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Wednesday 30 November 2011

EU Conference called for "Protecting Minority Rights in South Asia"

EU Parliament in Brussels

Global Human Rights Defence in collboration with MEP Cecilia Wikstrom and the ALDE Committee of the EU, have invited the BPCA's Wilson Chowdhry to participate at an EU CONFERENCE termed "Protecting Minority Rights in South Asia".

The Event will be held in the EU Parliament at Brussels on December 8, 2011 starting at 09:00 and concluding at 13:00.

Key speakers are Taslima Nasreen, Bangladeshi writer in exile, and winner of the European Parliament Sakharov Prize, and Anuradha Koirala, awarded CNN hero 2010 for her work against human trafficking in Nepal.

The event, in celebration of International Human Rights Day, brings together human rights defenders from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Bhutan to address European representatives, MEPs, policymakers and NGOs.

A platform such as this is a real opportunity to challenge for a sterner approach from Europe with regards to Pakistan's Abysmal record for human rights.

Please pray for understanding and wisdom to be poured abundantly over Wilson Chowdhry our delegate, pray for MEPs to have a tenderness of heart for global persecuted minorities and pray for a positive conclusion, that may shape a more harmonious future for all who live in South Asia.

As an unfunded group we rely on donations from those who appreciate the work of the BPCA. We would appreciate any assistance towards the finance for this important delegation. We are seeking donations towards the travel costs, any offer of a place of residence from Christians living near Brussels or donations towards an overnight stay.

If you can assist please make contact or send donations via our Paypal link at the top of this blog, or by cheque made payable to the BPCA at

C/O A.A. Security Ltd
57 Green Lane

Sunday 27 November 2011

UKBA - a question of credibility part 1

Recently murdered Christian from asylum seekers neighbourhood
BPCA wishes to highlight yet another case where we consider the UKBA to have reached an unfair decision to reject an asylum claim of a Pakistani Christian family who have fled religious persecution and threats. The case is that of Mrs DZ (name not allowed to be published due to legal reasons) and her family (husband and teenage son) who come from Karachi. Her husband, an electrical engineer / teacher, also did evangelistic work by manning a stall selling Christian books and pamphlets.
Please sign our petition:
By way of background, Karachi is one of the most lawless cities in Pakistan, with multiple murders and political violence by various factions. One violent Islamist group that operates there is Sunni Tehreek. To give you some background, the Drigh Road area where Mrs DZ and her family attended church was once prominently Catholic but once the nearby Karachi international airport expanded, property prices rose such that they became commercially attractive and Muslim mafias continuously threatened and threw out the poor Catholic inhabitants to gain the properties, forcing them to take a pittance for their homes. In August 2011 Islamic militants shot dead a Christian man there, Arnold Archibald Dass, quite possibly due to the location of his property. One such violent Islamist group that operates in Karachi is Sunni Tehreek.
In 2009 Mrs DZ’s husband led two of those militants to Christ, and they were baptised in late November 2009. The baptisms did not go down well with Sunni Tehreek, of course, and the local secretary investigated and found that Mrs DZ’s husband was responsible for their conversion. Just before Christmas 2009 a number of Sunni Tehreek militants came and tore up and desecrated a number of holy books in the stall, beat Mrs DZ’s husband and threatened to kidnap his son and wife if he did not stop his evangelizing. After consulting the local priest, a couple of days later he went to report the incident to the police (something that Christians are reluctant to do, due to the propensity of the police to deal harshly with Christian victims and even accuse and arrest them). Shortly after Christmas, the husband went to the police station to ask for protection, but he was arrested instead. The reason was that the local Sunni Tehreek secretary had claimed the victim had gained forced entry to his house, pulled out a pistol and threatened and injured him and beat up his children. The police demanded a sizeable bribe for his release, which Mrs DZ was able to pay by using up all her savings and borrowing money from relatives. After his release, the authorities told her husband to flee the area or else he would be arrested again. A few days later, the family did so, spending some months with relatives in various cities in Pakistan, but, without their support network in Karachi and given they were in hiding, they had no means to support themselves, especially given they had used savings to pay the police bribe.
Mrs DZ has a sister in the UK who’s son was getting married, and the family had already applied for a visit Visa to come to the UK. However, due to their suddenly straitened circumstances, it took them a long while to raise the cash needed and in addition, their original visa application was rejected, although they won an appeal on the issue. In the meantime, her husband had to go back to Karachi several times to sort out paperwork and other affairs. In his brief time there, he was accosted by militants and told to leave or else he was killed. Also neighbours told the family that people had been prowling around the house looking for the husband. The family had not told her sister that their lives were in danger, but did so a few days after finally arriving (in early 2011), and her sister and brother-in-law (a church minister) advised them to seek legal advice which they did, going on to make a claim for asylum.
The original claim was rejected, for various reasons whereby Mrs DZ’s credibility was called into question (in other words, they thought she was lying). By the way, we refer to Mrs DZ more than her husband because she was the primary claimant, although she was not the primary victim. Part of the reason was that her husband was quite seriously ill. This was one of the reasons given later on for turning down the families application – the husband was sitting at the back at the hearing and never said anything, but right from the start it was Mrs DZ who was the primary interviewee who is chiefly mentioned in all the documents. Another reason was that they didn’t enter the UK until four months after the visa was granted (although as we have seen, having used up savings to bribe police might have something to do with that....). Another reason was that Mrs DZ, (who also has some quite significant health problems), when recounting the threats against her husband, stated in her interview that her memory was hazy as to dates and couldn’t remember the year. The substance doesn’t matter, just the date, to the UKBA, and the irony is, she was going from memory and was condemned for not remembering the year, but the UKBA official rejection letter (who had all the official documentation wrong) repeatedly wrote wrong dates at just this very section of the rejection letter! Duh! The rejection decision repeatedly refers to this error in dates as a basis for rejecting each part of their central case, even though Mrs DZ had clearly said in the initial interviews that she may have mixed up the year, but clearly stated when it had happened in relative time. It seems that quite often UKBA deems peoples credibility to be suspect when actually it is the UKBA’s credibility in correctly recording factual information that is suspect.
Another rejection reason was that supporting translated affidavits by members of their church (including the priest, Father Joseph) contained exactly the same wording as each other, simply stating that Mrs DZ’s husband had witnessed to Muslims and that his life was in danger if he returned from abroad. However they were dated April 2010, 10 months before the family arrived in the UK. It was however, shortly after they launched their ultimately successful appeal against the visa decision. Mrs DZ says that she had thought it wise to get something from the church committee members to support her story, and that they are all good people of integrity who would not lie – one of them is the priest of their local parish church. Her brother in law supplied arranged for the affidavits to be made and sent them on when the family arrived in the UK.
Also the fact that they claimed asylum shortly before their visa was due to expire was considered suspicious.
The family appealed the decision which was rejected. Even though at one point the correction about dates was accepted, the appeal decision still claimed their credibility was undermined because her husband returned to Karachi to sort out paperwork for escaping the country. The UKBA further claimed that the fact that the family could fly out of Pakistan unimpeded showed that the arrest warrant could not have been genuine – a rather ridiculous claim which they have made in another recent case – and shows a touching faith in the integrity of the Pakistani border control system. Perhaps UKBA should take tips, if they think Pakistan’s border controls are so robust! After all, the UKBA has lost track of at least 400,000 entrants to the UK by its own admission. It might mean that they can stop letting in banned terrorists and fulfil the Home Secretary’s orders, instead of throwing out victims of persecution. Besides, Pakistan is quite happy to see non-Muslims leave the country. In addition, the UKBA repeated its usual mantra that it is really only converts that are at risk, not those born and raised Christians, but quite frankly, given the litany of attacks we and other groups document on those born Christians, this line is getting rather tired, even if it is true that converts are in more danger. And if converts are in danger, how much more so those who convert them?
Another reason was that a letter and an email they supplied from a court official / advocate in Pakistan about the charges and that said Muslims were angry and that they should not come back from Pakistan, was deemed suspect. Apart from the poor English, the letter head gave as the advocates contact email a yahoo email address. The solicitor claims that it should have been an official government email address. While we cannot comment directly on this particular evidence, the BPCA would like to note that it has had email correspondence in the past from a quite senior Pakistani official who has chosen not to use their official government email but rather their personal email address while conducting their business.
Unfortunately, the appeal was rejected. Some reasons were quite ridiculous. Because her husband gave his trade as electrical instructor, the appeal-decider claims it was not credible that he also sold religious books. This was despite the fact that in his original interview he mentioned his work for the church, including being an instructor for the YMCA. Hello? Can people not have more than one job or role. How many UK citizens have very different jobs. What a great reason for rejecting an asylum claim. It also states ‘there is no independent evidence to support... the claim that he was involved in converting Muslims to Christianity’. No independent evidence except the sworn affidavits of three church members, including the priest, but as we have seen before the UKBA is adept at dismissing evidence it doesn’t like and then claiming ‘there is no independent evidence’. There were stronger (but wrong) reasons for the rejection of the appeal. They noted that the arrest warrant provided had no reason, just a reference to an earlier FIR which the court did not have. Therefore the court claimed that the threats by Sunni Tehreek never happened, and that the husband had not gone to the police for protection and failed to receive it. The conclusion was that the family invented the incident to try and get into the UK, and that they had not been persecuted in past and that they had no future fear of persecution if they return (again by rejecting the evidence and then saying that ‘there is no evidence’). For those of us aware of the situation in Karachi, this is laughable. BPCA knows of a number of (born) Christians who are under grave threat in Karachi for continuing Christian activities. At least one senior Christian cleric in Karachi has seriously thought about claiming asylum in the UK in recent months after death threats against him and his family, but has bravely decided to continue his work for God’s kingdom.
However, there was a problem with the rejection of the arrest warrant evidence. Firstly, an FIR can count as an arrest warrant, (so a warrant referring to an FIR as a reason is quite acceptable), but also the court should have had the original FIR. Mrs DZ had submitted it to her solicitor, and been repeatedly reassured that it had been sent as evidence to the court. Mrs DZ later found out that instead the solicitor had not done so, but closed her file and then gone on maternity leave. Mrs DZ believes that this was a deliberate act to spoil her claim as the solicitor was a Muslim and was a continuation of the Islamic persecution she was seeking asylum from. The solicitors claimed that they did not submit it because they only had a translation, and thought it would undermine her case. The letter and an email from a lawyer in Pakistan that accompanied the copies of the FIR were deemed suspect. Apart from the poor English, the letter head gave as the advocates contact email a yahoo email address. The solicitor claims that it should have been an official email address. While we cannot comment directly on this particular argument, the BPCA would like to note that it has had email correspondence in the past from a quite senior Pakistani official who has chosen not to use their official government email but rather their personal email address while conducting their business.
The BPCA has seen both copies of both original FIR’s, and the translations. We don’t see any particular reason why they cannot be genuine, although the UKBA does claim that many supporting documents are forged or the result of people instigating criminal investigations against themselves.
See more in Part 2

