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Friday, 25 March 2011

Westminster Hall debate on Pakistan see a full transcript!

I describe the main points in brief to make it more digestible for our regular readers.

In the debate Andrew Stephenson (Conservative) - Chairman of All party Group on Pakistan, first described how 8 Parliamentarians including Andrew of course visited Pakistan and whilst there had meaningful discussions with Shahbaz Bhatti. He gave reference to Shahbaz Bhatti's determination to see The Founding father of Pakistan Jinnah's vision come to fruition quoting Jinnah:

"let all people worship freely in churches, masjids and temples."

Mr Stephenson went on to talk about Shahbaz Bhatti's effort to bring reform to Pakistan, describing his many achievements including attaining a 5% quota for Government employment posts for minorities. He informed the group of Shahbaz Bhatti's words in which he dedicated his life to;

"struggle for human equality, social justice, religious freedom, and to uplift and empower the religious minorities' communities."

Simon Danczuck (Labour) interjected and confirmed that he had also visited Pakistan as part of the Working Party on Pakistan. He seemed adamant on confirming that it was the abuse of the Blasphemy Law and not the law itself that was the essential problem. He felt that Pakistan was more progressive than originally expected.

Mt Stephenson then called for a wider debate in parliament on Pakistan and also clarified that their mixed views on Pakistan with some hope and some consternation in how the country is operating. He spoke of the unjustified incarceration of Asia Bibi and the Assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti. Mr Stephenson also described the Public condemnation of the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti and the 3 day national mourning set after his death and a two minute silence in Parliament.

MP Jim Shannon asked whether a strong message should be sent to Pakistan to advise them on the need to protect the Christian Minority. Mr Stephenson agreed stating:

"There are growing calls across the country from people of all faiths saying that we must engage more effectively with the Pakistani Government, and that the rights of all citizens must be respected, whether they are Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Christian or of no faith at all. The rights of all Pakistanis must be respected."

Andrew Griffiths MP (Conservative) - Vice Chairman of the All Party Group on Pakistan confirmed MP's across the UK have been receiving calls form the Pakistani diaspora in Britain calling for action. He asked whether Britain should ask the Government of Pakistan to ensure the voice of it's people is heard and to convey a message of condemnation.

MP Stephenson agreed that work on reform should involve all faiths, he stated that not only should the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti be comndemned, but called for reform of the Blasphemy Laws section 295c of the Pakistan Penal Code and a recognition of Shahbaz Bhatti's work.

Eric Orrelenshaw MP (Conservative) reminded the group that Muslims are also affected by the Blasphemy Law and suggested that we must highlight that the laws affect all communities to win over the minds of all Pakistanis.

Jason McCartney MP (Conservative) spoke of the need for peace in Kashmir.

MP Stephenson then spoke of his concern that no one ahd been brought to justice for the Killing of Shahbaz Bhatti or for Sangla Hill and other high profile incidents. He reminded the group of Catholic cardinal Keith O'Briens comment of an anti-Christian foreign Policy by providing aid to Pakistan with it's major human rights breaches. MP Stephenson did not believe that removing funding would be a good option but called for more funding to be redirected towards educational reform. He also said;

"The Government of Pakistan also need to do more to reverse the gun culture, to promote tolerance and to ensure that no part of the Government, the military or the security services appeases or supports extremists."

He thanked groups working in the field for highlighting the conditions for minorities saying;

"I pay tribute to organisations such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the British Pakistani Christian Association and many others, which do so much good work in promoting interfaith harmony and raising the profile of issues such as those I have outlined, which would rarely make it into the British press without their help."

In closing he commented:

"By focusing only on Christian and minority rights, I fear I have painted a fairly bleak picture of Pakistan and its future, but that was not my intention. With the right leaders, things can and will change for the better. The country has so much potential, and we need to work with it to ensure that issues such as those I have outlined are resolved. In doing so, we will ensure that Shahbaz Bhatti did not die in vain, but gave his life to make Pakistan a greater and more tolerant nation."

The is also a comment from Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt

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