S A C W A

SOUTH ASIAN CHRISTIAN WRITER'S ASSOCIATION

A Forum of Writers, Intellectuals, Journalists and critics

 
 
 
  Christians in Pakistan
 

Pakistan

Statistics by Diocese

by Catholic Population


(Click on the column title to sort by that column)
# Catholics Population Percent Catholic Diocese Year Source
1 570,000 25,000,000 2.28% Lahore (Archdiocese) 2004 ap2005
2 168,135 35,000,000 .48% Islamabad-Rawalpindi 2004 ap2005
3 145,000 14,000,000 1.04% Karachi (Archdiocese) 2004 ap2005
4 134,200 31,450,000 .43% Faisalabad 2004 ap2005
5 99,375 32,162,000 .31% Multan 2004 ap2005
6 48,681 21,686,924 .22% Hyderabad in Pakistan 2004 ap2005
7 27,902 6,511,358 .43% Quetta (Prefecture Apostolic) 2004 ap2005

Note: The table above is generated with the most recent data available for each diocese. Dioceses with incomplete data may not appear in the table. 

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Situation of Minorities in Pakistan By: Junaid Qaiser

Mr. Junaid Qaiser is secretary general of Pakistan Minorities Journalists Association]

After the tragic events of 9/11, Pakistani establishment finally had to set aside its’ traditional ideological hangovers and raise a different slogan, “First of all Pakistan.” It was a matter of coercion or choice one can’t say with a degree of confidence nevertheless it was a visible policy shift from the ideologically loaded past. This changed thinking gave birth to new hopes and new fears for the religious minorities

Within the category of hope one can enlist the reversion to the system of joint electorates during Election-2002 whereas the list of new fears is pretty long. At least two churches, one missionary hospital and a school became the new targets of the disposed Jihadis (holy warriors). The unprecedented electoral gains of religious right on the platform of Muttahida Majlis-I-Amal (United Action Council) also add to such fears.   

The slogan “first of all Pakistan” employs that all the people living in the country are Pakistanis without any consideration of color, race or religion and that all of them have equal human rights and are entitled to substantive citizenship as per the vision of country’s founding fathers. Therefore it is now expected that all Pakistanis would emerge as the moderate souls and would contribute to develop the nation to meet the challenges of new realities and requirements by rearranging their political, social, intellectual, literary and scientific values.

During the last 62 years the situation of minorities in Pakistan like the general conditions in various fields has remained a matter of serious concern. Professor Marvin G. Vonbom, of University of Illinois, USA describes this situation in her article, Civil society and democracy in Pakistan that “Pakistan is a state owned by the Muslims but from their behavior it seems as if they are a minority surrounded by hostile threats.  In this way they have developed a defensive mechanism that has no rationale.  These people think that strengthening of minorities would be a threat to Pakistan and Islam.  The reality is completely opposite. Though the Muslim rulers in the past had provided protection to the minorities yet it is a historical fact that the minorities were not given equal political status and equal political rights.”

In political terms Pakistan experienced leadership from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Zia-ul-Haq and from Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif all with different ideological orientations.Pakistan Peoples party and it's leadership very much liberal and progressive.The other Parties representing General Zia's legacy used the slogans of Islam to perpetuate their narrow self interests.Khawaja Khalid,an Afghan war vetern and a former  Air force officer has come on the national television to disclose Mian Nawaz Sharif's meeting no less than Osama Bin Ladan.He admits in a interview with local daily newspaper that Islamic leaders acting as afghan war veterans had joined  hand with Nawaz Sharif to block Pakistan Peoples party's entry into power since 1988.These leaders played their part in toppling PPP  regime twice and tried to thwart the PPP in electoral  processes. Khalid Khawaja also stated that after Zia's death ,which has a huge shock for our leaders,the group planned to counter the US backed Liberal progressive Pakistan Peoples party.he stated that we thought that an alliance of all major religious parties and it's alliance with PMLN later in the general elections could block PPP's way.He also stated ISI  was thinking along the same lines,we tried our best to make a MMA style (as done by the Musharaf regime of 2002-2007 alliance with PMLN to bring these parties in power.The agencies had planned to make Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi,the prime minister in 1988,after all stalwarts like Jatoi,were defeated,the establishment saw in Nawaz Sharif a possible player against Shaheed Benazir Bhutto ....ISI hastily formed IJI when IJI failed to form the Government.the establishment invited shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto  to become the prime minister ,soon after the PPP government was formed ,we decided to counter and resist th gvt in 1989,establishment believe that Benazir's Govt will demage the cause of jihad.Khawaja Khalid also recalls about five meetings took place between Nawaz Sharif and Osama Bin Ladan.He clearly stated that it was Osama who rought the Sharifs and the Saudi royals closer.These ties later strengthened by the Sharifs.. 

However the military regime headed by General Pervez Musharraf reached a crossroad after the 9/11 tragedies in the United States of America and to some extent had to break its nexus with the retrogressive regime of Taliban in Afghanistan. So it became a defining moment and Pakistan quite prudently decided to stand with the international community on the issues of global terrorism and human values. Traditionally Pakistani establishment had been promoting religion colored nationalism that caused a lot of damage to Pakistan and made life of the minorities pretty difficult. Nonetheless the enlightened citizens and their civic organizations continued to raise voice against that mindset.

Separating the minorities:

Luckily now it is a history, but until 2001 the issue of separate electorate system remained a key political concern for the minorities in Pakistan. Historically it is true that Pakistan came into being on the basis of separate electorate as demanded by the Muslim minority in the united Sub-continent.  After Pakistan’s creation the two-nation theory should automatically have ceased to exist as there was only one nation living in Pakistan. But the right wing political parties continued to consider the separate electorate as a base of the ideology of Pakistan. 

The idea of separate electorate was aimed at the partition of India. Where as the minorities living in Pakistan today do not want any kind of further partition of their homeland. Similarly Quaid-i-Azam had dreamt of a developed, moderate, democratic state which is evident from his 11th August 1947 speech in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. One hardly finds any discussions on formation of a theocratic state in the pre-partition meetings of the Muslim League. The religious parties started such debate after the creation of Pakistan and ironically they were opposed to the very idea of Pakistan.  Religious political parties have been opposing the idea of joint electorate due to the fear that the minorities will  vote Pakistan peoples part Due to it's liberal progressive stance and not vote for them because of their particular religious point of view.

In Quaid-i-Azam’s Pakistan all the human beings were to be given equal rights and status but our non-political rulers in an attempt to remain in power and to suppress political forces divided the nation on ethnic, religious and sectarian lines.  Whenever these rulers felt that they are confronted with a legitimacy crisis they created prejudices to weaken the people. The organizations based on religious, ethnic, linguistic and sectarian prejudices were created in our country under the same philosophy.  In order to prolong his tenure in power and to weaken the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, General Zia ul Haq used religion as a tool and imposed separate electorate in the country in 1979.  It may be mentioned here that all the three Constitutions passed in Pakistan in 1956, 1962 and 1973 respectively enforced a joint electorate system.

Introduction of separate electorates for the minorities marginalized them from the mainstream society and were reduced to the status of a second-class citizen having no say in the politics. This division effected the whole political environment and Muslims were also divided on sectarian bases. Since 1979 Pakistan has experienced worst form of sectarianism causing many killings. The separate electorates damaged the social relationship of minorities with
their neighboring Muslims. Under this system, minorities were cut from the
national main stream. They were deprived of their rights, because they had
no social or political relationship with the Muslims.

Since 1985 Pakistan Peoples Party and various minority rights groups became active to campaign for the restoration of the joint electorates. After years of struggle in June 2000 these groups collected more then 200,000 signatures within 40 days of a special campaign. The victory came on January 17,2002 when the government announced that the general elections will be held on the bases of joint electorates. All the minorities and major political parties except Muslim League (N) and Muslim religious parties welcomed the decision. Initially the government took away the reserved seats for the minorities in the National and provincial assemblies, which later on at the demand of civil rights groups were restored.

The elections 2002 and 2008 campaign showed that under the joint electorates minorities got respect and honor. All the political parties and the candidates have been
visiting minority community and had asked for their votes. Many political parties gave tickets to Hindus and Christian candidates on general seats.In the election 2002 From the whole country about 12 Hindu and Christian candidates contested elections on open seats on different party tickets. However only one Hindu candidate won the election on general seat for Sindh Assembly on the ticket of National Alliance.
All most all the major political parties including the religious right Muttahida Majlis-I-Amal nominated their candidates for the reserved seats.

