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Sunday, 11 December 2011

GHRD EU Conference on "Protecting Human Rights in South Asia"

 The European Parliament is an imposing building!
 The corridors of power run wide and long in the immense building.
 The Pakistan force including Watson Gill, Wilson Chowdhry and Naveed Walter.
 Over 130 Human Rights delegates were in attendance.
 MEP Cecilia Wikström and Wilson Chowdhry. 
Wilson Chowdhry and Johanna Botscher PA to MEP Angelika Werthmann 

 GHRD held their EU Conference on "Protecting Human Rights in South Asia" Conferenceon the 8th December 2011.  

A number of key guest visitors were at the conference including; Taslima Nasreen, Bangladeshiwriter in exile, winner of the European Parliament Sakharov Prize 1994, and Anuradha Koirala, awarded CNN Hero 2010for her work against human trafficking in Nepal.  More importantly, with a Pakistani minority perspective, panel members Naveed Walter President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan and Ramesh Rao Human Rights Coordinator for the Hindu American Foundation who described the ongoing persecution and inequality in Pakistan.
Over 130 Human Rights representatives attended the event in a spirit of unity and hope.
A joint manifesto on minority rights in South Asia, with specific recommendations to European authorities was presented by GHRD. This was conceptualised during a 3 day regional convention in India during November 2011.  The report concluded that ethnic, religious and sexual minorities remain amongst the most vulnerable groups in South Asia. They are frequently subjected to human rights violations and prejudice, including discriminatory laws, attacks on worship places; businesses and homes, land grabbing, forced conversions, physical and sexual assaults, killings and threats.  Much of this persecution is misreported or-unreported by national and international authorities or media.
The report also detailed a prevalent concern that it remains extremely difficult for civil society and local human rights organizations in South Asia, to access EU institutions.  The paper called for actions to bridge the gap between human rights defenders on the ground and EU institutions 
Each of the guest speakers presented varied concerns of ongoing human right abuses within their specific field. Naveed spoke of the Blasphemy law and it's use as a tool for discrimination and persecution.  He clarified the more egalitarian position held by Mohammed Jinnah the founder of Pakistan who in his 11th August address in 1947, described a distinction between the practice of ones faith, from the business of the state.  He described the inequalities that exist in education and employment and explained that the majority ofChristians live extremely impoverished lives.
Ramesh Rao focused specifically on the kidnapping of girls, their rape and forced conversion. his case study analysis was extremely disturbing and set a tone of deep reflection.  
Wilson Chowdhry questioned the EU minister on the existing Foreign aid budget to Pakistan he asked;
"European Border Agency decisions for Asylum on the basis of religious persecution from Pakistan, show a central denial of credibility. Rejection is based on; a flawed perception of Government protection via laws and pseudo institutions and inaccurate assessment of the scale and intensity of minority persecution. Will the EU member call for a review of the existing asylum policy?"

He expanded his question;

"The EU is Pakistan’s largest trading partner and is a fairly substantial provider of ‘Official Developmental Assistance' the majority of which is channelled into holistic educational reforms in Pakistan. The United States Commission for International Human Rights have recently reported on the demonization of minorities and the obviation of their contribution to the country in educational text books.  Will the EU member call for a review of foreign aid policy with countries with a poor track record for human rights?

MEP Cecilia Wikström recieved a number of questions together and then systematically responded to each onee.  Wilson's questions were overlooked so Wilson reiterated them adding a note about David Cameron's recent admission on BBC's Andrew Marr show, that Britain would be considering future aid distribution in context with human rights performance. 

Although the MEP refused to respond the Chair informed Wilson that his point had been made and moved on to the next set of presentations.

Later Wilson also detailed how the recording of a Pakistani citizens faith in their passports, created a frequently used discriminatory tool;  when accessing services, aid or employment.  He described how reports being sent to the BPCA illustrated abductions, rape and forced marriages of young Christian girls had reached one a day and a larger number were simply unreported due to Police insouciance or malpractice.  He also enumerated on the prescribed inequalities espoused in the constitution of Pakistan, for instance the inability to hold the post of President and other inequalities, including revelations that 90% of sewage workers in Pakistan are Christian.

Watson Gill from Holland also provided a valuable contribution to the discussion. Wilson has informed us, that it was a real pleasure to meet up with a comrade who was very supportive during the nascent phase of the BPCA.

Wilson Chowdhry said of the conference;

"The symposium was a fruitful gathering of key figures from the humanitarian effort in South Asia.  It provided a platform for addressing MEP’s, regarding ongoing concerns about existing discrimination and persecution. Also creating a valuable networking opportunity, so that NGO’s can better link their work with other like-minded groups."  
MEP Wikström responded positively and has expressed her support for the submitted manifesto and it’s goals.  She has also agreed to table a priority written question to Baroness Ashton of Upholland Vice-President of the European Commission asking for the creation of a support unit within the new external action service, to better involve grassroots human rights defenders, in the networks and activities of the External Action Service and European Institutions.”  

Wilson had lengthy discussions on the nature of the blasphemy law,  the constitution of Pakistan, and other socio-political factors pertaining to quality of existence for Pakistan's minorities; with the attendees focused on Pakistan.  Contact details have been exchanged and Wilson intends to develop relationships, that will support the ongoing campaign for justice and equality in Pakistan.

Since the meeting Wilson has received an email form Johanna Botscher and will be compiling evidence of discrimination that Christians and other minorities face, when seeking aid from Muslim agencies.  Often Christians in flood regions were told to adopt Islam or die of hunger. 

Wilson was interviewed by India's IBN News channel on human rights in Pakistan.  This was aired on the 10th December for "International day of Human Rights".  We will try to obtain a copy of footage. 


  1. God mless you for all your efforts on behalf of Pakistani Christians. The European Parliament has already condemned Pakistan for its treatment of religious minorities. But it is the European Commission (EC)which makes decisions about the European aid and trade. The EC can be influenced by lobbying through MEPs. A lot of Itallian MEPs are sympathetic to the plight of the Pakistani Christians. I think that also Polish MEPs will also be sympathetic. The results will not be obvious immediatelly but over the years your hard work will bera fruit.

  2. well done wilson,may God bles you.I would like to comment that muslims praise democracy and multiculturalism and inter-faith hormany in the west,because it suits them for the time being,but they deny and do not want to put into practice the same in their muslim lands.Muslims are playing Taqyyah(meaning you can lie to non-muslims for the benefit of islam) with Kafirs according to their belief,and they do not feel any guilt in are talking about human rights but muslims have learnt about the human rights in the west,the truth is this that pure islam does not recognize any sort of human right.Infact, human rights do not exist in islam. This is one of the reason why the religious communities in the muslim countries are suffering serious religious discrimination.wilson you need to work hard in your mission.Every decent person,s prayer is with you.

  3. Good to see you in GHRD. I was suppose to be there, but for personal reason I couldn't make it. When Jenny came in London probably in 2006 there was a meeting in a Temple in East London. I'd proposed Jenny to work for persecuted minorities as well. Mr. Shital and Jenny promised to do that and I was happy when I started receiving their e-mails on Pakistani persecuted minorities.