A burnt house of a Christian family in Azafi Abadi at Chak 95-JB on Gojra-Faisalabad Road. – Photo by White Star - Courtesy Daily Dawn Pakistan Christians’ homes burnt over ‘desecration’ dated Sat, 01 Aug, 2009 Sha'aban 09, 1430 http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/christians-homes-burnt-over-desecration-189
Christians in Pakistan are suffering relentless persecution
Christian persecution in Pakistan
1 - A JUDGMENT by the High Court in Lahore is worrying Pakistan's Christians. The court decided recently that Pakistan's blasphemy laws are applicable to all the phrophets of Islam. Jesus is a prophet in Islamic teaching. By worshipping Jesus as the son of God, Christians are, it could be argued, committing a blasphemy. The Bible itself, which Islamic scholars regard as not strictly factual, might be reckoned to contain blasphemies against Abraham, Noah, David and Jacob, all of whom are in the Islamic canon. Blasphemy carries the death sentence in Pakistan. Reference: Prophet and loss: Pakistan. (blasphemy law) The Economist (US) May 7, 1994. http://www.encyclopedia.com/The+Economist+(US)/publications.aspx?pageNumber=1
2 - The two cleaners from Jhang district, 300 miles south of Islamabad, were jailed by a Faisalabad court in 1999 under Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws, having been wrongly accused of burning a copy of the Koran. Because the law can be invoked on the word of just one witness, it is frequently manipulated by Muslims to settle scores or rouse religious tensions. Reference: Pakistan's blasphemy laws used to persecute non-Muslims Massoud Ansari in Lahore and Michael Hirst Published: 12:01AM BST 25 Jun 2006 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1522285/Pakistans-blasphemy-laws-used-to-persecute-non-Muslims.html
3 - Lahore: March 2, 2009. (SLMP report) Two Christians named Wallayat Masih son of Saraina Masih alias Sala resident of village Maloki District Kasur and Mushtaq Masih son of Sooba Masih resident of Kareem Park Bank Stop Lahore have been charged under blasphemy law vide case registered vide First Information Report (FIR) No. 33 dated 1st March 2009, under section 295 B & C with police station Theh Shaikham District Kasur, both have been arrested and presently detained in the local police station. 7 team members from CLAAS and SLMP visited village Maloki for fact finding today on 2nd March 2009. Mr. Joseph Francis the National Director Center for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement (CLAAS) and Chief Coordinator Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP) led the team. Reference: Two Christians Charged Under Blasphemy Law in Kasur, Punjab. July 6, 2009, 2:36 pm http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/headlinenewsd.php?hnewsid=1003
4 - Pakistan's human rights commission has reacted strongly after the country's military ruler gave up plans to change the way in which a controversial blasphemy law is implemented. A number of Islamic organisations had threatened to hold demonstrations on Friday to protest against the proposed changes. But General Musharraf has said that he now plans to leave the laws completely unchanged. Bishop John Joseph killed himself in protest at the blasphemy laws. Reference: Pakistan's blasphemy law U-turn Wednesday, 17 May, 2000 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/751803.stm
5 - Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Bishop John Joseph, who committed suicide in 1998 to protest the blasphemy law, was recalled today in a mass in the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul in Faisalabad. Mgr Andrew Francis of Multan and Mgr Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad participated in the celebration, together with dozens of priests. In his homily, the bishop of Multan described Mgr Joseph as a "perennial voice of ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue", who "preached the words of the Gospel with all his life". Reference: Mgr John Joseph, blasphemy martyr, remembered by Qaiser Felix 05/06/2006 17:59 http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=6099 - Analysis: Pakistan's Christian minority Monday, 29 October, 2001 - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1625976.stm
6 - "As it was the unanimous demand of the Ulema, Mashaikh and the people, therefore, I have decided to do away with the procedural change in registration of FIR under the blasphemy law" (General Musharraf, Dawn 17.5.2000). How was public opinion determined? No one asked me! Is the reference to ulema and mashaikh to the self-proclaimed ones or men and women of Islamic learning? And did populism prevail over Islam? Why was no attempt made to enter into a debate, or at least a learned Islamic discourse? What was the role of the two ministers (religious affairs and law) who are primarily concerned with this issue? One does not recollect any valuable contribution from these two sources. Reference: NEED TO CHECK MISUSE OF BLASPHEMY LAW (28 May 2000) EDITOR'S NOTE: An article entitled "Need to Check Misuse of Blasphemy Law" by Qazi Faez Isa, was published in DAWN, Karachi, on Sunday, May 28, 2000 http://ecumene.org/INRFVVP/blasphemy.htm
7 - The blasphemy laws were legislated and subsequently made more strict to ensure protection to the minorities. But some recent incidents have shown that even the Muslims were victimized under the present blasphemy law on the complaint of other fellow Muslims. The most recent example is provided by gory murder of Yusuf Kizab in the Kot Lakhpat Jail by an activist of the banned Sipahe-i-Sahaba. Yusuf had been sentenced to death sentence under the blasphemy laws. The worst example was the suicide of Father John Joseph some four years ago. On the eve of May 6, 1998 Dr Joseph, the Bishop of Faisalabad, committed suicide in front of the Sessions Court, Sahiwal to protest against the death sentence of a Christian Ayub Masih, pronounced by the court under the blasphemy law. Reference: The Impact of The Blasphemy Law by Mohammad Shehzad Issue No.4, September 2002 Copyright © The DAWN Group of Newspapers http://www.sikhspectrum.com/092002/shehzad.htm