Quaid-i-Azam’s views and the Objectives Resolution:

The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam in April 1944 said: “With regard to the minorities, we Muslims will not stand behind any civilized nation of the world.  I am sure when the time comes, the minorities living in different areas of our country will see that their Muslim rulers are not only fair but also generous and why not the tradition of Islam is like that.”

On the eve of independence he reiterated that the minorities will be given full protection in Pakistan no matter to which sect they belong.  Their religion, belief and faith will be fully intact and protected in Pakistan.  They will have sufficient protection for their religion, faith, lives and property and their culture.  They will be equal citizens of Pakistan enjoying equal rights without any discrimination of colour or ethnicity. 

However the obscurantist forces who were unable to move resolutions like Objectives Resolution in the life time of Quaid-i-Azam became active right after his death and moved the Objective Resolution in the Assembly under the leadership of Liaquat Ali Khan in March 1949.  This was the biggest attack on the minorities.  Through this resolution an attempt was made to make the non-Muslims second rate citizens of Pakistan.  This was an act of disloyalty to the Quaid-i-Azam and it logically resulted in Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorship and passage of the Blasphemy Law.  Opposing this resolution in the parliament, Suresh Chandar Chattopadhiya had said: “In our view this resolution is totally unnecessary.  What is important is that we prepare a Constitution not that we pass an ideological resolution explaining the aims and objectives of the constitution.  Until now we were thinking that the religion will not be mingled with politics.  Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had declared this in this very house.  But the resolution which has been moved now is based on religion.”  With the passage of the Objectives Resolution Pakistani politics became a part of faith.

Misuse of the Law against Blasphem

The blasphemy laws were legislated and subsequently made stricter to ensure protection to the minorities. But their blatant abuse have shown that even the Muslims were becoming victim of these laws. The most recent example is provided by gory murder of one Danish Robart  in Sialkot jail,here I also want to mention Yusuf Kizab murder 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 on 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.
The blasphemy law was enacted by the British to protect the religious sentiments of the Muslim minorities in the subcontinent against the Hindu majority. After the creation of Pakistan as the Muslims were no more a minority, the law should have been abolished. But it was made more stringent: Section 295-A was enacted in 1927 (Pakistan Penal Code). In 1980, Section 298-A was inserted. In 1982, Section 295-B was introduced. In 1986, Section 295-C was legislated. In 1991, life imprisonment was replaced with the mandatory death penalty in the Section 295-C.
When the blasphemy laws were not harsh and the Muslims were tolerant towards the non-Muslim minorities, the latter remained mindful of the religious feelings of the former. As the majority grew intolerant towards the minorities and the capital punishment was incorporated in the law, the cases of blasphemy started occurring more frequently. From 1948-1979, 11 cases of blasphemy were registered. Only three were reported from 1979-1986. Forty-four cases were filed from 1987-1999. In 2000, 52 cases were registered - 43 against the Muslims and nine against the Non-Muslims.
After Jinnah's death, the ruling elite embraced the Machiavellian politics of the colonial rulers and divided the nation on religious, sectarian and linguistic bases. The blasphemy law is an integral part of this baleful politics that has made Pakistan a deeply divided society. History is full of incidents that remind us of the great love, amity, unity, and affinity between the Muslims and the non-Muslims.
Every other day we hear reports of someone being charged of blasphemy and the judges on duty award death sentence to such people when the charges are proven.  In Pakistan the blasphemy law has often been used for settling personal scores.  President General Musharraf had announced amendment to this law but later he had to back out.  The higher court have not endorsed death sentence in any blasphemy case so far but the extremists have been misusing this law to harass the minorities.  Even if the allegations prove false the person leveling such charges is not punished.  Whenever such an incident takes place it harms Pakistan’s image in general.  Religious fanaticism is very common in Pakistan and because of absence of a political process people tend to use force and gun for settling the issues. 

General Zia regime and his legacy headed by Pakistan Muslim League created an environment in which murder in the name of Islam became a legitimate act.  A number of innocent people have been charged with blasphemy and killed in the name of Islam.  It is a fact that no sensible and sane person can ever think of doing any such thing.  Personal enmities can clearly be seen behind the blasphemy cases.  We find “personal enmities”, “fictitious stories” and “planning” behind the massacre in Shantinagar,Gojra,Sambrial and Bahmniwal.  The gory drama of murder and arson staged in Shantinagar is still live in the memories of the local people.  In Gojra and Shantinagar, houses of Christians were set on fire, churches were demolished, hostels for boys and girls were destroyed and thousands of copies of the Holy Bible were burnt right in the presence of the police. In Gojra innocent Women Children's and even animals burnt alive.  People have been killed and stoned to death in our country using the section of law 295 C.  How many houses have been destroyed to get a house in the heavens?

Political and civil rights

There is simple formula about the rights.  If political and civil rights are granted, economic, social and cultural rights automatically follow.  There is no country in the world where the whole population consists of only one ethnic or social group.  In all the countries several minorities groups are a part of their population.  The relationship between the minority and the majority is the yardstick through which we can judge the level of freedom in a particular country.  Rights of the minorities are important to all those people who respect human liberties.  No such country can be called a liberal democracy that does not recognize, enforce and respect the rights of minorities. 

When we talk about the rights of minorities the purpose is to promote a diverse society where people of various groups respect each other and are ready to learn from and understand each other.  Such interaction forms the basis of stronger relations between the people of a diverse society.  The awareness of rights of the minorities is increasing all over the world and this awareness in particularly increasing in the underdeveloped and extremist countries.  The most important right among the rights of minorities is to let them participate in the decision making process.

Unfortunately the minorities have not been given full political and civil rights in Pakistan.  Under the law no non-Muslim, no matter how intelligent and capable be, can’t become the President, Prime Minister, a senator, a governor or the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Many judges have been transferred from the high courts only because of their religion or sect considering the fact that holding this position they might become chief justice one day. The government must realize that the loyalties of the minorities cannot be won by depriving them of civil and political rights.  Rather those can be won by giving them more and more opportunities to make decisions about their future.  This diversity should not be taken as a threat but as an additional asset.  Only this can bring peace and harmony among various groups and people. 

Media, social prejudices and discrimination

If one glances the school textbooks or watches the programs at the state-run media they appear to be full of religious prejudice and hatred. The majoritarian view dominates in them. We find in our degree level textbooks that there are only two nations in the world: one the Muslims and the other non-Muslims.  Under such conditions national solidarity cannot be developed. The tragedy with the minorities in Pakistan has been that they are always viewed with an eye of skepticism. In every field they are treated with extreme indifference and apathy.  The plight and problems of the minorities have never been included in the national political agenda.

All the governments in Pakistan admitted their mistakes when they were ousted from power.  They also assured that the mistakes would not be repeated in future.  After being ousted from power the Muslim League (N) and Peoples Party realized that the minorities have been facing discrimination.  The code of ethics issued by the ARD at the time of its formation and the commitment it had made to the nation, also included the point that no one will be discriminated on the basis of religion or gender. 

One among various complaints the minorities have in Pakistan is that the Pakistani media has ignored them throughout the past  62 years.  The majority community owns most of the national press and the government controls the electronic media.  Our governments in the past used the electronic media only for disseminating their own views.

Religious and ethnic minorities and marginalized communities like haris (landless peasants), the newspapers often ignore kiln workers, children, women and rural areas.  As far as the electronic media is concerned, the doors of electronic media are closed for the minorities.  No programs about the problems of minorities are ever broadcast through the electronic media.  The attitude of Pakistani media towards the poets, writers, journalists and artists from the minority communities has been deplorable.  Journalists, writers and intellectuals cherishing the minority views are not given any opportunity to propagate their views

Poor Christian girls and women become target of religious hatred and are dishonored.  The culprits are not punished.  The nationalization of Christian educational institutions not only affected their performance but also darkened the future of Christian youth.  This has created a vacuum and a crisis.  The Christians do not get admissions in their own educational institutions.  Because of the religious discrimination and social prejudices intelligent people from the minorities move to United States, Canada and European countries.  In the jails minority prisoners are not given the same facilities, which the Muslim prisoners get.  When the government allots lands to the landless tenants, minority tenants are not given a share.  The rulers do not find it necessary to consult the minorities while taking any important decisions regarding them.  Instead of taking a critical view of their own thoughts, approach and policies the rulers prefer to adopt an uncertain and ambiguous attitude.  Whenever the minorities demand their rights, they are told that they enjoy the freedom and security to go to their places of worship and offer their prayers but now it is a question of rights and equal rights rather mere security and freedom to worship. 