UKBA - a question of credibility part 2

Damage after fatal bomb attack on Karachi Catholics

Continuing on from Part 1 where we talked about the circumstances of Mrs DZ's initial rejection and her appeal

The family launched another appeal, which again was denied, even though they supplied further evidence, including a letter from their parish priest, Father John Joseph Paul, stating that Mrs DZ’s husband was an active street evangelist who had a stall selling Christian books. This was simply rejected as not relevant by appealing to the earlier appeal judges ridiculous assertion that because he gave his trade as an electrical engineer he had to have been lying about his street stall.

A further reason for casting doubt on their claim was that it took some time before the police documents were sent to Mrs DZ. However, in BPCA’s experience this is not at all unusual or suspicious. Police in Pakistan are reluctant to supply such documentation for fear that external agencies might uncover their corruption or poor standards. Also discrimination means that Christians are treated as of no value – items free to Muslims have to be paid for by Christians. Delays due to backlogs are rife in general, and Christians more likely to have their cases languish in those backlogs.

Another reason given throughout is because the husband had said at his initial screening interview when asked if had been arrested. This is a pattern we have seen before with UKBA. Given that the main point of the claim was a false arrest, if I was asked this general question (are you wanted by authorities / have you been arrested in any country) I would assume they would mean anything else, and would answer no, too. The UKBA and the appeal judge both used this to assert his testimony contradicted Mrs DZ’s testimony and therefore totally undermined their credibility. For instance, in the infamous case of Asia Bibi a wait of a further 2 years is expected simply due to the fact that a huge backlog of court cases exist and political anxiety. In 2001 in a Foreign office report on Pakistan Human Rights and Democracy, the section on ‘Access to Justice’ states :

The justice sector in Pakistan is under-trained, often politicised, corrupt and under-resourced. The courts currently face a backlog of more than 1 million cases. Successful convictions are rare. Police investigations are often seriously flawed, based on allegation rather than evidence, and trials cannot be described as either fair or free in many cases, being marked by delay and intimidation. The government has made little progress on a comprehensive national strategy towards improving the situation, instead focusing on ad hoc measures such as increasing police salaries in Punjab. This is in part because the responsibility for formulating and implementing policy rests with the provincial rather than the federal-level government. The chief justice of the Supreme Court published a national judicial policy to tackle some of these issues amongst the judiciary in 2009, which in 2010 achieved a slight reduction in the huge backlog of cases.

It is notable that almost all Asylum applicants who instruct the BPCA to produce reports obtain Police information post-entry to the UK. The BPCA believes this to be due to increased boldness from victims who press Pakistani Police for data in the safety of the UK and an enhanced fervour on behalf of the Pakistani Police, faced with international scrutiny.

We have some other concerns. A previous Asylum case (name withheld) brought to our attention in August 2011 contained a report by a Daniel Price from the UKBA, in which he spoke of a sizeable community of Christians in Pakistan he incorporated data from the COIS report 2011: “Christians, officially numbered at 2.09 million, claimed to have 4 million members…” In the Reasons for Refusal letter sent to Mrs DZ the figure suddenly is definitely 4 million. However the UKBA fails to recognise that although the majority of Christians reside in the Punjab, it is an expansive area and hence the communities are very small in size when compared to their Muslim neighbours and thus very vulnerable. Taking official population statistics and using the larger 4 million Christians figure, they still only total 2% of the population. This is hardly sizeable. This tiny population has no weight in deciding political futures even when block voting, and thus has been overlooked by politicians. This has allowed unruly, extremist, jealous or simply sadistic groups or individuals to freely abuse Christians and other minorities with an impunity that is bolstered by the knowledge that systematic and cultural bias is in their favour.

