Washington DC: December 10, 2010. (Jeffery Imm) Pakistan Christian Congress leader, Dr. Nazir Bhatti, spoke on December 9 at a Human Rights Day event at the National Press Club, telling assembled human rights activists and the press of the oppression of Pakistani Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan. Dr. Nazir Bhatti also called for the end to the blasphemy law in Pakistan and the release of a Christian woman Aasia Bibi. Aasia Bibi was arrested on false claims of “blasphemy” against Islam and has been facing the death sentence in Pakistan.
On December 10, Dr. Bhatti and other members of the Pakistan Christian Diaspora will be holding a protest outside of the United Nations in New York City at 10 AM. The Pakistan News reports today that United Nations Expert Adviser on Human Rights and Pakistan’s former Federal Minister for Human Rights Burney is urging the Pakistan government to release Aasia Bibi.
On December 9, at the National Press Club, Dr. Nazir Bhatti spoke on these issues. Dr. Bhatti also leads the Pakistan Christian Post, which regularly reports on these topics. We are preparing a digital video of his remarks on YouTube and this posting will be updated to include the YouTube video link.
The following is the text of his prepared remarks:
When we celebrate Universal Human Rights Day, we reaffirm our confidence in equal rights for human beings around world irrespective of religion, color or creed. I must submit on this occasion that Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Universal Human Rights doctrine being a member state of United Nations but fails to guarantee equal, basic, democratic rights under UDHR to millions of its citizens, specially religious minorities in its territory. In the constitution legislated after independence of Pakistan in 1947, we find Objective Resolution as a preamble with a paragraph on religious freedom and equal rights for minorities. However, in 1956 and 1962 constitutions of Pakistan the clauses on protection of minority rights were conveniently scratched. Then the “Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan” was adopted in 1973, in the absence of any minority legislator. Article 2, was added in the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, declaring the country an Islamic state and homeland of Muslims only.
Later, the 4th amendment in the constitution declared Ahmadi Muslim sect to be non-Muslims while 8th amendment turned all non-Muslims to be second class citizens in Pakistan when through presidential orders of a military dictator, lHudood Ordinance, Law of Evidence, Law of Compensation, Article 302 of Federal Shariat Court and introduction of Blasphemy law Section 295-B and 295-C Pakistan Penal Code became part of constitution in 1986 under General Ziaul Haq..
I would like to invite your attention on misuse of Islamic laws by the Muslim majority against religious minorities, specially the misue of blasphemy law to target innocent minority members. According to the Religious Freedom Report 2010, issued by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, more than 974 cases have been filed from 1986 to 2009, against individuals of religious minorities under section 295 B and C of Pakistan Penal Code. Under Section 295-C Pakistan Penal Code, any person guilty of defiling the name of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was made liable to suffer life imprisonment or death. Later, in 1991, instead of life imprisonment, capital punishment was inducted under the direction of the Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan. According to Ahamadi Muslims, more than 250 individuals of Ahmadi Muslims have been charged under Section 295-C PPC in Pakistan.
We have grave concerns about the safety of Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, who was sentenced to death on an accusation of blasphemy law Section 295 B and C PPC on November 8, 2010, in the Punjab province of Pakistan, which by the way is toughest for minorities.
According to fact finding mission of Pakistan Christian Congress, Aasia Bibi had some argument with her Muslim neighbor woman on her goat entering their home.
After a week, when Aasia Bibi was working in a farm with Muslim women, on touching drinking water container, the same neighbor raised objection that the water had become polluted by touching of the water tumbler by Aasia Bibi, a Christian infidel. The Muslim woman screamed that calling Christianity is religion of God, Aasia Bibi has defiled Islam and attacked her. Aasia Bibi ran towards her home but Muslim women and men working in the farms followed her, dragged her out of home and tortured her and her children.
Police arrived and took Asia Bibi to Saddar Police Station to save her life, After two days a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against her under Section 295 B and C PPC, on the complaint of the Imam local mosque on June 19, 2009. She is in Seikhupura Jail now, waiting for her appeal against death sentence in Lahore High Court.
The President of Pakistan is empowered to pardon any sentence while Home Minister can withdraw any FIR according to constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The clemency appeal was submitted by Aasia Bibi to President of Pakistan but fundamentalist religious groups and Islamic political parties in Pakistan have launched a campaign against any pardon to a blasphemer. An Islamic cleric in Peshawar has announced reward of half a million Pakistani Rupees for any one who will kill Asia Bibi, which has created potential threat to her life. The Islamic political parties staged a massive rally in Islamabad and other major cities of Pakistan to pressure higher court to put the Christian woman to death.
I also like to bring to your notice on November 18, 2010, Latif Masih aged 22, was shot dead in Punjab after he was granted bail after five months of imprisonment for “blasphemy” for allegedly burning pages of the Qur’an,. The Islamic extremists are taking law in their hands and murdering Christians falsely accused in blasphemy in broad day light to win heaven for them. It is on public record that radical elements gunned downed Pastor Emmanuel and his brother Sajjid in the compound of District Courts Faisalabad, when the two were brought in police escort for hearing in a blasphemy case on July 19, 2010. On July 30, 2009, hundreds of members of banned Muslim organizations, torched Christian homes and burned alive seven Christian women and children in Gojra City in Punjab province of Pakistan. The Muslim mob set on fire hundreds of homes and vandalized Churches in village Korian Bahminwali in Punjab after charges of blasphemy. On September 16, 2009, Robert Danish, a Christian youth was killed in Sialkot Central Jail in a security cell awaited trial in a blasphemy case.
Moreover, Islamic militants gunned down Justice Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti of Lahore High Court on October 19, 1997, in his office on acquitting two people who were accused of blasphemy. On June 5, 1994, a blasphemy accused Manzoor Masih died on the spot in front of Lahore High Court when Islamic elements attacked him. It is also for record that Bantu Masih, 80, and Mukhtar Masih, 50, were arrested on an allegation of committing blasphemy and stabbed to death in the Police Station in the city of Lahore.
Tahir Iqbal facing sentence in blasphemy was killed in Lahore District Jail on July 7, 1991. A Christian teacher Niamat Ahmar was also killed by Islamic extremists on accusation of blasphemy law.
Keeping in view killing of Christians accused of blasphemy, the Pakistani Christians fear that Aasia Bibi is not safe in Pakistan like many other blasphemy victims gunned down by the hands of religious fanatics. In our appeal to Secretary General of United Nations dated 2nd December 2010, we urged him to press upon government of Pakistan to ensure justice and to adopt necessary measures for safety of Aasia Bibi and her family. We have also submitted an appeal with EU, urging safety for Aasia Bibi and repeal of blasphemy law.
On this Day, Universal Human Rights Day, we Pakistani Christians appeal to US administration to press upon government of Pakistan to repeal controversial blasphemy law which is being used against religious minorities to settle business rivalries and personal petty disputes.
We also appeal US administration to condition aid to Pakistan under the Kerry-Lugar with religious freedom and human rights so that every citizen of Pakistan may enjoy equal basic democratic and human rights.
We also invite attention of UN General Assembly member states and their representatives in United Nations Human Right Council UNHRC to re-consider their stance on “Defamation of Religion” resolution, presented by Pakistan on behalf of Organization of Islamic Countries, prepared by Egypt and seconded by U.S.A., in present situation of religious minorities in Islamic states because Pakistan wants to globalize blasphemy law.