Attacks on churches and Christian institutions: A new trend

After Pakistan’s decision to join the global war against terrorism some elements of the outlawed religious extremist organizations have launched a violent campaign to stop government’s moves to promote a liberal and progressive image of Pakistan.  First, Christian churches were their target but now the offices of NGOs have also being targeted.  Innocent Christians are being killed in these terrorist attacks.  Despite all the measures taken by the government, religious fanaticism is still prevalent in Pakistan.  From the Bahawalpur Church to the Justice and Peace Commission office and the Gojra, innocent people were brutally killed and burnt alive.  All these incidents have created a feeling of insecurity among the minorities.  Many more incidents of this kind are possible looking at the level of extremism in Pakistan. 

Relation between minorities and state

Any society becomes isolated when conflicts of interest among various classes and groups start deepening.  Among the societies of third world countries this isolation and indifference is growing very fast.  Avoiding responsibilities is the biggest indicator of this trend in these societies. An individual finds the meanings of his life in a political and social background but if the polity is indifferent towards him then the individual becomes socially and politically isolated.  Every individual and group creates meanings of its own existence.  If that is not possible then people get into social and political isolation.  The main factor behind this isolation and indifference is the society, which is based on injustice and inequality.  Separate electorates promoted an unjust society in which our political institutions and rulers had no contact with the minorities.  In an unjust society people tend to find refuge in regional, religious and ethnic loyalties rather than the national loyalties.  In Pakistan Sindhi, Baluch and Pathan nationalism, affiliation with ethnic, religious and minority groups gives psychological and social satisfaction to the people.  But these loyalties lead to divisions and further divisions in a society.  Because of this division and uncertain social, economic and political conditions no collective Pakistani culture has taken shape so far.  This cultural chaos has made people indifferent towards the society.  There is no collective objective nor is there any sense of collective responsibility.  So much so that we are not ready to even trust each other.  The concept welfare government emerges when through social evolution a society realizes that it is responsible for the fundamental rights of all its citizens.  Unfortunately, in Pakistan governments have never been responsible for the fundamental rights.  They excluded the minorities from the fold of Pakistani nation by introducing separate electorate.  The “prolonged silence” of the rulers over the problems of minorities is clear evidence that the relationship between the minorities and the state has continuously been that of disappointment, isolation and indifference. 

End piece:

The minorities will not get all their rights in a flash of time.  Continuity of political process is required for restoration of their rights and the entire nation must work for that.  We believe if the political process continues and proper laws and rules are there only then political violence, religious extremism and intolerance will come to an end and a liberal society can come into being.  A real democracy, which respects the rights of all its citizens, will get roots.  Democracy requires a collective diverse society and good human being are born in a diverse society.  The philosophy of nationalism develops only through this process. 

[Mr. Junaid Qaiser is secretary general of Pakistan Minorities Journalists Association]

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International Minorities Conference, 2009

Dec, 12th and 13th, 2009

Warris Road Lahore

(Compiled on 11th Dec, 09)

Need For an Electoral Reforms

 (A case study)ByProf. Kamran James

Department of Political scienceForman Christian College

(A Chartered University)Lahore   

                                       

 

1)  Honorable Syeda Abida Hussain, Former Ambassador to United States

2) Honorable Aitizaz Ahsan, Member Central Executive Committee PPP

3) Ajmal Niazi, Eminent scholar and writer

4) My very dear friend eminent scholar, National Poet, Political Analyst, Journalist, Nazir Qaiser Sahib

5)  Joseph Francis, council member Human rights commission Pakistan

 6) Chair man, All Pakistan Gurdawar committee

7) Mr. Arjun Das Amar, Co-ordinator Hindu minorities Pakistan

8) Kalapana davi Senior Advocate sindh

9) My Parsi Friends   

7)) Organizers and Officials of the Conference, Ladies and Gentle Men 

 Assalumo Aalikum! ,

I would love to code father of the Nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah

In a press conference in New Delhi on 14th July 1947 Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali. Jinnah said

“Minorities to which communities they may belong, will be fully safeguarded, their religion or faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have full protection with regard to their religion, their faith, their life and culture. They will be in all respect the citizens of Pakistan with out any distinction of caste or creed” (for reference see ideology and dynamics of politics in Pakistan by Muhammad  Asif Malik and Tamkeen Anjum, Gold Medalist )

It is quite obvious now that there was no leader in the sub continent of Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Caliber who fought for the political and constitutional rights of not only Muslims but and all suppressed minorities of the sub continent. In his “famous fourteen points” Mr. Jinnah highly focused on the minorities’ issue” as well.

From fourteen points see Point No 3,5,7,8 for reference

Point no 03 which says:

“All legislatures in the country and others and other elected bodies shall be constituted on the definite principle of adequate and “effective representation of minorities” in every province with out reducing a majority in any province to a minority or even equality”

Point no 05 says:

Representation of communal groups shall continue to be by means of separate electorates as at present provided it shall be open to any community, at any time to abandon its separate electorate in favor of joint electorate”

Point no 07says:

“Full religious liberty i.e. liberty of belief, worship and observance, propaganda association and education shall be guaranteed to all communities”

Point no 8 says:

“No bill or resolution or any part there of shall be passed in any legislature or any other elected body if three fourths of the members of any community in that particular body oppose such a bill, resolution or part there of on the ground that it would be “ injurious to the interests” of that community or in the alternative such other method is devised as may be found feasible and practicable to deal with such cases”

Once again it is a “highly appreciated step” of the previous government to introduce joint electorates” in Pakistan. Now the PPP government also decided to continue with it. But the minorities were shocked once again that the PPP government despite its promise has not fulfilled its promise to give due representation to the minorities in the upper house (Senate). 

 In his Speech of 11th August 1947 in the constituent assembly Muhammad Ali Jinnah has given the very clear road map regarding the new state of Pakistan and especially the “role of the minorities” in it.

Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah Said:

“We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community- because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis Shias Sunnis and so on and among the Hindus you have Brahmans, Vashnavas, Khatris also Bengalees, Madrasis and so on will vanish” (For Reference Please see Fifty years of Pakistan, By Prof Rafi ullah Shahab, Page 55 to 59 and Ideology and Dynamics of Politics in Pakistan By Muhammad Asif Malik and Tamkeen Anjum Gold medalist  Government Fatima Jinnah College for Women ) 

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah has a clear picture in his mind about the foundations of the new state of Pakistan that’s why Eminent Scholar  Prof. Zulfiqar Ali Maluka quotes Mr. Jinnah’s words in his interview to Mr. Don Campbell, the “Reuters correspondent” in New Delhi.

Prof Maluka writes:

“For instance in an interview he gave in 1946 to Don Campbell, the Reuter correspondent in New Delhi, he asserted : The New state would be a modern democratic state with sovereignty resting in the people and the members of the new nation having equal rights of citizenship regardless  of their religion ,caste or creed”( For reference See Page No 71 The Myth of Constitutionalism in Pakistan by Prof  Zulfiqar Khalid Maluka printed in Pakistan at Pan Graphics Pvt ltd Islamabad Published by Oxford university Press 05-Banglaore road town shahrae Faisal P.O Box Karachi -75350,Pakistan)

How ever the nomination of “Mr. Khato Mal Jevan” on the General seat for the senate is again a highly appreciated step of the PPP government.

 It could have been highly appreciated step of the government that along with the reserve seats of technocrats and women in the Senate, the minority seats could have been also   declared through the “legislation of the parliament” or through the presidential ordinance.  

 So once again the minorities of Pakistan are deprived of their legislative rights in the upper house (senate). The current electoral method of representation of the minorities through so called joint electorates in the (lower house) National Assembly is undemocratic and unconstitutional in its spirit, because it is “merely a selection of a few people through various political parties and not an election.  So these selected people are not the true representatives of the minority communities.