BPCA asks would it be fair to send back this actively Christian family back to Karachi, especially in light of the scale and manner of the anti-Christian attacks in Karachi in February 2010 where Christian houses were shot at, Christians were indiscriminately beaten, their vehicles vandalized and their houses, shops and churches destroyed. Does the UKBA really think that the animus has really died down since then, given the continuing attacks since then (witness the recent murder of A Dass referred to earlier in the very city district this family attended church)? We submit that Karachi is a dangerous city for anybody, but especially for someone accused of converting Muslims, and especially Muslims from a terrorist group, to Christianity.

The UKBA, despite dismissing the family’s statements as ‘not credible’ then goes on to say that there should be no problem with the family relocating to another area of Paksitan, as their alleged problems were only with the local chapter of Sunni Tahreek. Hello? Does the UKBA not know of recent inventions called email, internet and mobile phones by which photos, news and intelligence can rapidly be passed from one area of the country to another, and from one branch to another? Given the animus against those who convert Muslims to Christianity, relocation would at best provide a very fragile and temporary relief. They survived at other locations only because they were in hiding, and did not go out to make a living. As soon as their ID’s are exposed, they would be at risk wherever they went in Pakistan, and not just from Sunni Tahreek. The fact is that Christians are discriminated against across the city. Mrs DZ and her family could make a living in Karachi precisely because they over the decades built up a support network there, but to start afresh elsewhere would mean great difficulties because they would not have such a network. The reason is that everywhere they go their de facto second class status is announced by their passport / Shanakti (ID) Card, necessary documents required to obtain education, employment and travel, and which has ‘Christian’ written on it.

Christians frequently can only find work with Muslim employers through bribes. For instance, the brother in law of Wilson chowdhry was required to pay £50 for a job as a trainee chef. He had a 2 week unpaid trial period where he was continually pressed to join Muslim prayers. He refused, and daily arguments started over it. This meant he feared a blasphemy case being laid against him, so he resigned his post, and lost his ‘rishwat’ or bribe as a result. This is typical of what Christians suffer in Pakistan, and how much more Mrs DZs family when they are accused of converting Muslims. The UKBA claims that this family could return to Pakistan together and enjoy family life. BPCA thinks ‘enjoy’ is precisely the wrong word – their family life would be riven with anxiety and depression and fear – they have little hope of any enjoyment, only of continued persecution and inequality. The FIR submitted by their persecutors makes quite clear what they face if they go back home – in it he openly states that he called the victim a kaffir – a very derogatory and threatening term, and says that if Mrs DZ’s husband did not stop evangelistic activity then ‘trouble would come to you’. Even in the false FIR, the attitude and contempt of the persecutors is made quite clear.

BPCA would like to express their extreme dissatisfaction with the central denial of credibility in the UKBA decision, that of the mix up of dates. Recalling dates is difficult in most circumstances - but even more so when undertaking an intense interview in a second language, with your future safety in the hands of the interviewer. Moreover, Mrs DZ is a Pakistani woman and will not be used to such situations. Her father would have been her protector in her youth and her husband after marriage. This is a common trait in Pakistani culture and should have been taken into consideration when her solicitors called for her husband to become the primary applicant. Like it or not this is a simple truth that prevents an accurate understanding of this Asylum application. And the UKBA is hardly one to talk about wrong dates undermining credibility. A stressed woman under such pressure can be expected to get confused about dates, but the UKBA had no excuse when they got their dates wrong in an official document when they had paper evidence to hand.

Once again we find that despite massive evidence of minority persecution in Pakistan the UKBA continue to deport the poor victims who successfully escape from the turmoil. In closing we reiterate that the events in this report highlight the inconsistencies between existing equality legislation and its practice in Pakistan, something the UKBA should pay much more heed to and bear in mind this quote from Henry David Thoreaux:

The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free.”

Friday 25 November 2011

Michelle Chaudhry Daughter of Cecil Chaudhry condemns the recent PTA move to ban words such as "Jesus Christ" from texts!

Recently the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority made a decision to ban perceived "obscene" messages:

Michelle Chaudhry Executive member of The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and Executive Director of Iris Foundation commented;

THERE has been much talk about PTA’s intention to block text messages containing ‘obscene’ words. More than 1,600 words have apparently been declared obscene, indecent, vulgar and offensive by the PTA, and telecom operators would be required to filter these words out of text messages.

Among the proposed list of ‘obscene and indecent words’ I was horrified to see the name of Jesus Christ. Why does Jesus’ name need to be banned? Is it an abusive, obscene or indecent word?
Being a Catholic I not only take strong offence to this action, however it also questions my knowledge of Islam: a religion which holds Jesus Christ (Hazrat Eesa) in very high esteem, is this not against Islam?
There has also been much talk about taking legal action: challenging the ban in court, saying it violates rights to free speech and privacy.

My question is, does this act not also fall under the ambit of blasphemy? Is this not an offence under Section 295A which, according to the Pakistan Penal Code, states: “Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”.
Whether implemented or not, the mere fact of Jesus Christ’s name being grouped with obscene and indecent words, has outraged my religious feelings and has insulted my religious beliefs by terming the name of my Prophet ‘obscene and indecent’.

Is to be understood that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws termed as ‘divine laws’ by radical Islamic religious leaders are only to be used to victimise the vulnerable, downtrodden, marginalised, religious minorities in Pakistan?

The blasphemy laws have long been misused against religious minorities to settle personnel disputes, which have resulted in innocent victims being sentenced to death for crimes they could not even imagine committing.
Furthermore, anyone who dares to raise a voice against the misuse of these laws or who have tried to propose amendments to curb the misuse have ruthlessly been silenced. The assassinations of Federal Minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer are two such recent examples.

We, the religious minorities, get discriminated against, and are victimised, our religious sentiments are hurt and nothing happens, no action is taken.

Although the PTA has not announced any date for the implementation of the ban, it must issue a public apology to Christian citizens of Pakistan for including Jesus Christ’s name in the list of offensive words and immediately have the name removed from any such list.

I would also like to commend the action taken by Saleem Khurshid Khokhar, a Christian MPA of the Sindh Assembly and Senior Executive Member of The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, on this issue.

