Government Aid under Scrutiny over Freedom of Religion Concerns
An Early Day Motion on Pakistan drafted for the House of Commons is set to be heard globally on March 2nd 2012, the first anniversary of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the only Christian Federal Government Minister in Pakistan, and an outspoken advocate of the rights of minorities and opponent of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws.
So far, parliamentarians from the nations of Canada, Ireland, UK and USA are set to raise the issue in their respective national assemblies.
Press conferences and candlelit vigils are planned in all these nations outside their respective national assembly’s on the anniversary of Bhatti’s violent martyrdom.
UK, the Motion is set to be read in Parliament by MP Andrew Stephenson (Tory, for Pendle, Lancashire). Chairman of the BPCA Wilson Chowdhry will also be presenting several petitions to 10 Downing Street, at 09:00, 1st January 2012. The submission of petitions on the first day of 2012, is part of a BPCA resolution to see peace delivered to the suffering Christians and other minorities of Pakistan, during a pivotal year for Britain, when we carry the Olympic torch of peace.
,an adapted version will be read in the US Capitol by Congressman Trent Franks(Arizona Representative, Republican). USA
In addition to pointing out that blasphemylaws are in direct violation of International Human rights of freedom of speechand religion, the motion also notes that aid from Western taxpayers goes to Pakistan with very few precautions, and calls on governments to make sure that such aid is not used to perpetuate the second class status of religious minorities, especially via educational material that demonizes and misrepresents them.
The original idea came out of discussion between Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) and Jason Campbell of Christian Action Network(CAN) in the US. Wilson Chowdhry stated :
‘We wanted to both honour the sacrifice of Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who boldly challenged the iniquitous blasphemy laws, knowing full well it would likely lead to his violent death, and raise the profile of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who has been imprisoned under a death sentence for over two years for a false blasphemy charge. Asia has become something of a cause celebre,but many more cases go unreported. The problem is endemic, and we wanted to raise the wider issue, not just Asia Bibi’s terrible situation. False blasphemy charges are raised on at least a weekly basis across every area of Pakistan, and Christians are disproportionately targeted. The threat of such false charges is used to oppress minorities such as Christians, especially when disputes and vendettas are launched against them. Some Muslim landowners and businessmen regularly use these tactics to gain poor Christians land and property.’
Whilst Asia Bibi achieved iconic status as the only woman to be ‘lawfully’ sentenced to death for blasphemy, there are hundreds more victims, some of whom have died, either by beatings and poor conditions in prisons, or at the hands of Muslim extremists when they have been acquitted in the courts. On occasion even the Muslim lawyers and judges involved in such acquittals have been assassinated.
For those victims who do survive, the BPCA and other campaigners say that a nomadic life of fear, hiding in safe houses and inability to earn money awaits, or a struggle to claim asylum in Western nations.
As well as the BPCA in the UK, other campaigners involved include David Turner President of 'Church in Chains' in Ireland, Along with a press conference, he will submit the motion through a Irish parliamentarian (likely to be Joanna Tuffy TD). In the USA , the groups ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ and CAN are leading efforts. Revised copies of the Motion are also being championed by Qamar Khan National President "Christian Cultural Association of South Asians," in Canada, through Joe Daniel MP for Don Valley, East Toronto.
Contact details for all the above and a copy of the EDM can be sourced through Wilson Chowdhry 020 8514 0861.