So there is an urgent need for an “electoral reform. Thus it’s very important that the government should introduce new electoral laws for the true representation of the minorities” 

  The beauty of a democracy is election campaign, banners, loud speaker, introduction of polices to the electorates, introduction of reforms and programs in the election campaigns. But unfortunately minorities are deprived of such activities

 So for the true representation of minorities obviously, free and fare election on the minority seats are important through joint electorates. A selection or nomination of few persons from the minority community is Undemocratic, unconstitutional and against the spirit of modern liberal democracy and against the spirit of representative democracy. Because these selected persons are not loyal to the minority communities and infact are not the “true representatives” of the minorities but actually they  are more loyal to the various political parties who selected them.  

 Now it is very important to take appropriate measures for the true representation of the minorities through “genuine joint electorates”. So it’s very clear that for the healthy democratic norms (Healthy democratic culture) the government should give the “Right of Double vote” to the minority communities on provincial and National level under joint electorate system (mechanism can be finalized through constituting a national commission on minority representation) because selection on minority seats” will not be healthy norms and is against the spirit of joint electorates and it is also against the spirit of modern liberal democracy and representative democracy.

So in other words people from the minority communities, I mean (Minority voters or electorates) must be given a right to choose their own candidates.

If we will not give minorities of Pakistan “A RIGHT OF VOTE” to choose their own candidates than how we will be able to inculcate political values, politcl awareness and political consciousness in them. How the suppressed and depressed minorities of Pakistans will understand the Power of a vote or Electorate.

   So the  Permanent and proper interaction between the various minority leaders and the minority voters or electorates is very important to address long standing minority problems (economic backwardness, lack of education, lack of pure drinking water and sanitation in backward areas. 

Now it is the “demand of the minority communities” to President of Pakistan “Mr. Asif Ali Zardari” and to the Prime Minister of Pakistan “Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani”  to please issue an ordinance or introduce a bill in the parliament for the true minority representation in the National Assembly and in the senate as well.

 It is also a fact that minorities of Pakistan have always supported Pakistan People’s Party because of its modern liberal democratic policies since 1970 and will continue to support PPP. The minorities believe that only PPP government can solve all the problems of the suppressed and depressed communities of Pakistan.

The Minorities also believe that following the step of Quad I- AwamShaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto” and “Shaeed-a- Jamhoorit Muhtarma Benazair Bhutto” and with the great and dynamic leader ship of President of Pakistan Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, very soon Pakistan will become a “Modern Democratic Liberal State” and the dreams of father of the Nation Quaid-1-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah will come true

I do agree with Muhtarma Benazir Bhutto that

“Democracy is the Best Revenge” and democracy means government of the people by the people and for the people so why the minorities of Pakistan is deprived of their right to choose their own representatives

It is also a matter of pride for the Pakistani nation that shahheda jumhooriat Muhatarma Benazir Bhutto was honored human rights award by UNO.   

 
             
                             
Photographs by participants and resource persons
 
More Photos
  International Refresher Programme on  
     
  Journalism beyond frontiers: Overcoming controls, disparities, injustices and domination  
     
  Lahore, Pakistan, From 22 to 29 January 2006  
     
     
  Report and Findings  
     
  Extremists, superpowers and neo-liberalists continue to devastate Pakistan and its innocent peoples  
     
     
     
 

1. Context

Seldom do journalistic organisations dare to initiate events in a country where extremism has become the order of the day. Though a journalistic programme is highly risky, it is very important to dare holding such noble ventures in view of the welfare not only of the people living in the country but also for the dignity of humanity at large.

The formation sessions brought together journalists and other intellectuals and activists from various sectors of peoples in Pakistan, South Asia and other parts of the world. The programme was highly solicited from all over the world, and at the same time had to be kept away from wider publicity for obvious reasons of safety and effectiveness. It was also important to assure the speakers that their audience can listen, analyse and judge for the welfare of all rather than react blindly.

And all the ingredients have to be set well in advance in spite of all the odds so that the event can have its expected results: getting to know the realities of Pakistan from those who love to see peoples of Pakistan grow, enable all those who are concerned so that concrete initiatives are taken on all levels, sustain all efforts for making information available from all areas, and take urgent actions when and wherever necessary.

The participants and speakers were committed to the ideals of the programme and they explored the theme through lively sessions on various issues and in various places. The event joined hands with the social and human rights activists as well as with those who have been struggling for numerous noble causes, such as the protection of women, children, the weak and the natural world as well as anti-militarization, fundamental freedoms, and the dignity of individuals and institutions. Together, they addressed the most important issues through various public gatherings.

This report brings you a summary of the findings, observations, plans and hopes for the coming years.

2. Theme and Keynote Speakers

The theme “Journalism beyond frontiers: overcoming controls, disparities, injustices and domination” was chosen in order to accommodate the most pressing issues. Keynote speakers were exceptionally frank and open, daring and friendly. The participants had the privilege and honour of listening to highly qualified experts: Dr Shafiq Jullandhry of the University of Punjab; former fighter pilot and now professor, Cecil Chaudhry; Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha of Lahore; High Court advocate Dr Khalil Tahir; Dr. Bonnie Mendes of the Human Development Centre; human rights activist Asma Jehangir, Amir (Head) of the Ahmadiyya community at Lahore Chudery Hameed Nasrullah; historian and analyst Dr Mehdi Hassan; community peace activist Samson Dilawar; education expert Tasneem Tassadaq; and Senator from Belochistan Sana Bloch.

3. Summary of Findings

There was a general understanding during the programme that the world should know what is happening inside the nation of Pakistan. Unfortunately, news sometimes fabricated about terrorism and extremism blankets out the really serious issues that need greater attention. Meanwhile, puppet politicians are under the control of powerful forces outside the country. Some keynote speakers strongly made the point that Pakistanis have become slaves of slaves.

3.1. Facts and Historical Mile Stones

Pakistan with its 160 million people is the sixth most populated country in the world. Sunni Muslims form 80 percent and thus the majority of the population. More than 15 percent are Shiite Muslims and the rest belong to minorities. More than 80 million live in extreme poverty.

It was the Muslim League together with United Kingdom that divided Bengal into East and West Bengal. In the same way, the United Kingdom and Muslim League created Pakistan dividing northwest Indian states. Pakistan was not founded on the basis of religion, though religion was used to create Pakistan. Later, the whole concept of the nation was shaped from one religious point of view. Like Israel, Pakistan has been shaped by religious dictates and not by social contracts. The president and prime minister have to be Muslims. This is the first and fundamental discrimination.

On 23 March 1956 Pakistan became republic. The constitution was abolished in 1958. A new constitution was drafted in 1962 giving some basic democracy in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan. In 1971, Bangladesh was born amidst bloody conflicts. A new constitution was drafted again in 1973 and the nation became Islamic Republic of Pakistan under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In 1984 Ahmadiyya Muslims were considered non-Muslims by law.

As Islamisation progressed, there was no room for free thinking, social rules, conventions and agenda. In March 1949, the parliament had passed a preamble to the constitution, in which everything has to be thought and accomplished only in terms of Islam. The worst Pakistani dictator was General Zia ul Haq (1977-1988) made this resolution part of the constitution after removing the word “freely”. He did this under martial law without the approval of the parliament.

Through the 8th constitutional amendment, General Zia ul Haq made everything he did legal and it was no more possible to challenge him in any court. And at present, Pakistan is struck with these laws and amendments.

General Zia ul Haq introduced religion-based separate electorates in 1979 and Blasphemy law and Khadiyani ordinance against Ahmadiyya Muslims in 1984 It favoured only extremists, not even ordinary Muslims. After 25 years of struggle, the separate electorate was abolished in 1994. But the indoctrination, disenfranchising and the denial of a vote damaged the psyche of the nation.

All these led to Pakistan where it is today.

3. 2. Frontline State for Opportunists, Militarisation

Speaking in terms of religion, Pakistan was used by extremist leaders inside and outside Pakistan to establish an Islamic State.

In political terms, Militarisation is the major enemy of the innocent. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and its super power members used Pakistan, even when it was not ethical or just, to form a military ring in the form of the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) around the former Soviet Union. CENTO members included Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom.; puppet kings were installed in Syria and Iraq.