Thursday 24 November 2011

A Sweeping Injustice

Christian Sanitation worker in Pakistan :

A recent article in the Christian Post contained some insights into the life of a great many Pakistani Christians - those who work as street sweepers and sanitation workers.
It deals with several incidents we have covered before, but gives some general detail that highlights the situation of a large number of Christians in Pakistan. It shows the contempt for Pakistani Christians by many of the majority population.
For instance, in 2009 an incident with a Christian bus driver called Sardar Masih in a village just south of Kasur on the border with India led to the whole Christian community having to flee. He asked Muhammad Hussein to move his motorbike which he had left in the middle of the road. Hussein refused, asking how could a 'Chuhra' (sweeper) give him an order. The argument grew into a brawl between two families, and (surprise, surprise) the Muslims accused the Christians of committing blasphemy. The entire Christian population of the village had to flee.
Earlier this year, we reported on another incident in which a Christian street cleaner was stabbed to death by a Muslim shopkeeper with the words 'How dare a Chuhra argue with me?' This was after telling the sweeper, Abbas Masih, to pick up the dead leaves and flowers outside his flower shop, and Masih had said he would do it in a minute after finishing off the other end of the street. The shopkeeper stabbed him in the heart, and he died on the way to hospital. The police only filed a First report on the case after Christian leaders protested.
Masih worked for Solid Waste Management for 16 years, but his family got no compensation, even though he should have been entitled to it by law. Why? Well, temporary workers don't get paid holidays, no benefits, no rights to health care etc. And Masih was a 'temporary worker' because SWM treats its Christian employees as temporary workers by firing them and rehiring them every 88 days. His family were too afraid to file a complaint because of the police notoriety for harrassing and laying false charges against Christians who come to them with complaints such as these. They are too poor to hire a lawyer.
Although Christians make up about 2 to 2.5% of the population, 90% of sewerage workers and an even higher percentage of street cleaners are Christian, trapped in a cycle of dangerous and life threatening jobs that pay a pittance, long hours, no pensions and no health care or compensation for families because their employees won't hire them as permanent workers (which would count as civil servants and would mean entitlement to job-related healthcare and other benefits). They work until they are too ill or old and feeble to work and are then cast off. Sewerage workers often die because of toxic gasses in manholes or because they are sent down to unblock sewers and the sudden rush of sewerage after they have freed a blockage can sweep them to their deaths, drowning them in a flood of shit, an apt metaphor for how Pakistani society views and treats these Christians.
The director of SWM had promised to put 400 Christian employees on full benefits, but reneged on that promise. When worker Anayat Masih Sahotra, a labour leader with 26 years service for the company, complained and organised a protest against such discrimination, he was suspended under baseless charges of forgery. He again protested and was told by the director :

'I know you low-born Christian Chuhras, and I know how to deal with you'

a phrase that aptly sums up attitudes to Christians.
Then a lower level official of the firm invited Sahotra to visit for tea, and then had the police burst in and arrest him for 'intimidating' the deputy. All this, of course, was to intimidate him into dropping his demand for fair rights for Christian workers.

Street cleaners, for example, work from 4am to 7pm, and earn $100 a month, so they have no other opportunity for finding other part time jobs, trapping them and their children into poverty, because they also can't afford education for their children, who then also become sweepers. In fact job adverts for sweeper jobs often specify non-Muslims only, and some even say Christian only.

The article goes on to point out that this attitude is a combination of Hindu caste notions where the Dalits or Untouchables were eternally seen as despicable and dirty (a great deal of Christian sweepers are from families of Dalits who converted in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, in part to get away from such prejudice) which has merged since the formation of Pakistan with Muslim notions of 'uncleanness' which is meant to be a temporary state (although across the Muslim world there is an increasing notion that Christians and 'infidels' are permanently unclean) and conspires with the dirty jobs Christians are trapped in to mean that in essence a religious-based caste system continues in Pakistan. There is no modern sanitation system in Pakistan, so Christians are forced to work by hand in a dirty and unhealthy job but are denied the healthcare rights as employees that they should have.

A number of blasphemy cases stem from such 'caste-but-really religion'-based discrimination, including most famously that of Asia Bibi, where the whole incident started when Muslim co-workers rejected her offer of water to drink because her 'unclean Christian' hands had contaminated it

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Campaign Group "Bytes for All" will challenge PTA decision to ban words and phrases.

Opposition to text messaging ban grows!

On Friday 18th November we advised our readers of the awful decision by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to ban a prescribed list of words that they had deemed "offensive".

Words such as "Jesus Christ" had been placed on a list of over 1600 words and phrases to be censored from text messages.

The Dawn Newspaper interviewed Shahzad Ahmed Country Coordinator for Bytes for All who told them:

“We are now witnessing a new ruthless wave of moral policing in the digital communication sphere of Pakistan imposed by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority,” 

“By developing extremely detailed lists of allegedly ‘offensive’ words and forcing telecom operators to filter them out to make our society moral and clean, PTA has not only made a mockery of itself but also of the entire country and its government,” he added.

Bytes for All said they would challenge the ban in court, saying it violated rights to free speech and privacy.

Read more here:

Discrimination in Prisons and Schools

A Pakistani Jail

Several recent reports have highlighted the discrimination that Christians and / or other minorities face in both prison and school in Pakistan. Prisons first.

A report states Christians face significant discrimination in prisons and the legal system. Partly it is to do with Christian's poverty. Many are in prison for minor offences for which they could get out of jail if they could pay the fines, and this includes children who have to stay in jail with their mothers. But Christians in prison are also discriminated in the distribution of food, clothing, medicine and the right to practice their faith. And usually, they have no lawyer because of their poverty and already low social position.
On another note, there is also another reason for fearfulness for Christians in jail, and that is the rise of the Taliban. Often masses of Taliban prisoners take over the prison and violently assert extremist values, for example beating up all prisoners who took part in music lessons and smashing their instruments because singing or listening to music is considered 'haram', even though making music is physically and psychologically beneficial for prisoners (hardly a surprise given that it is God's gift).

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recently released a report detailing the Islamicizing nature of even much government financed education in Pakistan, and the discrimination against minorities in textbook materials. Hindus were described in very negative terms and references to Christians were often inaccurate and offensive. The contributions of minority religions to history and Pakistani life were almost entirely omitted everywhere. Teachers had very little knowledge of minorities and some thought they were not even citizens of Pakistan, and they often expressed negative views about minorities and were found to successfully transmit these negative views to their students. In short, even government education is essentially Islamicist in nature, and this combined with the suspected influence of Islamicists in high government does not bode well for the long term prospect of prosperity and freedom in Pakistan.

The report highlights some of the reasons why BPCA is so concerned at the indiscriminate way the UK - yours and ours taxpayers money - is being flung into the Pakistani educational system.
So pray
and please sign our petition if you haven't already..... and if you have, please urge others to sign in

More forced conversions, abductions and beatings for Pakistani Christians

Add ImageSadly it's a common theme, but over the last couple of months there have been several more cases of abuse of Christians.

In one, a young Christian couple were abducted on October 26th by Islamic clerics and influential Muslim landlords and forcibly converted to Islam. The couple's names are Shahzed Masih and Rhuckhshana Bibi (whose father was falsely accused of blasphemy in 2007). According to sources there have been at least 24 cases of such forced conversions over the previous three months. Many incidents go unreported because Christians fear Islamic militant groups.

In anther case, two Christian farm workers were abducted by their Muslim landlords / employers. The brothers, Asif and Khadim Masih went missing on September 14th. No news as to their whereabouts or whether they are still alive has been received. They worked for about £20 a month for three Dogar brothers, one of whom is a policeman. They had borrowed about £160 and were paying it off by deductions from their pay. However the Dogars, though Muslims, were getting drunk and then beating the Masih brothers for no reason. The boys parents, when they found out, suggesting paying off the loan and quitting. At this the Dogar brothers flew into a rage and stormed the home, beating up the brothers father who has a heart problem, and then kidnapped the two brothers, demanding a ransom of around £5600 plus the outstanding debt, a figure which is of course totally out of the reach of this impoverished family. Nor do the family have money to pursue legal action against the land owners. The police refused to allow the family to file an FIR because one of the perpetrators was a police officer.

