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Thursday, 24 May 2012

Killings and kidnappings near and far

Sindh Christian MPA Saleem Khokhar - 
received death threats for standing up for Hindu women

As we come up next month to the anniversary of the start of Asia Bibi's incarceration on false charges of blasphemy, we start by focusing on the place where it all started, her home village of Ittan Wali.  This article from nearly 18 months ago tells of the attitude among Bibi's fellow villagers, and provides a stark reminder of the environment in which her ordeal was born, and from which her family sought escape.  

Under the heading 'Villagers issue their own verdict' the article conveys the fury the villagers feel.  One old man says 'If she returned I would beat her to death with anything I could get my hands on', with a crowd of onlookers, young and old, agreeing she should die.  After her arrest, local clerics began announcing that 'Christians are dogs', and the village of Ittan Wali's' cleric Maqsood Ahmed Masoomi suggested that if anyone in the village commits blasphemy, they may not make it to the courtroom.

"They should be killed on the spot," he said. 

The BPCA has always acknowledged that other minorities and groups also suffer in Pakistan.  One Pakistani newspaper article asks the question 'How much killing is too much?'  We will refrain from the rather obvious answer, because the sentiment of the article is ours.  The article notes a number of killings of various sects over the last month or two, and continues 'The treatment of Pakistan’s minorities has never been good, but, in the last few years, things have gone from hostile to absolutely intolerant.'   It even goes so far as to say that the level of persecution against minorities in Pakistan is edging closer to the definition of genocide.  It notes that in one Pakistani province alone, an estimated 3000 Hindu girls have been kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam.  

It also cites an old but very pertinent case - that of Nazir Bhatti, editor of the Paksitani Christian Post, who after a 1997 peaceful protest that ended in murder and bloodshed perpetrated by the police, was targeted as an alleged ringleader, and in two hours had 21 serious charges falsely brought against him, including murder and blasphemy.  He had to flee the country.  

The same newspaper also carried an article concerning death threats against a Christian MPA (Member of a Pakistani Provincial Assembly).  Saleem Khursheed Khokhar, from the Sindh assembly, has been vocal in opposing the abduction and forced conversion of Hindu women and girls to Islam, in particular in the light of a recent case where Hindu women were kidnapped and forced to marry and convert according to their families.

The MPA Khokhar is concerned that the security guards he has been given are too few and haven't been vetted, considering they are Muslim - a pertinent point, given governer Taseers murder by one of his bodyguards over similar controversial areas.  He has been receiving death threats by text such as 'Only Muslims will be allowed to live peacefully in this country. No one else will be allowed to live here with dignity' and 'You should learn from the remarks of Chief Justice, and High Court, only Muslims are allowed to live here. You should leave the country or you would be responsible for what happens.'

Finally, like many of you, we have followed the case concerning the murder of British-Pakistani teenager 8 years ago.  Her parents have been put on trial for what prosecutors maintain is a case of honour (or better a shameful dishonour) killing - after her father drugged her to take her to Pakistan, which she drank bleach after fearing she was facing a forced marriage.  According to her sister, she was killed by suffocation for failing to follow her parents wishes over various matters, including boyfriends.  All we can say is, if a culture produces such fruit where they are in a minority, how much worse must it be (and as we know, is in fact) when they are in a majority in their home country against minority citizens. 

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