This helped extremists to promote fundamentalism under the pretext of common theism together with Christian superpowers against the communist and allegedly atheistic Soviet Union. It was all “beautifully” interpreted as joining of theist forces against atheists.

This theist alliance helped Pakistan to qualify in spite of some of the worst human right records on earth for the Military Aid Programme (MAP) and the country began to become heavily militarised with the support of the US. This led to all types of weapons getting into the hands of Islamic extremist groups.

There are three major periods when Pakistan emerged and re-emerged as a frontline military state: (a) during the expansion of the Soviet Union, (b) during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and (c) the war against the Taliban, the war in Iraq, and the continuing search for the so-called Bin Laden.

Talibans were totally backed by Pakistan military, as they were Sunnite Muslims, the majority population of Pakistan.

And all these were very much in line with the tradition of the USA together with its allies creating monsters that turn against them: Soviet Union, Saddam Hussein and Ousama Bin Laden are just a few examples.

Like in the past two emergences of Pakistan as frontline state during the expansion of Soviet Union and occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet Union, a sword was hanging over Pakistan on even on 10 September 2001: everything was going against Pakistan. The country was at the verge of being declared as a terrorist state, “Madrasas” were everywhere, people were sent to Kashmir to fight, and nuclear weapons were developed. Mr Bush talked about Pervez Musharaff: who was that guy? And suddenly, 9/11 (attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001) changed the whole scenario. Mr Bush called Mr Musharraff his good friend.

Under the excuse of attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001, Afghanistan and Iraq were attacked in 2001 and 2003 respectively. These attacks are clearly seen in Pakistan as empowering Israel in its military might, bringing business and money to the USA, its allies, to Pakistani dictator Musharaff and his friends, as well as the best opportunity to continue militarisation of Pakistan and the continuation of military dictatorship.

Some of the resource persons and elected parliamentarians and senators affirmed that friends of Musharaff are not friends of Pakistan. People in Pakistan need water, shelter and food and not the present or future US military bases. As the present dictatorship wants to get Pakistan more militarised, all the chief ministers have to behave as agents of the president dictator. If any people try to simply demand their basic rights, they are considered terrorists. According these resource persons, Pakistan has been sold to USA and it is at Washington that the fate of Pakistanis is decided. Resources such as natural gas are stolen especially from the province of Belochistan – people of Belochistan are not paid anything for their own natural resources -- and the continued militarisation will gradually take everything from people and in some areas they are already chased.

The results of extremism and militarisation are illiteracy (more than half of the population is illiterate), falling levels of education, absence of free media (television is the worst enemy of literacy according to some experts), absence of freedoms on all levels and of civil society initiatives, military dictatorships one after another, extreme poverty, an information-starved society, absence of law and order, corruption, communal conflicts, discriminatory laws, violence against women, child labour, concentration of wealth, arms race, and brainwashing.

3.3. Illiteracy and Falling Levels of Education

Probably the biggest problem in the country is the illiteracy. According to some statistics, more than 75percent of the population is illiterate. Experts affirm that one can not trust national or international statistics as they would count any one who can figure out alphabets as literate, though they can not understand the meaning of a phrase or sentence.

Due to heavy Islamisation, illiteracy spread and Pakistan has become a country with few intellectuals. There is no place for intellectuals or intellectual exchanges. As Pakistan has become an Islamic state, Islamic laws are in effect. There is not even the possibility to debate basic human rights, international conventions or laws that would help regain the fundamental freedoms of people. Conversion is a one-way business: people can be converted only to Islam and not from Islam to another religion. There is no possibility for bringing education to the masses. One of the keynote speakers said that they were losing the battle of education and the level of education is going down due to an Islamic agenda, which promotes extremists religious schools known as “madrasas” where children are even kept chained.

In addition, due to imposed and frequent religious practices and popularisation of television, people do not have time or interest to read. One of the keynote speakers affirmed that television is the great enemy of literacy and television has done the most harm, as it is an instrument that can be easily used by extremists, politicians, superpowers and others.

And, in an illiterate world, print media has no place! And those who read or look at newspapers want more photos of scandals, attacks on persons and “juicy” elements. Actually illiteracy has helped electronic media to grow, not in the field of journalism but in the field of extremism, violence, entertainment, sports and others. Television has made people remain dependent forever.

Such environments are fertile soil for despotic rulers and extremist religious leaders to grow up and to bend rules and laws and even the constitution of a nation according to their whims and fancies.

There are very few good schools in Pakistan. There is no good education to analyse and synthesise, but to memorize everything. It is highly important that analysis and synthesis should help form the minds of children between 2 and 6 years so that they can develop rational thinking.

To make matters worse, in spite of the great absence of basic education, students are promoted and they even reach to do even masters in the universities. There they often stage protest walkouts when they do not simply understand things saying they are out of syllabus!! And very often, religious extremists who want to make troubles use these ignorant students to demonstrate and break things.

These are the people who man or woman government offices. Many of these offices are not computerized; they do not generate ample and varied information. It is these type of people a military dictatorship want to see. Pakistan is and will remain for a long time an information poor society. People have no possibility to make a right or wise decision and there is no concept of information economy.

3.4. Blasphemy Law

The worst ruler of Pakistan General Zia Ul Haq brought in without the knowledge of people the notorious Blasphemy law in 1984. Under Blasphemy law any one can be arrested under the pretext that he or she desecrated Islam even in an imaginary way: any one can say that somebody burned Koran, or a page by accident, walked over it, or its pages somewhere in a dirty market. Of the people arrested under this law are 70 percent Muslims and 13 percent Christians. The others are non-recognised Muslims and other minorities. Since the enforcement of this law, attacks against minorities have steadily gone up.

 

Blasphemy law has helped ignite all extremist religious flavours and zeal, that even the courts can not effectively intervene. If the court has taken a right decision and the extremist are not happy, the judges, the accused, their defendants are murdered outside the court.

 

The Blasphemy law gave rise to religious intolerance and to breeding ground for fanatics not only within religious circles but also within the police and military. Therefore even the despotic rulers are afraid: if they do not keep in line with the extremists, they can be killed. Under this law, no pictures of prophets such as Abraham and Moses are allowed to be exhibited, printed or distributed even by Christians who have honoured these prophets several centuries before Islam and in spite of the fact that Christianity allows them to reproduce their images.

Blasphemy law has given a shot in the arm to the extremists and the government is forced to guard mosques, churches and temples. Extremists take all the advantage of illiteracy and blasphemy law.

3. 5. Laws and Violence against Women

Violence against women and harassment of girls are on the increase together with the religious chauvinism, extremism and militarisation of the country. Statistics show that every two minutes a woman is raped in Pakistan. The worst of this phenomenon is that rape can be even “legal” according to some interpretations and in some contexts. In some places, women are gang-raped after decision of illiterate members of village councils. One of such cases has become international news bringing some attention to the fate of women in Pakistan and in the Islamic world.

The notorious Hudood ordinance against women presumes that the woman is always guilty and she has to prove that she is innocent. It is impossible or not possible to prove. According to this law, women constitute only half evidence. Under Hudood ordinance, rape victims are in jail because they can not prove rape. Without money they can not have a medical certificate. And even if they find money, because of threats, doctors would not dare to attend or give medical certificate to a rape victim to prove her innocence at court. Besides judges are prejudiced. And male domination is everywhere.

This law practically put women into a prison from their birth. Discriminatory laws like these gave birth to “honour killings” which is practised by chauvinists to cover up their other sexual relationships.

Extremist and discriminatory laws have reduced women to objects and slaves not only in Pakistan but also worldwide.

3.6. Child Labour

Child labour is another method of ensuring illiterate and submissive societies forever. It is on the increase. It is a convenient arrangement not only for extremists, but also for the rich multinationals of the world, who want to keep the major parts of the world poor.

Mostly rich nations, multinationals and their intermediaries employ children. They promote children rights only for their own children. Because of the big importance media give to terrorism, nobody get the news about children in bonded labour for many years.

The children are employed to make footballs -- one out of three footballs in the world and used at soccer tournaments are made by Pakistani children --, carpets and bricks. Some multinationals have attached schools to their factories to respond to human rights claims, but seldom children have the occasion to go there.