There have also been reports that Muslim extremists beat up and threatened a Christian family in Sargodha. A dozen armed Muslims rushed the house, beating up Parvez Masih and his whole family, trashing their house and stealing all valuable belongings, stating their justification as the need to make Pakistan a purely Muslim state. This is typical, where such Muslim extremists use their religion as an excuse to steal what they covet and attack honest people.

Memories and echoes of past injustice - and present fears

Two old incidents have recently reared their ugly heads again. The first case is that of Arfan Gill, a Christian shopkeeper who in 2007 was falsely accused of burning pages from the Koran and was rescued from a mob by the skin of his teeth after being beaten unconscious and his shop burned to the ground. He has been in hiding ever since. Muslim extremists are still searching for him, and in July of this year, because they couldn't find him, they attacked his brothers wife, causing her to have a miscarriage.

The second incident is the infamous Gojra incident, where in 2009 hundreds of Islamic extremists attacked a Christian section of Gojra, claiming that they had burned pages of the Koran at a wedding. The extremists, mainly from a group in North Waziristan who were linked to Al Qaeda, were brought in by bus and truck, and set a number of churches and houses on fire, burning 8 Christians alive in their home and killing several others. All 70 suspects who still remained have been acquitted due to lack of evidence and witnesses.. Other suspects had been released earlier by the police, and local Christians believe this was due to political pressure. There were 185 witnesses, but many of them, especially Christian witnesses, have withdrawn, due to pressures placed on them. At least one family has fled to Sri Lanka. Others have left the city for good.
In addition, 4 years after the incident, despite government promises to rebuild all the affected properties, a number of houses and buildings destroyed in that attack and another one in the nearby village of Korian, remain incomplete


Evangelist Martyred in Karachi

Martyred Evangelist Jameel Saawan

On Wednesday November 16th an evangelist was shot dead outside his shop. There was no attempt at robbery or mugging, and he had no known enemies other than Islamisists who had threatened his life in the past.
A young man approached him early in the morning as he and an assistant were opening up his cosmetics shop and shot him in the neck, and then in the head. He was well known for sharing his faith and standing up for the welfare and encouragement and edifying of his fellow Christians. He had tried to start up a welfare group to help poor Christians several years ago, but ceased at the urging of his wife for the safety of the family after Muslim extremists threatened their life over his efforts.
Mr Sawaan had no property (the shop was leased) and so this, combined with no attempt at robbery, leads his family to think that Islamic extremists must have been responsible, even though Mr Sawaan had not told them of any threats in recent weeks.
The assassin escaped on a motorbike, along with 2 accomplices who waited on the bike for him. The latest reports indicate no progress in the police information, although the President has asked a senior provincial official to look into the matter and report back. It is not considered likely that the killers will be caught.

Pray for Mr Sawaan's family, including his widow, his two sons and three daughters.
Pray that despite the outlook, his killers will be caught and brought to justice.
Pray that there would be more justice and equality for Christians in Pakistan

Tell others about the situation in Pakistan and share this post, so people can know, and can pray.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Torture and abuse of pregnant Christian domestic worker - husband missing

A Christian maid working for a Muslim woman has been falsely accused of stealing (including her own property) beaten and tortured so badly by police that she is in hospital and may lose her baby. Her husband was arrested and has not been heard from since. The events happened in Abbottabad during the first weekend in November.

The maid, Salma Emmanuel, acquired 100 grams of gold jewellery ready to wear to her brothers wedding. On the 3rd of November, for security, she asked her employer, Ghazal Riaz to keep it for her before she went to the wedding. In the early hours of Saturday 5th, Riaz contacted her to say that there had been a robbery in which around £6500 in cash and gold, including all of Salma's gold, had been taken, and asked Salma to come to the house immediately. Salma came along with her husband Emmanuel, who had never been to the house before. However the police sniffer dogs repeatedly went towards Emmanuel. Riaz's brother, Jawad, a colonel, was there and pressured the police and warned Salma and Emmanuel of dire consequences. As a result, the police arrested Emmanuel and took him to the police station. As far as we know, he hasn't been heard from since.

On the afternoon of Sunday 6th November, the police - without any arrest warrants - took Salma from her home to the police station, where she was beaten and tortured for three hours, and was forced, after repeatedly saying that she and her husband were innocent, to confess to the crime of stealing (including 'stealing' her own property). The female police officers kept kickingher and repeatedly said they would kill her and her baby if she did not confess, and that Riaz and her brother were very influential and would have her killed with impunity if she did not confess. Salma was sent home in a barely conscious state, and her family rushed her to hospital, with hospital staff saying her baby was unlikely to survive.

1) For the safety and release of Emmanuel Masih
2) For healing of body and heart for Salma
3) For justice to be done and seen to be done - for the real culprits to be found and the victims to be freed
4) For the police officers who acted in such a criminal matter to be investigated and punished and brought to justice
5) For the influence of Jawad and people like him to be broken so that Christians can be free from this kind of abuse.

Raise the issue with your local MP's. In particular, point out that the UK taxpayer is funding this nation to a considerable degree.

Plotting Mullahs falsely accuse Lahore pastors of blasphemy

More evidence of the wicked abuse of blasphemy laws and the way they are used as a weapon against Christians is emerging with a new case, where Muslim leaders have used the forum of an interfaith meeting to falsely claim that the pastors who raised the issue of abusive / false blasphemy accusations had themselves blasphemed.

The events happened in Lahore, a city where in recent times at least one Imam has used 'reconciliation' meetings to force Christian churches to bow to his wishes after violence to the same end incited by the same Imam.

According to reports Bishop Pervaiz Joseph and Pastor Baber George have for years worked on Interfaith Harmony and peace promotion for seven years. They frequently met Muslim religious leaders and politicians to discuss issues of common interest. At one such meeting in October they raised the issue of the misuse of the blasphemy laws. Some of the Muslim leaders did not like it and accused them blasphemy against Islam's prophet. Both bishop and pastor have had to go into hiding with their families.

Local sources have said that in actual fact several of the Muslim leaders had been angered by the pairs' work to raise the status of Christians and give them a voice in the nation, and had tried to blackmail and harass Pastor George. They then planned to destroy them by accusations of blasphemy. Sources say Christian clergymen have been receiving threatening phone calls from Islamic leaders.


Talk to your MP about the issue and encourage them to raise it, particularly if people you know are affected.

Email the Embassy and raise your concerns about the blasphemy law firmly but politely and temperately. Alternatively, and possibly even better, write to the Pakistani High Commissioner, Mr. Wajid Shamsul Hasan at
High Commission for Pakistan
34 – 36 Lowndes Square

Both by email and letter, a good idea would be to be brief (maximum one page A4), with not a lot of polemics, and emphasis on recommendations for action

Friday 18 November 2011

Pakistan Telecom Authority bans "offensive" text messages containing "Jesus Christ"

How long till we see signs like this on Pakistani highways...?

