Human rights groups seek repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy law
Leaders from over a dozen international human rights organizations joined forces recently in the Pakistan Christian Congress held at Reeves Center, Washington DC to seek the repeal of the much abused blasphemy law, and to fight for the rights of Christians in Pakistan.
A high point in the conference was when Commissioner Nina Shea of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom made an outright call for the law’s repeal. Shea said despite existing legal rights of minorities, the blasphemy law practically renders them meaningless noting, “They are constantly vulnerable to accusations that are likely to be false under the blasphemy laws,” The Pakistan Christian Post said.
She also said it is important that the Pakistan government repeal the law noting, “These kinds of laws are not only repressive, but they also create social turmoil,” The Pakistan Christian Post said.
Noting that the U.S. is one of Pakistan’s largest donors, Shea said it is important that they stress upon Islamabad the importance of repealing the law.
In a joint press conference where several organization leaders were present Shea said, “I expect the US to bilateral and multilateral engagements with Pakistan to press for the repeal of the blasphemy law,” The Pakistan Christian Post said.
Despite the presence of a new regime in Pakistan, the number of Christians arrested under the blasphemy law has doubled. Two Christians were even killed in court during a blasphemy case hearing at the District Court of Faisalabad.
There are some 20 million Christians in Pakistan and although there are seats reserved for minorities these Christians cannot elect them. Instead, minority representatives are chosen by Muslims, and these minority seats seem to be mere window dressing for the international community.
Also noted during the congress was the first year anniversary of Gorja Town Christian colony, when thousands of Muslims set over 50 homes on fire and burned to death seven Christian children and women. No one was punished for the crimes.
As the local police watched, the Muslims also destroyed hundreds of homes in Korjan and Bahminwala villages in Punjab. Recalling this, Pakistan Christian Congress Chief Dr. Nazir S Bhatti said the pending “Minority Day” which the Pakistan government created should instead be called “Black Day” to honor the dead.
Bhatti said, “How we can celebrate Minority Day in Pakistan when our innocent brothers are being killed by Islamic militants and our women are being gang raped and enforcedly converted to Islam.”
Ahmar Mustikhan, who founded American Friends of Baluchistan, said minorities have no rights at all adding, “I have not seen any case so far where the perpetrators of crimes against Christians, Hindus and Kadiayanis are brought to justice.”
Jeffery Imm of REAL called for an online campaign for the Pakistan government to respect diverse religious views and protect their freedoms, which are inherent universal rights.
Bhatti said Wedenesday that rallies will be held in all cities in Pakistan to mark “Black Day” instead of Minority Day as announced by the government, The Pakistan Christian Post said.
Others who attended the conference were Andrew Eiva (Director, Freedom for Sudan Committee), Ashraf Ramelah (Voice of the Copts), Manzoor Alam (Chairman, Pakistani American Christian Coalition), Mujeeb Ijaz (Ahamdayya Muslims in USA), Shaharyar Gill (International Center of Justice and Law), Ahmar Mustikhan (founder, American Friends of Balochistan), Senge H. Sering, (director, Gilgit Baltistan National Congress), and a representative of ICC, The Pakistan Christian Post said.
Read more about the Pakistan’s blasphemy law here.