3.7. Corruption, Military, Dictatorship, Absence of Law and Order

Pakistan is a country where there are no rules, law and order or security. It is total chaos like in Pakistani roads where there are no traffic rules. The result is the survival of the fittest, such as army leaders and extremists.

It is a nation of dictatorship, corruption and injustice. There is no democracy, no true opposition. It is all popularly known as “Topy Drama” (hat drama, referring to military and business leaders becoming presidents and prime ministers and putting on the hat for the occasion). According to some analysts the whole purpose of Pakistani politics is to keep President Musharaff in his place. And no one free in this country, not even NGOs and human rights organisations. The landlords are partisans of this game. They live luxurious life in highly protected and vast areas. They behave as if they are above all laws.

And the USA and United Kingdom want first of all business and money, they support this type of people. The present Prime Minister of Pakistan is a Citibank employee who still draws salary from the Citibank.

Some years ago corruption was so general that banks, housing societies and co-operatives were all fake. People lost lots of money and the owners and managers of these enterprises are all wandering free and make even more money through cheating and illicit ways.

Those who become leaders or make money in this country are those who make noise or those who can convince illiterate people through tricks. For example, a man, who was selling fake medicines wanted to prove that he was serious. He pulled out his picture from his pocket and shouted: “Look at this picture, this is me and I am genuine!” People bought all the fake medicines from him and he disappeared to another town to make more money.

It is dangerous to touch the army as it has monopolised everything: election, weapons, business and politics. In this context, no one here expect democracy to have the order of the day but upper handedness. And no one here expects or is in position to work assuming that everything would be all right soon!

High courts, supreme courts, religious courts are all corrupt and no one believes that these institutions will help Pakistanis. They are set up to the enjoyment of a few rich and make them richer.

One main reason for not getting aid to the October 2005 earthquake areas is believed to be that fact that they were all Muslim areas and they were not allowing for many years non-Muslims to come and settle there. Besides, with the help of outside forces, most of the money allotted as grants for war against terrorism and support for earthquake victims are in the banks of Europe and USA. Even containers of blankets given to the earthquake victims are sold in the markets.

Those who hold this country in their clutches by military, financial and religious forces can all escape in any eventuality. Their homes, wives and children are all registered abroad in the Middle East, Europe and North America. They use this country as a market place, where only violence, corruption, trick and cheating are the norms. Even the leaders who were democratically elected are all outside the nation and they can not come back to the country under present dictatorship.

In a recent survey more than 95 percent of the people said that politics is cheating and it is a game for rich people. And where will the majority of this people go, if something happens in this country in the name of preventive war against terrorism, increased militarisation by demolishing villages and towns, storing the most sophisticated and dangerous traditional and modern chemical and nuclear weapons?

3.8. Media

There can not be democracy without good mass media or vice versa. Before print media came to existence, knowledge was monopoly of the elite. In Pakistan, we are coming back to this age, as majority of the media are in the hands of a few powerful.

The media in the country are totally restricted, as freedom of expression, freedom to know, and freedom of access to information are not guaranteed in the constitution of Pakistan. Newspapers are considered undesirable and dangerous objects such as firearms, alcohol and brothels. All these are in the same category and they have to get a licence as one get licence for firearms.

Like in the renaissance period in Europe, in today’s Pakistan printing can be treason against state as written word spreads knowledge, is easily consultable and can be reproduced by anyone anywhere.

And Pakistan has a tragic history of distorting media and not telling the truth to the people. When media can not reflect the will of the people and the reflect the society as it is, they can not help the advancement of a nation. Media was completely distorted and the needs of the people of Bangladesh were not made known to the public, and all these led to bloody conflicts before the liberation of Bangladesh.

It seems that the same history is being repeated in a different way in the province of Belochistan where the present dictatorship is building military bases with the support of USA.

Electronic media are completely corrupted. There is no journalism at electronic media. Television is purely used for advertising, entertainment, vested agenda and propaganda. Multinationals make media publicity boards and those media, which go for those unethical business make lot of money. And the illiterate are forced to buy televisions and sit and watch it like fools from 8 to 12 hours a day, as they have no agenda of their own.

Islamisation has made media Islamic. The private channels are Islamic. In addition, Islamic groups have influenced even foreign media such as British Broadcasting Co-operation (BBC).

The military and business friendship with the USA and United Kingdom (UK) has destroyed the media in the United States and UK which were silenced or “did not want” to give voice to a well-known gang-rape victim, as this would have hurt the feelings of Pakistani Prime Minister who was visiting the USA.

In these circumstances, some print media are trying their best to make a difference, defying the unjust status quo. They pay a heavy price as their journalists are detained without charge or even killed. Very often their publications and publishing houses are closed down or burned in the name of religion or national security.

In spite of these threats, independent print media and web publications mainly owned by human rights groups, minorities and citizens associations try their best to get the news from Pakistan to the world outside.

3.9. NGOs, Civil Society, Citizen Rights

Like the print media non-governmental organisations (NGOs) made great contributions to the development of the peoples of Pakistan. But many of them are manipulated like the media by religious extremists, superpowers and military.

A manipulated NGO has better possibilities for survival and access to money. This way many NGOs are created here only to get funds from abroad.

There are movements to create NGOs for awareness, rational and critical thinking in a country where people are fooled easily and led to blind emotionalism due to illiteracy and poverty.

The refresher programme was able to join forces to a few selected NGOs who have been trying to expose the brutalities in Pakistan supported by external powers.

3.10. Evils of Islamisation

Pakistan was gradually led to an Islamic state from its very artificial inception by religious extremists and money-hungry United Kingdom and the USA who wanted to sell weapons, fighter planes and ammunitions to two countries instead of one and later on three or more.

Such eternal “divide and rule” policy helped extremists to introduce Islamisation without much effort. Soon they introduced Muslim laws, forced women to stay within four walls, stoning, cutting hands and heads were introduced as punishments for silly mistakes, and minorities began to be eliminated.

Everything was interpreted according to religion and groups like Sunni Wahabi of Saudi Arabia began to shape the destiny of the nation. No liberal thinking was allowed, and initiatives other than Islamic was discriminated with militancy. They helped the formation of Taliban and then Al Qaida. Taliban means students of Islamic religion. Qaida is the first Islamic basic book for schools. Languages and vocabularies were shaped into Islamic mode and meant for conflict, war and killing. And US government supported many of these Talibans and Islamisation policies because they wanted to rally nations against Communist Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan and of course for their own interest.

Under the rigid Islamisation, one has to belong to the Sunni orthodox Islam. Otherwise he or she is discriminated. Discrimination came to schoolbooks and everything became Islamic. First lessons were on Islam. All syllabus, even mathematics became Islamic. Brainwashing was total. Pakistan became a nation with a discriminatory “psyche”.

There is no much place for public forums and other activities of civil society. They try to work in a very hostile and belligerent surroundings.

Under Islamisation and blasphemy law, extremists can get anyone behind bars at any time or executed for any reason and without proof. Terror reign has been established everywhere.

Islam and its mullahs intervened in all sectors of life: social, politics, cultural, business, educational and so on. Everything was seen under the eyes of Islam. Human person has no existence without becoming a Muslim and submitting to the extremist rules.

Islamisation stole the power of the people, abolished democracy, denied reason, and governed social and political institutions such as elections, parliament, judiciary and government. The mother of all evils was the separate electorate system.

It brought law to the hands of barbarians especially in states like Belochistan and North West Frontier Province where mullahs and landlords are the lawmakers.

Under Islamisation, girls are killed under the pretext of honour, and profanity is unpardonable. And it created the most corrupt rulers, the worst of them being Zia Ul Haq.

Islamic laws insisted four adult male witnesses to hear a rape case, even 1000 or more women do not equal to one male voice. If a Muslim rapes a woman, she has to become a Muslim.

If any court rules against the Islamic laws, the lawyers, judges and others are threatened with death. When two Christian boys were acquitted in a Blasphemy case trial as totally innocent, the two judges who ruled the case were murdered.

Qisas and Diyat is an Islamic way of settling cases with money, land or marrying. It favours Muslims and their extremists. There is no argument, rationality or analysis.