A block  on text messages that contain offensive words has been sanctioned by "Pakistan Telecommunications Authority." Allegedly banned words highlighted on BBC Asia News include;
  • Athlete's foot
  • Flatulence
  • Jesus Christ
  • Monkey crotch
  • Back door
  • Bewaquf (foolish)
  • Bakwaas (nonsense)
  • Wuutang (a presumed reference to American rap group the Wu-Tang Clan)
The inclusion of the name of Jesus Christ within this list of offensive words is another example of the intense hatred that resonates within Pakistan towards Christians.  

Such censorship would be received with great animosity in the democratic countries of the West.  Moreover such intervention flies in the face of the freedom's of expression that Pakistan's  Government has committed the nation too.  

It beggars belief that Jesus Christ could be considered a word offensive to Muslim's as he is written about as a great prophet in the Quran.  It would seem that many Pakistani Muslim's share a hatred  for Christian's, that exceeds the love for one of their own prophets.

The selection of other words raises further questions, I am baffled at terms such as Athletes foot and flatulence receiving a ban when they are commonly used medical terms.

Read more about this story on BBC Asia News:

Thursday 17 November 2011

10th March Protest and Concert receives American backing

Martin Mawyer President of the Christian Action Network 

Martin Mawyer, founder and President of the Christian Action Network, an anti-Islamist organization based  in the U.S., has been invited by the British-Pakistani Christian Association to be a featured speaker for the Trafalgar Square Peace Concert in London on March 10, 2012.

Mawyer will be joining an elite group of international Christian leaders to protect Pakistan’s blasphemy laws  that are being used to persecute those who leave Islam or criticize the religion. Mawyer has been chosen to represent the U.S. for the event. The protest will take place on the anniversary of the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s parliament. He was assassinated after he condemned Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

“Shahbaz Bhatti is a hero, whose extraordinary bravery cost him his life, but almost no one knows his name,” said Mawyer.

The Christian Action Network has been a leading voice against blasphemy laws and has been fighting for the  freedom of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani mother who converted from Islam to Christianity and has been sentenced to death for criticizing her former religion. She was arrested after she engaged in a religious debate with her co-workers, who assaulted her and reported her to the police.

With 250,000 members across the U.S., CAN has been in contact with several members of Congress to introduce a resolution condemning blasphemy laws. CAN is partnering with the British-Pakistani Christian Association in England and other Christian organizations in Italy, the Netherlands and even in Pakistan to simultaneously introduce similar resolutions.

The protest will begin at the Pakistan embassy in London and then move to 10 Downing Street. Mawyer will speak at both locations. It will then move to Trafalger Square, where a three-hour concert will begin.

The Christian Action Network is also in the final stages of production for a new documentary about the rise of radical Islam in Europe, aided and abetted by political correctness.

More About Martin Mawyer:

Martin Mawyer is the President of the Christian Action Network, a non-profit activist organization dedicated to defending America’s religious and moral heritage. The organization is based on Biblical principles, values and traditions and has grown to have over 250,000 members.

Mawyer started his career as a freelance journalist and became the editor of Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority Report.” He founded the Christian Action Network in 1990, and it quickly became a powerful force in campaigns for protecting religious liberties, defending traditional marriage, protecting the rights of the unborn and allowing voluntary prayer in public schools.

The organization exposed offensive behavior at Walt Disney World’s “Gay Days” and how the resort did not offer prior notice to attendees or offer refunds to those who decided it was inappropriate for their families to be present during the event. CAN also successfully fought to end taxpayer funding to the National Endowment for the Arts to pay for offensive artwork mocking Christianity.

After 9/11, CAN shifted its focus to fighting the spread of radical Islam in the United States, viewing the ideology as a direct and formidable threat to the country’s values. In February 2009, CAN released Homegrown Jihad: The Terrorist Camps Around U.S., which exposed the existence of 35 paramilitary-training compounds around the country run by a radical Islamic group with ties to terrorism. The film included footage from CAN’s visits to the sites and even the discovery of a new compound in Pennsylvania. The documentary was featured on FOX News Channel’s “Hannity,” and host, Sean Hannity, called it “shocking.”

In spring of 2010, CAN released its second film, Islam Rising: Geert Wilders’ Warning to the West, telling the story of how an anti-Islam Dutch parliamentarian was prosecuted for his criticism of the religion. It included a speech Wilders gave about the future of the U.S. and was the only DVD in the U.S. to include his own film, Fitna.

In 2011, CAN released, Sacrificed Survivors: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Mosque, based on extensive interviews with 9/11 survivors and victims’ family members. CAN went on a screening tour to counter speaking engagements by the Ground Zero Mosque’s original imam, and held an event on September 11 in Congress with Rep. Allen West to show the film.

CAN, under Mawyer’s direction, is now working on a documentary about the Islamization of Europe and pro-Islam bias in the education system.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

UKBA rejects again - part 1 : How to spin down persecution of Pakistani Christians

No room at the Inn for persecuted Christians..

BPCA is dealing with yet another case where the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has used extremely spurious reasoning to deny a Pakistani Christian’s claim to asylum and refugee status in the UK. The case concerns a Catholic whose identity we cannot yet reveal- a single man, aged 30.

The problematic areas of the rejection surround two areas :
1) The assessment of the situation of Christians generally, and
2) the particular reasoning used to reject the applicants account of persecution against him.

Starting with the first area, whilst a few points seem reasonable (eg the UKBA recognises there is a far greater danger for converts from Islam than for people who have always been Christian) the ridiculousness is found first in the reaction the UKBA showed to the applicants submission of an article about the assassination earlier this year of (Catholic) Minorities Minister Shabhaz Bhatti as evidence of the plight of Catholics in Pakistan. The UKBA stated this was not reasonable evidence because:

‘Bhatti was a high profile figure involved in supporting numerous religious minorities, not just Catholics. This is in direct contrast to yourself who is essentially an ordinary Roman Catholic’

Leaving aside the terrible English grammar, let us just ask observe a couple of facts and ask one simple question. Firstly, the Minorities Ministry is necessary, because it is essentially the only structural bulwark of protection for otherwise politically powerless minorities (and even then, it’s effect is merely to ameliorate conditions a little).

Secondly, the precariousness of even that Ministry was shown by the very strong moves made to disband it after the assassination of the Minister! And finally, if things for minorities were so good, why was there a need for a Minorities Ministry in the first place? It is precisely because of the terrible conditions and continuous persecution and discrimination ‘ordinary’ Catholics (and other religious minorities) have to endure that such a ministry was necessary in the first place. If conditions were relatively good, there would be no need for such a ‘high profile’ campaigner in the first place!

If the UKBA requires a full listing of the number of Christian Communities that have suffered inequality or persecution over the last 2 years, they could not go far wrong by accessing the BPCA blogsite. Literally all our community is undermined, underprivileged or discriminated as a consequence of their faith. Moreover, many stories are simply not printed due to threats against reporters with a conscience who would otherwise publish the stories, or the lack of interest in Christian communities exhibited by other reporters. It is for palpable reasons (significant deaths and injuries) that the “Committee to Protect Journalists” have emphasized the need for continuous enhanced safety measures for reporters in Pakistan:

Quite frankly, this, coupled with the indifference exhibited by many Pakistani Journalists in portraying the reality of Christians as an underclass and persecuted minority, have led to an inaccurate assessment of the prevailing suffering for our homeland community. A study taken by agents on an unofficial basis, un-shepherded by the Pakistani government would, in the BPCA’s opinion, be markedly more revealing and would no doubt substantiate the constant campaigning from humanitarian groups.