8 - The barbaric murder of Jagdeesh Kumar, accused of blasphemy by some of his workmates at a garment factory in Karachi, brings out in sharp focus once again the exposed and vulnerable situation of non-Muslims in a Pakistan still wedded to the legacy of General Zia-ul-Haq. When the police finally intervened, the body of the 22-year-old victim had been mutilated and disfigured beyond recognition: among other things the eyes had been gouged out. The reports published indicate that he was a quiet man, from a poverty-stricken Hindu family belonging to some obscure village in the Sindh desert. People with such a depressed and vulnerable background come to factories to seek out a miserable living, not to engage in religious controversies. In the days and weeks ahead, we will learn that some petty personal quarrel or irrational hatred of a Hindu was the real reason for his murder. Reference: Blasphemy and persecution by Ishtiaq Ahmed Saturday, April 26, 2008 http://thenews.jang.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=108906
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Text/Report to support questions.
HRCP Annual Report - State of Human Rights in 2008 http://www.hrcp-web.org/3-2%20freedom%20of%20thought%202008.pdf
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
... It is the will of the people of Pakistan to establish an order ... wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality.
Constitution of Pakistan
Subject to law, public order and morality (a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion; and (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice. No one shall be subject to discrimination by any state, institution, group of persons, or person on the grounds of religion or other belief.
Reserved seats for minorities in parliament
The system of reserved seats for minorities and women introduced by President Musharraf in 2002 failed to fulfil the required objective of giving a political voice to minorities. The minorities’ representatives in the assemblies usually followed the line of the party that got them elected and not the interest of their communities. In early February, the World Minorities’ Alliance Convener, Mr. J. Salik, said the current system did not allow any minority person to contest elections independently on the minorities’ seat. He had challenged that process in the Supreme Court in 2002 but to date no hearing had been set. (N, Feb 6) A minority representative said: “When the Hasba Bill was approved in the NWFP, two persons elected by the MMA on reserved seats also voted for it. This instance showed that representatives of religious minorities elected on reserved seats were not free to pursue private agendas”. (DT, Feb 24)
Freedom of Religion
As in previous years, the spread of hatred against the Ahmadis continued. At least six Ahmadis were murdered because of their faith during 2008.
An anchorperson of a popular TV channel held a prime-hour discussion commemorating the 1974 amendment to the Constitution declaring Ahmadis as “not Muslims”. The programme ended with a verdict by a participating mufti, of an extremist school, that the Ahmadis deserved to be murdered for deviating from the view of the finality of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Neither the TV channel nor the anchorperson was chastised by the government for the virulent broadcast. Following the TV discussion, three Ahmadis were shot dead in early September – Dr. Abdul Mannan Siddiqui in Mirpurkhas, Seth Yusuf, a Nawabshah trader, and Sheikh Saeed at his pharmacy in Karachi. (D, Sep 21)
In Lahore in late May the International Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Movement (IKNM) announced a moot to be held at the Aiwan-e-Iqbal. IKMN Ameer MPA Maulana Ilyas Chinoti added the moot would mark a hundred years of successfully countering Qadiyaniat. (N, May 23)
In Faisalabad in early June, a mob of 300 college students barged into the rooms of Ahmadi students, beat them up and threw their belongings out of their rooms. The boarders also stole valuables from the Ahmadi students. The Punjab Medical College (PMC) through a notification rusticated 23 Ahmadi students on the report of the disciplinary committee. It was alleged that they were preaching and distributing Ahmadi literature. (DT, Sep 9) The students suffered harassment and interruption in their studies for months before they were allowed to resume their studies. In Shabqadar, Charsadda district, local clerics refused to lead the funeral prayers for a man believed to be an Ahmadi. The local clerics issued a fatwa (decree) that the deceased had become an Ahmadi and, therefore, no one would lead his funeral prayers. (DT, Sep 23)
The Christian community was discriminated against and the marginalisation of an already poor and disenfranchised community continued with the State offering virtually no protection. In early January, dozens of Christians held a protest outside the Lahore Press Club against the occupation of their homes in Bakar Mandi by influential people with the support of the government. The protesters said they had been living on the government property since pre-partition time but now they were being forced out. They said that the residents were very poor and had no means to buy houses; they had no shelter and had been left with no option but