Islamisation is meant to keep people caught up in negative atmosphere: fighting against discriminative laws and violations against human rights. There is no time to undertake positive initiatives. Because of this there is a big vacuum for positive leadership in all areas: social, governmental, political, religious and cultural.

3.11. Peace Initiatives

Maintaining peace is not an easy option under these circumstances. The Christian Organisation for Social Action in Pakistan (COSAP) born under the circumstances of islamisation and militarisation found a solution. They invited minorities, human right activists, and men and women of good will to form peace committees on grassroots levels with peoples of all religions.

They initiated pro-active measures on all levels by bringing concrete contributions in the field of elementary education, clean water, sanitation and better living conditions for all irrespective all differences.

This could avoid attacks from extremists and stop, to a great extent, crimes committed against women and allegations against minorities. Where peace committees were not active worship places were burned, peoples were attacked during war in Afghanistan and Iraq in these last years.

When Iraq was invaded peace committees became strong instruments for making social harmony and inter-religious dialogue. They gave new dimensions to inter-religious activities by solving common problems such as drinking water for all.

3.12. Ahmadiyya Muslims

Ahmadiyya Islam was born in 1889. They lived as Muslims since then. They are considered Muslims everywhere in the world. In 1984, the Pakistani dictator General Zia Ul Haq made them non-Muslims by law and ordinance. Together with Blasphemy law and Khadiyani ordinance enforced since 1984, Ahmadiyya Muslims are no more recognised as Muslims. They are arrested for fasting, praying and attari (breaking the fast in the evening) as Muslims. They are not allowed to use words like mosque, masjid, Muslim, salaam and so on. They are accused of impersonation of Islam.

There are some 13’000 cases against Ahmadiyya Muslims pending in Pakistani courts since 1984. The Khadiyani ordinance and its laws are applicable only to Ahmadiyya Muslims. If a non-Muslim join fasting and attari, they are not arrested for violating this law. Under Khadiyani ordinance Ahmadiyya Muslim children can not get admitted in the schools, can not find jobs in government offices or military, or can not vote as Muslims.

Ahmadiyya Muslims and their mosques are attacked by disguised men as they themselves are afraid of attacking Mosques, Islamic writings and symbols. The Khadiyani ordinance and attacks against Ahmadiyya Muslims are themselves blasphemy and violations of fundamental Islamic teachings.

According to legal experts, the Blasphemy law and Khadiyani ordinance are mainly used to attack minorities, to liquidate any one, steal property, rape girls and for political purposes.

4. National Journalists’ Forum

One of the most important outcomes of this Refresher Programme is birth of the National Journalists’ Forum. The Forum is set up with the core group of professional journalists and their partners. Its inspirers and founders believe that in a confused state, it is journalists who have to show the way to the people and they have to go beyond all sectarian traps and interests.

The Forum plans to promote public debates, formation programmes and specialised training together with trustworthy partners inland and abroad. They have already received encouragement and moral support from many individuals and institutions, which care for Pakistan.

5. Feedback

Participants expressed their satisfaction in many ways as they refreshed themselves with open and frank presentations and debates. They said: We have learned more about our country in this programme than living here for several decades. We never imagined that Pakistani are very friendly people and we are very grateful that we could learn from them in a friendly atmosphere. The keynote addresses were brilliant, eye-opening and inspiring and they gave realities beneath propaganda and arrangements. It is highly important to organise such events on South Asian level annually and conduct programmes on specialised problems more frequently.

6. Future Plans and Solutions

The seminar participants from Pakistan and other countries of South Asia have drawn up an action plan to be implemented in their own countries where religious extremism take heavy tolls and lack of basic freedoms are denied.

Together with experts – journalists, lawyers, judges, professors, leaders -- in South Asian countries, they plan to work for better literacy, human rights and quick and easy access of information as the way to success. They know that the United Nations is not effective.

They believe that it is not the religious state but the secular state is the way for advancement. The fact that non-Muslims do not have the right to become president or prime minister of Pakistan itself is a brutal negation of democracy.

There need to be a greater alliance among countries of South Asia: Nepal, Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Maldives.

What can make an impact on peoples on these issues is the media and it is the press and the print media that play the biggest role in directing the nations to better destiny.

In contexts, where one cannot trust in political, business, military and religious leaders, people look at journalists. Journalists worldwide can be the most powerful allies in bringing liberation to peoples in Pakistan, in South Asia and in the world. Journalist should educate, guide and give hope to people. Journalists are and should be reborn as prophets.

 
     
     
     
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The situation of Christians in Pakistan

A brief report

By Fr Zechariah Ghauri

Pakistan is an immensely plural country characterized by religious, sectarian and ethno-linguistic diversities. It is an overwhelmingly Muslim community with more than 90 per cent of its 162 million inhabitants adhering to Islam, yet they belong to several doctrinal groups.

There are Christian, Bahais, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Kalasha, Parsis and Sikhs who identify themselves as non-Muslim Pakistanis.

Pakistan was envisioned as a progressive, democratic and tolerant society by its founding fathers, which, while retaining a Muslim majority, would give equal rights to its non-Muslim citizens.

On 11 August 1947, in his speech to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, Mr. Jinnah said:

‘… You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State … We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not so in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.’

This is considered to be the charter of Pakistan and summation of Mr. Jinnah’s views on the role of religion and the state.

Shift from Jinnah’s vision to Islamization

But, over the succeeding decades, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, the Pakistani state, rather than guaranteeing equal rights and equal opportunities to its Muslim and non-Muslim citizens, began to encourage obscurantist forces. The Islamicist forces in Pakistan have rewritten South Asian history to suit their religious views.

Many look to the role of individuals like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Zia ul-Haq, among others, who encouraged obscurantist forces.

Consequently, most Muslim Pakistanis know nothing of minorities’ significant contributions towards the making and defending of Pakistan. Academics and journalists have largely failed to report this vital information.

Constitutions of Pakistan

Other than the interim legislation of 1947 and the Objectives Resolution of 1949, Pakistan has had four Constitutions since its independence.

In 1949, a year after Jinnah’s death, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan introduced the Objectives Resolution. This document tried to placate the Muslim clerics and equally tried to establish Pakistani nationhood on the principle of religious conformity. Accordingly, the rules and regulations were to be framed in consonance with Islam, allowing a greater role for the ulama, who felt emboldened by this greater recognition.

The first was implemented on 23 March 1956. The Constitution largely reflected the spirit of the Objectives Resolution and officially declared Pakistan an ‘Islamic Republic’.

The Constitution of 1956, despite reflecting some religious concerns to appease the ulama, underlined the need for a parliamentary government. However, the military struck directly in 1958 and Pakistan entered a long era of military takeovers.

However, before its practical promulgation, it was thrown out by Iskander Mirza, the self designated President. He dismissed the Assemblies and imposed martial law on 7 October 1958, but within three weeks he had to surrender all powers to General Ayub Khan, the Commander-in-Chief of the army.

In 1962, General Ayub Khan promulgated his own Constitution, (Pakistan’s second). It retained the Objectives Resolution as the Preamble but dropped the word ‘Islamic’ from the country’s title.

In 1973, the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto-led civilian regime offered a parliamentary form of Constitution which, to date, remains the only consensus-based document. However, General Zia ul-Haq made radical amendments to the Constitution, affecting the civil rights of Pakistanis and especially non-Muslims.

Constitutional discrimination

The Constitution of Pakistan segregates its citizens on the basis of religion; and provides preferential treatment to the Muslims. While Article 2 of the Constitution declares Islam as “the State religion of Pakistan” and the Holy Quran and Sunnah to be “the supreme law and source of guidance for legislation to be administered through laws enacted by the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies, and for policy making by the Government”, under Article 41(2) only a Muslim can become President. Further, Article 260 of the Constitution differentiates “Muslim” and “Non-Muslim” thereby facilitating and encouraging discrimination on the basis of religion.

The Constitution is so glued to providing preferential treatment to the majority Muslims that even a Hindu judge has to take oath of office in the name of “Allah”. On 24 March 2007,  Justice Rana Bhagwandas, a Hindu, while being sworn in as Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, being the senior most judge after the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had to take oath with a Quranic prayer - “May Allah Almighty help and guide me, (A'meen)”.

Provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code, in particular, Section 295-A, Section 295-B, Section 295-C, Section 298-A, Section 298-B provide harsh punishment for alleged blasphemy. These blasphemy laws undermine some of the major provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan such as the fundamental right to “profess, practice and propagate his religion” (Article 20), equality before the law and equal protection of law to all citizens (Article 25), and safeguard the “legitimate rights and interests of minorities” (Article 36).

Blasphemy laws have been widely abused and mis-used to target the minorities and sometimes, to settle personal vendetta even among the Muslims. Those who faced blasphemy charges continued to live in fear even after acquittal by the courts.

Offences relating to religion in the Pakistan

The constitutions of 1956, 1962 and 1973 declared Pakistan to be an Islamic Republic and Islam to be the state religion but they guaranteed freedom of religion to the country's minorities.

Historically the most far-reaching steps towards Islamization were taken by President Zia-ul Haq (1977 to 1988) who introduced a number of Islamic laws and set up a judicial body to review all existing laws as to their agreement with Islamic laws. Laws and orders passed during the martial law years under President Zia-ul Haq, including those governing religious offences, were placed outside the scope of judicial review by the Eighth Constitutional Amendment of 1985.

During the first period of government of Benazir Bhutto (1988 to 1990) no further steps towards Islamization were undertaken. The next federal parliament, in which the Islamic Democratic Alliance (IDA, a coalition of several Islamic parties under the leadership of the Muslim League) of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (1990 to 1993) had a clear majority, in May 1991 passed the Enforcement of Shari'ah Act, 1991. It declared that "the Injunctions of Islam ... shall be the supreme law of Pakistan" and provided for the Islamization of education and the economy while ensuring that none of the provisions of the Act would "affect the personal laws, religious freedoms, traditions, customs and way of life of non-Muslims".

In elections in October 1993 the Islamic parties obtained considerably fewer seats in the National Assembly than in the two previous elections (Muslim League 72 seats, other Islamic parties 9 seats of a total of 217 seats) while the secular Pakistan People's Party obtained a clear majority and formed the government under Benazir Bhutto. At the same time, religiously motivated attacks on members of minority groups have been on the increase.

Amendments of laws relating to religious offences in the Pakistan Penal Code brought about under President Zia differ significantly from earlier laws in at least four ways. They do not specifically mention malicious intent to wound religious sensitivities as a condition of criminal offence and they provide significantly increased penalties. Moreover they make specific reference to Islam while the earlier laws were intended to protect the religious sentiments of "any class of persons". Besides, there is a distinct shift in emphasis: the newly introduced sections of the PPC do not make it a criminal offence to injure the religious feelings of Muslims, but rather define the offence in terms of insult or affront to Islam itself. The offences consist in defiling or insulting the prophet of Islam, his companions and family members and desecrating the Koran.

History of Blasphemy laws

The Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) of 1860 dates from the British colonial period; sections 295 to 298 of the PPC dealing with religious offences date back to that period and were intended to prevent and curb religious violence. The offences listed are: defiling a place of worship (section 295), acts insulting religion or religious beliefs (section 295-A), disturbing a religious assembly (section 296), trespassing on burial grounds (297) and utterances wounding religious feelings (section 298). These sections have in common that the intention of the offender to hurt the religious susceptibilities of others, is considered integral to the offence; they also share a universal application, whereby hurting the religious feelings of any group is made an offence.

Section 295 reads: "Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punished with imprisonment ... for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both."

Section 298 reads: "Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment ... for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both."

Still during the colonial period, in 1927, Section 295-A was added which read: "Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens ... , by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations insults the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both."

Zia-ul Haq's Islamization drive

Several sections were inserted in the Pakistan Penal Code in the 1980s. Section 295-B was added in 1982; it made defiling the Koran a criminal offence. It reads: "Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Koran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life."

In 1980, section 298-A was inserted in the PPC, by which the use of derogatory remarks "by words ... or by imputation innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly" in respect of persons revered in Islam, was made a criminal offence punishable with up to three years' imprisonment. In 1986, defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammad was made a criminal offence and the relevant section, 295-C added to the Pakistan Penal Code.

In 1986 the penal code was amended by Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1986, which added the blasphemy law under section 295-C to the Pakistan Penal Code. It provided the death penalty or life imprisonment for the criminal offence of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammad. It reads:

"295-C: Use of derogatory remarks, etc. in respect of the Holy Prophet: Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."

In October 1990, the Federal Shariat Court, a court set up in 1980 to "examine and decide the question whether any law or provision of law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam" (Article 302-D of the Constitution) ruled that "the penalty for contempt of the Holy Prophet ... is death and nothing else". It also noted that "no one after the Holy Prophet ... exercised or was authorized the right of reprieve or pardon."

The Court directed the government of Pakistan to effect the necessary legal changes and added, "in case this is not done by 30 April 1991 the words 'or punishment for life' in section 295-C, PPC, shall cease to have effect on that date".

Present situation

The widespread economic, social, legal and cultural discrimination against Christians is the major issue that needs to be addressed in Pakistan. Denying the existence of discrimination and prejudice against them and their present social and economic exclusion will only worsen conditions of the minorities, but will also threaten the emergence of the composite and cohesive Pakistani society.

The Christians participated in the freedom movement and played a vital role for the nation building. Unfortunately the official history of Pakistan does not reflect the role of Christians played in the establishment of Pakistan.

The historical facts regarding Christians and other minorities’ contribution are not mentioned or highlighted.

The minorities have been systematically denied economic, social and cultural rights. Their lands and properties including places of worship have been forcibly grabbed. The minorities have been denied the right to equal treatment and protection by the law enforcement personnel. Often, the police refused to register cases filed by the non-Muslims. 

Kidnapping, raping and forcible marriage of Christian and Hindu girls is a common practice in Pakistan. In case of arrest, the accused produce a certificate issued by any Muslim seminary that the kidnapped girls have voluntarily adopted Islam and the accused have married the girls. The courts generally do not consider the fact that the most of the girls are minor and simply accept the certificate of conversion without any investigation.

Many Christian families reportedly fled from their homes following a threatening letter received from Islamic militants at Charsada of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) on 8 May 2007 asking them to convert to Islam within 10 days or face dire consequences. In June 2007, Christians of Shantinagar village of Khanewal district in Punjab received similar threats to embrace Islam. The police often failed to provide adequate protection.

The religious minorities have been systematically excluded from the voters' list. On 12 June 2007, the Election Commission of Pakistan released a new voters' list for the upcoming general elections.

Some rights groups claimed that 20 per cent of non-Muslim voters have been excluded from the new voters' list. About 18 per cent eligible voters belonging to minorities have been struck out in the new voters' list in North West Frontier Province.

A mob of angry Muslims attacked Christians’ houses in Bahmani wala village in district Kasur of the Punjab province on June 30, 2009 after an alleged accusation of blaspheming by a Christian against Islamic prophet.

About 100 houses were damaged and valuables (gold jewelry and cash) were stolen by the attackers. Furniture and house hold articles were also smashed by the mob.

On July 1, 2009 a Christian youth, Imran Masih, was severely tortured by Muslims and then arrested by the local police for allegedly burning pages of Quran in Hajwary town area of Faisalabad.

Recommendations

Quaid-e-Azam’s speech delivered on August 11, 1947 in the first Constitutional Assembly should be made an integral part of the constitution.

Pakistan should be recognized as a multi-religions state in the constitution.

The state should provide equal opportunities and equal rights to all Pakistanis irrespective of faith, caste and creed.

Political parties integrate minorities in the party structures and also award party tickets to religious minorities from constituencies with concentration of their population.

Government should repeal sections of 295-B and C of Pakistan Penal Code which are a source of perpetual fear and insecurity to religious minorities.

Islamic Sharia laws should not be imposed on non-Muslims.

The textbooks should be revised and sections that fanned religious hatred should be deleted. The compulsory religious education should be made optional subject in educational institutions.

There should be provision for religious minorities’ students to attain marks the way hafiz-e-Quran is given extra marks or there should be no concession made on the basis of religion.

Minorities should be given equal space in media regarding their issues and religious programmes.

Measures should be taken to rehabilitate bonded laborers working in agricultural sector, small industry and at brick kilns.

A new population census should be conducted with careful focus to find the actual number of religious minorities so they could be given right and justified representation in the country’s affairs.


 

 

 
   

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