Incredibly, the rejection letter goes on to say (of converts from Islam!!) that the many (and we should say, far from exhaustive) accounts of violence against Christians in the recent US State Department report
‘fall...far short of showing that a person who converts to Christianity faces as such in Pakistan a real risk of treatment which can be described as persecutory or otherwise inhuman or degrading treatment.’

It then concludes that ‘a Christian convert who returned to Pakistan would not face a real risk of persecution’! Quite frankly, such ignorance of the reality on the ground is disturbing, especially as this falls in the part of the letter dedicated to ‘objective reporting’ of pertinent background information.

The main reason for such significant downplaying of the official reports is that they ‘have to be set against the background of there being, as previously stated, some 4 million Christians in Pakistan’. This is a tired line we have heard from the UKBA before. They also try and say that a lot of persecution of Christians is really about ‘caste’ and to imply that as someone from a relatively wealthy Christian family, such did not affect the applicant. (See comments on a previous similarly spuriously reasoned asylum rejection - ).

More to the point, it is the relative size of the minority that is important, along with other considerations. 4 million is still a very small proportion of the population, and even in provinces where they are concentrated, they mostly constitute tiny and isolated communities amidst a sea of (often hostile) Muslim villages. This tiny size would lead them to be vulnerable to be overlooked, even if it were not for the rampant discrimination and enmity against them displayed in much of popular street, religious, judicial and media sentiment.

Christians constitute (even at the higher figures suddenly quoted as accurate here compared to previous UKBA rejection letters which have given it as a speculative higher figure compared to the lower official figures) about 2% of the population. This tiny population has no weight in deciding political futures even when block voting and thus has been overlooked by its politicians. This has allowed unruly, extremist, jealous or simply sadistic groups or individuals to freely conduct their desired maltreatment, with impunity. This impunity is bolstered by the knowledge that systematic and cultural bias is in their favour.

The handling of some further ‘objective background information’ gives more grounds for concern. For instance, to try and play down the Christian situation re blasphemy charges, the report quotes a report that says 50% of all blasphemy charges against Muslims. This is true but disingenuous and irrelevant. More to the point, 40% of such charges were in fact against Christians, who only comprise 2% of the population, showing the massively disproportionate use of such charges.

The report also cites a number of factors in a similar disingenuous manner. For instance, it highlights one or two very rare examples of ‘success’, like the building of a Christian chapel within a jail. However, do Muslim groups have to pay similar levels of costs for comparable facilities? The UKBA don’t say. Besides, such facilities can easily be taken away. For instance, Christians were attacked at Christmas several years ago after Government land was given for the building of a church:

For a more recent example of the vulnerability of Christian property and facilities, note the case where land purchased for use as an orphanage by a church has been usurped in a violent attack in which 29 were injured and 1 man lost his life:

The UKBA mentions provincial assemblies making calls for reviews of blasphemy laws, but fails to mention that such calls had no effect. It mentions a massive debate on the blasphemy law, but fails to note that 40,000 Muslims called for the death of the Christian Asia Bibi as part of that ‘debate’.

It reports of politicians vowing to apprehend killers of Bhatti, but neglects that the police let the culprits escape, or the concocted evidence of a family feud as the cause, rather than Bhatti’s Christian faith. It also reports politicians calling for investigations into discrimination in aid in flood relief programs, but no mention of the outcomes (what outcomes!) for such investigations. Placing trust in politicians rhetoric and words rather than actual deeds and results on the ground is quite typical, it seems, of the UKBA approach. They seem to hold the very naive belief that Pakistani politicians spoken word is law and effective and true. (If any of you saw the recent BBC documentary ‘Secret Pakistan’ you may laugh now.....).  View Secret Pakistan here:

The report also mentions cash compensation of the mother of Shazia Bashir, a Christian girl raped and murdered by her employer, a very senior Muslim lawyer. Apparently this is meant to reassure us that Pakistan looks after it’s minorities! Pah! Cash for shame, shameful cash. It just shows that powerful Muslim elites will protect their own whilst fobbing of the crying need for justice with wads of cash. The perpetrators still go free, there is no deterrent, and this is supposed to be grounds for rejecting an asylum claim? The BPCA condemns the policy of money payments in place of justice for Christian victims of violence, rape and murder.

The UKBA claims that Taliban ideology is behind an upsurge in attacks against Christians. If that is so, then most attacks on Christians would occur in Khyber Pakhtunkwa. However the majority of attacks are in the Punjab (simply due to the significantly larger population) and not in areas with Taliban dominance.
The report mentions an apparent lack of discrimination for Christians applying for medical roles or universities. However, the numbers of Christian students to attain such places are small. More importantly is that lack of complaints is not evidence of fair practice.

The UKBA have described the fear of reprisals felt by Christians when legal proceedings are taken against perpetrators of violence and persecution. The BPCA is disappointed that the UKBA failed to recognise evidence that backs up that fear – for instance, that all seventy of the accused in the attack on Gojra were acquitted due to a lack of evidence and failure of any witnesses to come forward due to threats that forced some to flee abroad, and all to withdraw their testimony as the following article notes - also note the comments of Islamic leaders in the region which exemplify precisely the attitude that directly pertains to Mr Raza’s situation.

Read part 2 by clicking (here)

UKBA rejects again - part 2 : How to make an attack vanish into thin air

Pakistani Airport - rigorous border controls?

Having dealt in Part 1 with the distinctly unobjective nature of the ‘objective background’ in UKBA’s rejection letter, we know turn to the specific meat of the rejection letter with regard to Mr Raza’s claim for asylum. Before we deal with the two main issues, we need to cover two minor points that the UKBA used as evidence against Mr Raza’s credibility.

Firstly, in the initial screening interview, Mr Raza had said he had an uncle in the UK. In the later asylum interview Mr Raza stated that this individual was not an uncle by blood, but in fact a friend of his father’s. The UKBA claims that ‘it is not considered that your explanation for why this contradiction occurred is entirely reasonable..... Furthermore you have been in the UK for four years and do clearly understand the meaning of the word uncle’. Quite frankly, this reveals a distinct lack of understanding of Asian culture, particularly familial ties. To the majority of Pakistani young people any family friend of a parent is called Aunty and Uncle. Irrespective of how close they are these terms are applied fairly liberally. Moreover a very close friend of parents would be held in high esteem and would be considered and accepted as a real uncle. In addition, Mr Raza says he said that this was the situation in the original interview, although UKBA records don’t record this. And let’s get one thing straight – the UKBA says that because Mr Raza has been in the UK for 4 years, he can’t have kept the cultural traits and upbringing he had from a baby? Heck, the author of this article has never been to Pakistan, yet has had people he has never met in person call him uncle. And for what it’s worth, it’s not just an Asian thing. For over 30 years as child and man I have been part of various predominantly white churches where the use of uncle and aunt for non-family church members, particularly, but not exclusively for Sunday School teachers, is quite common, although not quite as ubiquitous, perhaps as in Asian cultures.

Secondly, Mr Raza was working in Dubai before he briefly returned to Pakistan. After the incident he fled from he came to the UK via Dubai. The UKBA stated it was ‘inconsistent’ that Mr Raza did not return to Dubai where he had been employed, but rather to the UK where he had been unable to get a job for 4 years. However, there is significant discrimination against Christians in Dubai – they cannot become naturalized citizens, for instance. The freedom in the UK to become naturalized and the freedoms that Christians enjoy in the UK would be – quite rightly – a major pull for someone in Mr Raza’s position.

Mr Raza’s claim for asylum was based on two specific incidents of persecution, one relatively minor, one rather more serious. We will deal with the minor one first, briefly – that Mr Raza was the only Christian in his class, and at one point he made a joke at which the whole class turned on him because he was a Christian. A teacher was able to resolve the issue soon after, however. The UKBA, quite reasonably said because of lack of evidence, they could not make a ‘determinative finding’. The problem is that in a later paragraph concerned with Mr Raza’s ‘credibility’ suddenly the reasonable conclusion that they could not be certain about the incident becomes additional grounds for considering Mr Raza’s credibility to have been damaged by his actions, and so ‘benefit of the doubt’ is not extended. ‘In particular consideration has been given to the school incident which is considered uncertain’ the rejection letter says. How uncertainty about an event morphs into firm evidence against credibility is never made clear. This is very spurious reasoning.

The main incident that caused Mr Raza to flee Pakistan occurred on 1st December 2006. After returning home from working in Dubai, Mr Raza helped look after his fathers shop (an estate agents) for him. Three men came in wanting to talk to Mr Raza’s fathers. While they waited, they talked to Mr Raza, and when he confirmed he had just returned from the UK, they stated that white people in the UK were killing Muslims. Mr Raza replied it wasn’t so, but that Muslims were using religion to kill people in the name of Jihad. One man shoved him and called Mr Raza ‘a cleaner’ or ‘sweeper’ a derogatory term usually used of Christians. The conversation quickly degenerated into the men shouting at and attacking Mr Raza. The altercation attracted a crowd, and then people started to accuse Mr Raza of blasphemy – of attacking the Islamic religion, and that they were going to hand Mr Raza over to the police. Mr Raza managed to flee and get a taxi home. His father told him to escape and sent him to relatives in another city. Within two days a FIR (First Information Report) was filed against Mr Raza. After moving between several sets of relatives, Mr Raza’s family arranged for him to have tickets to fly out of Pakistan.

The problem starts when the UKBA starts assessing this incident. In his screening interview (used mainly for administrative purposes with no detail required), Mr Raza said he was not wanted by authorities in any country. This fact is used by UKBA as the basis for stating that ‘it is not accepted that you argued with these three men as claimed which resulted in an FIR being lodged’. Mr Raza could have just said yes, the UKBA asserts. This is an unbelievable argument! For instance, if I wanted to claim asylum after an incident in which the police were involved, and was asked such a question, I would quite naturally assume in an administrative question that this general question was referring to any OTHER situation / country other than the situation I was using to claim asylum. Yet the UKBA will not even consider this possibility and use what could so easily be a simple misunderstanding to argue that the central event of the asylum claim never happened. Astounding!

They then go on to further support their argument by a detailed appeal to the Pakistani border and security processes. They claim that because Pakistan checks all people leaving the country to see if they are wanted individuals, the fact that Mr Raza was able to fly out of the country indicates that no FIR could possibly have been outstanding against him. Mr Wilson Chowdhry, head of the BPCA, married to a Pakistani woman, and himself the head of a security company is eminently qualified to comment on these issues. His observations are rather revealing. Here are his comments :

In point 33 .... of the “Reasons for Refusal” (RFR) letter .... you have highlighted rather awe-inspiring processes purported to be undertaken by the Pakistani border authorities. In reality however the scheme alluded to is the construct of a rather vivid imagination. My wife is a Pakistani National and has never been the subject of such an inquisition even for her first trip to the UK. Moreover, I have personal knowledge and experience of how simple it is to circumvent any such procedure with a small bribe. When travelling to Pakistan in 2009, I was informed at Heathrow Airport by a PIA member of staff that despite having forgotten to obtain a visa to Pakistan they would allow me to travel on their plane. They had stated that with a small bribe I would be able to enter the country due to my wife’s nationality. I opted for a later flight. I have seen my father, when he was alive avoid customs duty on gifts for his family by paying a small bribe, a tradition I have not continued I assure you. My point here is that even if a system exists it can be circumvented, moreover the lack of consistency has created a culture of avoidance of duty, nullifying any real expression of any prescribed practice. Besides, simple arithmetic would illustrate that the number of international flights coupled with the limited Military, Police and border authority deployment prevents any effective operation of your described Pakistani border process.

In a later paragraph in the same point 33 and for point 34 you refer to PISCES and it’s ability to control ingress and egress of blacklisted travellers. The system described to work effectively would required to be in tandem with a CRB operating system or criminality systems. The UK’s own Security Industry Authority (SIA) in 2009 had meetings with the Pakistani Embassy to fashion a way to authenticate CRB Checks in Pakistan due to the inability to obtain them and the lack of a central database. The SIA and has highlighted on several occasions during seminars that CRB checks from Pakistan are unreliable. For the UKBA’s attention I remind them that CRB reports are still only available at a local level and are in written not typed format.

Mr Wilson then goes on to note the inability of Pakistani security and police processes to prevent the entry and prolonged residence of Osama bin Laden, arguably the most wanted person in the world.

I would only add that the UKBA should be very well aware that rhetoric and reality over border controls are often very far apart..... after all the UK’s border controls have been scandalously lax compared to what they are supposed to be, and those border controls are run by ..... (ahem) the UKBA! I’m sure I read that the three most senior UKBA executives have been suspended over something to do with border controls..... And didn’t a proscribed Islamic extremist waltz in to the country in July after being explicitly banned by the Home Secretary? Ah well, you know what they say – ‘birds of a feather flock together’. I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised if border agencies believe each others’ rhetoric!

Finally, the ridiculousness of UKBA’s approach is shown by a paragraph in their rejection letter which notes the fact that Mr Raza’s father owned an estate agents which ‘by your own evidence utilized by Muslims, including the men you claimed attacked you’ and says that this ‘clearly demonstrates that your family were able to live openly in society with other faiths with no apparent difficulties’! Now that takes the breath away. Apparently Pakistan is some multi-cultural paradise! Firstly, very often Christians in Pakistan undergo insults, attacks, threats, discrimination and the like without too much complaint – it is something they are used to. Christians live openly in Pakistan? Sure. They have to. They can’t exactly disappear into some bolt-hole. They also die openly in Pakistan for their faith, they are also attacked, arrested, bullied, persecuted and discriminated against openly in Pakistan. According to the UKBA Mr Raza’s family can freely live openly as Christians, if you manage to ignore the attack on Mr Raza, which the UKBA ingeniously manages to do. Perhaps the UKBA should add a little common sense and consistency in argument to their ingeniousness. BPCA awaits with bated breath......

In summary then, our concerns are

1) In general the UKBA seems to severely downplay the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, using highly selective lines of evidence and reasoning, and

2) They dismissed Mr Raza’s application on highly spurious grounds that involve using a simple misunderstanding in the initial stages of the interview to dismiss the main incident when he was attacked, and a breathtaking confidence in Pakistan’s allegedly inviolable border control and security systems.