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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

National Commission for Justice and Peace

An image of what a peace monument could look like in Pakistan. Read below!
Many of you will still be alarmed by the many stories and conflicting perspectives of what is happening in Pakistan, regarding the Shazia Bashir case. I too have been losing sleep and part of my mind over the whole process. I have eaten so little of late - worrying over the situation in Pakistan - that I have become quite emaciated.

As weak as I am from all the stress involved, I have been calling numerous agents in the UK, Canada, Denmark and Pakistan to uncover the truth.

After much research I finally managed to contact Mr Peter Joesph Chairman of the National Commission for Justice and Peace. In an absorbing and rather endearing manner, he calmly described the situation in Pakistan, using terms that in their simplicity made his report one that was easily fathomed and succinct. He had just returned from health treatment and thus our conversation was limited in time. He has however agreed to send me an email response tomorrow to finally put the matter at rest.

In our conversation it has been clarified that CLAAS had not been in attendance at the early court hearings despite, emails that would purport otherwise. However, it is believed that CLAAS have now appointed a solicitor who was in attendance at court today. I do not have the name of the appointed solicitor at this stage.

I have been exchanging communication with another correspondent from a Lead UK NGO. They too have confirmed that emails regarding potential failure to provide a solicitor for the Shazia Bashir Case, were received on the 5th February. Moreover, the communication highlighted that the reason for the difficulty in obtaining legal representation, was based on significant threats posed via the legal fraternity, who were backing Mohammed Naeem - their former president of the Lahore Bar Association.

In fairness, however the most eloquent Peter Joesph intimated in no uncertain terms, that the need for legal representation at the early court hearings, was not of paramount importance. The court process at this early stage, is only for application for bail and does not require a prosecution solicitor.

To have a solicitor present at the court hearing would have brought solace to the many amalgamated people, from different groups, who came to the court wanting to see a sexual predator and murderer dealt with rigorous punishment. This being said, I perfectly understand why solicitors would be reticent to unnecessarily represent Shazia Bashir's family, at a court hearing, that would see them suffer abuse, antagonism, and could result in significant physical and emotional stress. This does not justify the emails from CLAAS indicating that their representatives attended the court - a process that only increased community ire and consternation, whilst fuelling speculation and rancour.

It would seem that some parties have tried to benefit from the whole fiasco, which has caused significant turmoil, throughout the Pakistani Christian Community. The BPCA view is that now that a solicitor has been allocated, there is no need for us to continue a fund for a solicitor. Fortunately, we have not collected any funds from those who were to make donations.

We have now however, completed forms for a BPCA Bank Account now and will in future adopt fundraising for projects that we feel will benefit our community. A constitutional change was also adopted to facilitate fundraising. It is still our intention to raise funds for a community peace monument in Islamabad, near the college at which Pervais Masih died trying to save the lives of the girls studying there. So do keep your eyes peeled. This will highlight his great personal sacrifice and should promote the futility of segregation and need for harmony amongst people of all ilks.

During my discussions with Peter Joeseph he too intimated the need for internal harmony within NGO's and other parties. The family of Shazia Bashir have suffered enough without being part of a community rift. We need to support each other at a time that our community in Pakistan is awaiting a judgement that could either be devastating to the overall climate for political reform in Pakistan, or launch equality and justice to a much higher platform.
Two things that have come out of the recent flurry of activity are that we have raised the profile of this case which has now been broadcast on Premier Christian Radio, Sunrise and many other mediums. Moreover, we have certainly made it know to our NGO's in Pakistan, that they now have to play ball our face significant public scrutiny!

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