in the city of Rahim Yar Khan in southern Punjab ( see Fides 25/6/2011 and previous days). This is what Paul Bhatti, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for Religious Minorities Affairs in Pakistan and leader of APMA (All Pakistan Minorities Alliance) tells Fides. APMA had tried to mediate in recent days, asking the Muslim family with whom Farah is now, to meet the girl, repeating the official request by a judge of the Court of First Instance in Rahim Yar Khan. The attempt failed (see Fides 07/07/2011) because the family did not appear and the judge himself said to “consider the case closed”.
For this reason APMA decided, in agreement with the girl’s family, to appeal to the High Court in Multan. A complaint has already been presented and they are waiting for the date of the hearing, where the judge will call Farah, the family of origin and the Muslim family to hear the different versions on the matter and ascertain the will of the young girl. “We had no choice. Given the stubborn attitude of closure of the Muslim family, we want justice to go ahead and that Farah can express herself: this is why we have sent lawyers to lodge an appeal to the High Court”, Bhatti tells Fides.
The judge may hear Farah publicly but also privately. If the impression is that the girl, frightened or intimidated, does not tell the truth (pleasing her persecutors), he may decide to transfer her for a period of time in the “Darul Aman” (“House of Peace”), a governmental institute with many offices in major cities across the country, which welcomes and holds under police protection, battered or kidnapped women. The institute is a work strongly desired by Asma Jahangir, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and active in defending the rights of Pakistani women. The lawyers of APMA, who are taking care of the appeal, would like Farah to be transferred there in order to avoid the possibility of her “disappearing”. Fr. Yousaf Emmanuel, Director of the “Justice and Peace Commission” of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan, has welcomed this step, insisting that “the Church of Pakistan, which in the past saved and deals with protecting many young Christian girls, is close to Farah and her family, and intends to give all possible support for a happy ending to this sad event “. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/07/2011)
Shahbaz Bhatti predicts his assassination. See the video at:
Pope Benedict XVI asks for the liberation of Asia Bibi. see the video at:
Rome (AsiaNews) 03/07/2011 12:44
Shahbaz Bhatti “an authentic martyr”, Card Tauran leads suffrage mass
The Pakistani Christians in Italy association organized the celebration, held in Urdu. A deeply moved Cardinal. Tauran recalls the Pakistani minister in his homily.
- Recalling Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistani Minister for Minorities,assassinated March 2 last, a deeply moved Cardinal. Jean-Louis Tauran spoke of their last meeting on 28 November at Lahore airport: “Before I boarded the plane for Rome, we said goodbye. Shahbaz said, ‘I know that I will die assassinated, but I lay down my life for Christ and for interreligious dialogue. He already knew, he had already offered his life”. Yesterday Card. Tauran presided at a suffrage mass for the assassinated minister, attended by several priests, nuns and lay people, both Pakistani and Italian. The function was organized by the Pakistani Christians in Italy association, at the Pontifical College St. Peter Apostle in Rome.
“Being a Christian – the cardinal said during his homily – means always making a choice between good and evil, between being a servant or master”. The hardest thing, he explains, is to ensure that “words are accompanied by actions: we have before us a shining example, Shahbaz Bhatti. We should thank God for this authentic martyr. He chose God as his Savior for his life, the Church as his mother, and human beings as his brothers. “
“In his spiritual testament – continued the card. Tauran – Bhatti wrote ‘I am no longer afraid, I dedicate my life to Jesus I do not want positions of power, I just want a place at Jesus’ feet’: if he exercised a power, it was the power of his heart”.
Yesterday morning during the Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the Pakistani minister’s “poignant sacrifice of life”. And speaking of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pope expressed the hope that his death will “awaken in consciences, the courage and commitment to protect the religious freedom of all men and, in doing so, promote their equal dignity” .
Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy has organized a Holy Mass presided by H. E. Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran. The mass can be viewed at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRGYZ4uDPuI
(press archives of the Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy)