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Friday 30 September 2011

Asylum Seeker rejected on spurious grounds - Part 2 Legal and social issues and misconceptions

Unruly lawyers smashing Police car not ones of these easily identified lawyers were disbarred form court?

The same legal fraternity in whom the UK Border Agency has great confidence harassed Christians' including Shazia Bashir's family outside Lahore Supreme Court.

If by authorities the BA means the legal establishment, then it again shows its ignorance of the nature of much of the Pakistani legal community. Some lawyers groups are to all intents and purposes Muslim extremist pressure groups in themselves, whom police are often afraid to go against, as witnessed in last year’s case of the 12 year old Shazia Bashir, a Christian girl who was raped, beaten an d tortured to death by her employer, a supreme court advocate. The police covered up the cause of death by falsifying the autopsy until the family ordered a second autopsy, and the police refused point blank to accept a report about the murder. Over 300 Muslim Lawyers boycotted the court hearing, smashed the court to pieces and prevented the family of Shazia Bashir and the Solicitors representing her family from entering the court. They attacked Police vehicles outside the court and hurled abuse and stones at Christians. Despite having video and photographic images of the Lawyers, when the Interior Minister Rehman Malik was questioned by Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA on why none of them were disbarred, the Minister simply responded “You are right, firmer action should have been taken.” A video of this response is viewable on the BPCA Blog site for your perusal:

If Christians cannot rely on the Interior Minister, the legal fraternity and the police who should they approach for assistance – the (now non-existent in both senses of the word – see below) Minister for Minority Affairs?
The Border Agency official then goes on to claim that with about 2 million Christians, they form a sizeable population in Pakistan, but compared to the 95% Muslim majority they are not in any way a sizeable minority. They used this ‘sizeable’ Christian population, along with the fact that several (non-religious based) NGO’s are relatively free to operate in Pakistan, to assert that it is relatively safe to openly be a Christian, whereas in actual fact a number of Christian organisations are forced to work underground. The BA report, from this summer mentions that the Minority Minister is a Catholic, without mentioning that he was assassinated 5 months before the report for standing up against the blasphemy law and persecution of religious minorities. Since this was a well publicized event even for the UK general population, the fact that a BA report takes such a disingenuous line is indicative of a systematic disregarding of the facts on the ground for Pakistani Christians which is utterly unacceptable in a body adjudicating asylum claims from that country. In addition, since the assassination, the Ministry for Minority Affairs has been dissolved, a very symbolic move that removed one of the few protective forces for minorities in the country. They mention one incident (Gojra) in relation to the blasphemy laws, but neglect to mention the many other victims of blasphemy law charges using false evidence. And if they only know of 8 incidents of false blasphemy cases, they must have used a VERY short reporting period. Clearly the BA is very out of touch with the reality on the ground.

They also try to back up their rejection of the asylum seekers fears by stating that some attacks on Christians ‘may be’ to do with the prevailing caste system, as most Christians are very poor and former Hindu untouchables. They state that since these social conditions do not apply to the applicant, his fears are unfounded. They totally ignore the fact that a) poor victims like Asia Bibi were not attacked because of their caste or position but because of their words in defence of their Christian faith and b) false accusations of blasphemy or attacks over the matter affect Christians from all walks of life and levels of wealth and influence. Blasphemy cases have ALL been fuelled by misinterpretations or jealousies and revenge, not social position. For instance the church that was forced to alter its church services was in Lahore, a wealthy city, not in a rural backwater.

A number of recent victims of murder over blasphemy or false charges were against wealthy individuals – for instance NGO leaders and a University lecturer and his wealthy son. Also the two assassinations of a Muslim and a Christian politician in the past year show that deaths over blasphemy affect the very highest class in Pakistani society. In addition, the caste issue is not really an issue here – in Christian and Muslim society in Pakistan the caste system is practically vanished. It is only in Hindu society that it is still an issue in any substantive way.

The report then returns to the fact that Christians have a ‘sizeable’ population in the country and assert the fact that because there are not large numbers fleeing the country therefore Christians are not under severe danger. This ignores the fact that there are great difficulties in getting visas, and that most Christians are very poor and illiterate so are not able to afford to flee, nor to negotiate the process. Many have quite simply lost all hope and endure, hoping they will survive. Also, due to the decades long conflict between India and Pakistan, the Indian border is very well policed and any Pakistanis are prevented from crossing the border. A large number of wealthier Christians who can leave have done so, even if not all of them claim asylum – as they have better resources and ability to remain abroad on other grounds.

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