Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

Pakistan

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UN Chief Condemns Assassination of Provincial Governor
According to an official United Nations Report of January 4, 2011: "Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned the assassination today of the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer.

In a statement issued early Tuesday by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General also described Mr. Taseer as a “prominent leader whose death is a loss for Pakistan,” and extended his condolences to the family of Mr. Taseer and to the people and government of Pakistan.

According to media reports, the Punjab governor was gunned down by one of his own bodyguards as he stepped from his car in Kohsar market in Islamabad. Upon surrendering to authorities, the assassin is reported to have voiced opposition to the reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws – an issue that Mr. Taseer was said to firmly support."

For more details go to UN News Centre.

Muslim Leaders Speak Out Against Blasphemy Law
According to Fides News Service:

Ali Jinnah, the father of the Pakistani Constitution “would have joined the campaign to save Asia Bibi and repeal the blasphemy law.” If the government fails to protect religious minorities, “they become accomplices of their martyrdom.” This is what Fides has been told by prominent Muslim leaders of the Jinnah Institute in Islamabad, an independent institute that works to build the rule of law and democracy in Pakistan.

There are voices being raised in Pakistani civil society for the cause of Asia Bibi and the abolition of the controversial blasphemy law. They are the voices of Muslim intellectuals, opinion leaders, and organizations that “give wings to the hopes of Christians,” said a local source of Fides. The efforts of moderate Muslims is essential in creating a vast movement of public opinion, which may result in the abolition of the law in Parliament. The repeal, in fact, up until now has been a “taboo” due to the protest of Islamic fundamentalist lobby groups who have opposed any attempts for its review. Both General Pervez Musharraf and assassinated leader Benazhir Bhutto have tried, but have had to give up in the face of opposition from religious leaders like the Conference of the Jamiat Ulema of Pakistan (JUP), which represents more than 30 religious parties. “We are pleased at the Pope’s appeal and the pressures of the international community. However, the decisive step will be the support and the conviction of public opinion in Pakistan,” said a Fides source from the local Church.

Sherry Rehman, a Muslim intellectual, who was elected to Parliament in the ranks of the Pakistan Peoples Party and serves as member of the National Commission on the Status of Women, is Dean of the prestigious Jinnah Institute, which is inspired by the work of Ali Jinnah.

Rehman tells Fides: “It’s clear that Asia Bibi is another victim of the prejudice that pervades our institutions. If all the state institutions, including the courts and the judiciary system, are unable to protect minorities from abuse, this is a serious issue which makes them accomplices of their martyrdom. For over twenty years, the blasphemy law has been manipulated and used as an instrument of domination over weaker communities. The time has come to remove it.”

Ali Dayan Hasan, a Muslim researcher and member of the Institute, told Fides: "Asia Bibi’s case should serve as a ‘wake up call’ to Pakistani society in the protection of human rights and as an appeal to the judicial system, which must get rid of incompetence and bigotry. It should also serve as incentive for the government to find the political will to repeal the blasphemy law. " (PA) (Agenzia Fides 18/11/2010)

Catholic and Muslim Organizations in Pakistan Protest Rape of Nursing Student
Karachi (Agenzia Fides) July 2010– Magdalene Ashraf, a 22 year old Catholic student nurse, was raped on 13 July by a Muslim doctor. After a fall from a window at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, in Karachi, where she was training, the student nurse with injuries to her head and legs is in critical conditions. The doctor has been arrested and the police are seeking to ascertain whether the girl jumped from the hospital window or was pushed. According to Fides’ sources in Karachi, the Catholic community is under shock, civil society groups, including Catholic and Muslim organisations, have staged street protests against violence on women in Pakistan….“We support Magdalene and her family, and are close to them for any need and support, legal or other”, Saleh Diego, head of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic diocese of Karachi told Fides. “The family fears more violence and is concerned for the future ”, he said. “The case brings to the fore the question of women’s rights and dignity in Pakistan. The local Catholic Church actively promotes respect for the dignity, education and basic freedoms of women ”, the priest told Fides.

Workshop on Human Trafficking Conducted
Caritas Faisalabad informed CPN that Ms. Yasmine Joseph conducted a workshop on Human Trafficking with volunteers, religious and civic leaders in village 42/12.L Chichawatni. More than 45 people participated in the workshop. Ms. Yasmine Joseph said that when people send their children to other cities for work, they often face difficulties physically, mentally and sexually. For more information contact: Caritas Pakistan Faisalabad, Bishop’s House, P.O. Box 572, Railway Road Faisalabad, PAKISTAN, 041-262-38-37, 041-262-38-37, caritsfsd@yahoo.com

Blasphemy Law Petitioned
According to Fides, “The Church in Pakistan welcomes with great hope the international petition launched Aid to the Church in Need in France, to abolish the blasphemy law. The petition continues to gather support and has already reached about 3,000 signatures.”

Blasphemy Law Abused
According to Fides News Service, November 10, 2010, “Christians are under fire with the instrumental use of the anti-blasphemy law. The cases of false allegations continue and we are very concerned. There have been at least 5 in the last two months. Unfortunately, there is no change in sight: the government does not consider a revision or abolition of the law. And this is very serious.” This is what Fides has been told by Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, in the Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, after new cases of Christians being falsely accused of blasphemy.

In the spotlight, in recent days, is the case of Asia Bibi, the first woman sentenced to death for the crime of blasphemy. In June 2009 the married woman, mother of two, while working with other Muslim women in the countryside, in the Punjab province, was labeled an “infidel” and asked to convert to Islam. Asia defended the Christian religion and refused. With that, she was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. She was beaten along with her children and carried out by the police, who registered the allegations against her. Days ago, the court found her guilty based on the testimony of Muslims and has sentenced her to death. “This is a genuine violation of human dignity and truth. We will do all we can to have the sentence changed or overturned on appeal,” Peter Jacob told Fides, confirming the interest of the Commission for Justice and Peace on the case of Asia Bibi.

The Commission has provided Fides with a list of recent cases of false accusations of blasphemy and violations of human rights – at least 5 in the last two months.

In mid-September, Tasawar Masih, a Christian youth of Sargodha, was accused by Muslim youth of insulting the Prophet. Some Muslim religious leaders at the front of a crowd of militants forced Masih’s family, composed of 10 people to leave the village. The family had a home and land and ended up with nothing, living in conditions of displacement and misery.

In the District of Sialkot, another Christian, Walayat Masih, was framed. A copy of the Koran with a few pages burned was found in front of his house. A crowd of people gathered around his front door and it was only through police intervention that they averted a lynching. The police took him into custody for five days.

At the beginning of October, the Commission says, three men in Lahore, Shaheed Hassan Butt, Sheikh Shahid, and Nawazish have been accused of having snatched and thrown into the trash a few pages of the Koran. The complaint and the subsequent class action against them has been led by the leaders of the Ahl-e-Hadith mosque."

Reconciliation in Pakistan
In Religious Contributions to Peacemaking: When Religion Brings Peace, Not War (PDF document) (Washington: US Institute of Peace, January 2006), Daniel Philpott and Brian Cox describe their experiences working on reconciliation in Pakistan. In Faith and Reconciliation in Kashmir, Philpott offers additional insights from the standpoint of both politics and theology.