to commit suicide along with their children. (N, Jan 7)
In late February, the Christian residents of Chananpura, Bakar Mandi, claimed that they were under siege by “land grabbers” who continued to harass and threaten them despite an ongoing civil lawsuit to decide ownership of the disputed land. The residents claimed that armed men, acting on behalf of the alleged land-grabbers, stripped and beat one of their young men, Faqirah Masih. They also hurled threats at him of bulldozers demolishing their prepartition homes. (D, Feb 23)
In Lahore, two minority councillors were injured during a scuffle in a meeting of the Lahore district council when they had attempted to move a resolution against a blast that damaged a church and also draw attention to the Freedom of thought, conscience and religion 7 7
illegal occupation of the Church of Christ in Garden Town by land grabbers. (D, Mar 17)
In late May, Christians protested against the Defence Housing Society, Lahore, for desecration and bulldozing of the graves in a Christian graveyard situated on Walton Road. The Christians alleged that they were being stopped from burying their dead in the graveyard. In June, 20 minority members of the Christian community, in Peshawar, were kidnapped and beaten up at a charity dinner for the members. The attackers, who came in land cruisers and pick-up trucks, attacked the Christians who were in the middle of their prayers. The attackers threatened them of similar attacks in the future if the “Christian community did not mend its ways”. (D, Jun 22)
The Hindus of the scheduled class were neglected and ignored in every walk of life. At a conference at the Lahore Press Club, the Haray Rama Foundation and Guru Gorakh Naath Sewa Mandal director protested that there was no lower caste Hindu or other caste MPA or MNA representing the non-Muslims in Punjab. He stated that the lower caste was given no representation in the 10 national assembly and 23 provincial
assembly seats. (N, Jan 5) In Hyderabad, the low caste Hindus staged a demonstration outside the press club protesting discrimination towards them by successive governments. They said that the lower caste constituted 95 percent of the Hindu population; the 5 percent upper caste Hindus became MPAs and MNAs and patronised only their own class. (D, Oct 26)
The Sikhs had no representation in parliament and could not hope to have their issues taken up. In Lahore, Dr. Swaran Singh of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara stated Sikhs in the country (about 12,000 in
number) faced social and political problems because of a lack of direct access to the government. While Christians and Hindus had representations in the government, Sikhs had none. Many Sikh youths were deprived of quality higher education because there was no scholarship quota in the Higher Education Commission. Further, the poor Sikhs did not receive financial relief from the government. Christian and Hindu widows received Rs 5, 000 per month but the Sikh widows were deprived. (DT, May 3)
Blasphemy laws and their victims
In Karachi, a Hindu factory worker, Jagdeesh Kumar, was killed outside his workplace by a mob, which comprised of many of his colleagues. He was allegedly accused of blasphemy. The law enforcement agencies did nothing to save the young man. (D, Apr 26, May 11) In early May, Dr Robin, of Hafizabad, who had lived and served in that town for thirty years was booked under Section 295- C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The doctor was charged with blasphemy when he joked with a patient about the latter’s unruly beard. After incitement by a local Imam, hundreds of residents marched to Dr. Robin’s residence threatening to kill him and his family. While the mob encircled Dr. Robin’s house, law enforcers stood by and watched the whole episode silently. A Christian welfare organisation rescued the doctor and Jagdeesh Kumar: Done to death by his co-workers. State 7 8 ate of Human Rights in 2008 his family from likely death. Dr. Robin was put in jail and the uprooted Robin family had to go into hiding to escape the anger of religious extremists.
Demolition of places of worship
In Lahore, members of the Christian community protested against the demolition of a church in Garden Town, desecration of the holy Bible and illegally occupation of the land. The Church of Christ was constructed in 1963 and had been a place of worship since then. (DT, Jan 25). In protest, Sunday prayers were offered on the road in front of the demolished church. The participants said the police and d i s t r i c t administration had remained silent spectators despite the desecration. (D, Feb 15)
1. The blasphemy law was promulgated in 1985 and in 1990 the punishment under this law, which sought topenalise irreverence towards the Holy Quran and insulting the Holy Prophet (PBUH), was life imprisonment. In1992, the government introduced death penalty for a person guilty of blasphemy. Immediate abolition of ‘blasphemy’laws is needed as these provisions are often used against non-Muslims as well as Muslims to settle personal scores.
2. School curriculum has to be sensitised toward non-Muslim Pakistanis so that children feel safe, secure and equal.
3. The Ahmadis have been denied the benefit of the joint electorate system which was revived in 2002. The discrimination should be ended.
4. The Commission on Minorities should be made functional by reinforcing its independent status and providing it with the necessary resources, human as well as financial.Christians demand end to occupation of a church by the land mafia.