WASHINGTON: Chairman of International Christian Voice, Mr. Peter Bhatti, highlighted the troubles of Christians in Pakistan additionally made recommendations to the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom for betterment of minorities in Pakistan.
Mr. Peter Bhatti, was addressing the conference organized by the USCIRF where delegates from all the religious minorities in Pakistan were present. He stood up for the Christians of Pakistan asserting that,” Pakistan was created as a progressive and democratic state which was the vision of the founding father of Pakistan, Qauid- Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Jinnah wanted to have a free and equal state regardless of caste creed or religion which he stated on his first constituent assembly speech on August 11, 1947.”
He added that,” the commendable services of Christians along with our Muslim brothers are significant in the history of the independence movement of Pakistan. Christians have played a vital role in different fields of society including the areas of health, education, defence, and social welfare.”
Additionally, Mr. Bhatti said that,” after the death of the founding father, Pakistan was ruled by undemocratic and military dictators who used religion to prolong their rule, and discriminatory laws such as Blasphemy law, Hudood ordinances, law of evidence and other discriminatory laws were promulgated into the constitution of Pakistan.”
Besides, “Pro Taliban al Qaeda and extremist religious organizations were encouraged by the existence of such stated laws and they used these laws to persecute, victimize, terrorize, and discriminate against the Christians and other religious minorities of Pakistan. He said that these discriminatory laws are not only against the minorities but also go against the vision of the founding father Qauid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah,” he continued.
Addressing the topical issue of blasphemy law in Pakistan, Mr. Bhatti said that,” the blasphemy law is a tool in the hands of extremist to persecute the religious minorities of Pakistan. Most of the time, extremists use these laws to settle personal disputes, economic, political, religious or other reason, and Christians are even being killed in prison. Christians feel insecure and fearful in their motherland.”
While elaborating the incidents of persecution, he mentioned the blasphemy cases of Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih, and the anti- Christian riots that left entire neighbourhoods destroyed and people burned alive.
After establishing the current situation of the Christians in Pakistan, he put forth suggestions and recommendations to the USCIRF that would be of assistance to the minorities of Pakistan with enhance religious freedom in Pakistan.
Dr. Peter Bhatti’s recommendations are:
- The blasphemy law and other discriminatory laws need to be reformed or repealed
- The Ministry of Interfaith Harmony was highlighting the issues of religious minorities of Pakistan. The current government should bring back that Ministry in order to help change the mindset of the people of Pakistan towards tolerance and peace in the country and to help counter extremism and terrorism.
- Political parties, NGO’s and other human rights organizations in Pakistan who strongly believe in human rights, democracy and religious freedom need to be strengthened.
- Religious minorities, especially Christians, who belong to poor classes, need to be empowered to defend their rights. This way they will be brought into mainstream society and can prevent discrimination and persecution.
- Religious schools and organizations who teach hate, extremism and violence should be banned in Pakistan and a new syllabus which is free from hate needs to be introduced in all Public Schools.
- Bring religious minorities into the mainstream political life by allowing them to run for general seats, as well as keeping their reserved seats. Such duel voting systems would help uplift religious minorities.
- Last month 3 Christian women were forced to parade naked in public in the District of Kusar by a member of the current government. We request the Punjab government to bring that culprit to justice.
In support of religious minorities of Pakistan, he urged the international community to help and reinforce the people of Pakistan to uphold religious freedom, human rights, justice and equality in the country.
Later he affirmed on behalf of all Pakistani Christians, that regardless of several troubles including discrimination, victimization, persecution and uncounted attacks, they will stay loyal and devoted citizens of Pakistan. He said, “They are proud to be Pakistani and are ready to sacrifice their lives for Pakistan.”