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Monday, 29 July 2013

Peter Bhatti demands return of Ministry of Interfaith Harmony, despite lacklustre and ineffective conduct of Paul Bhatti while in post.

Wilson Chowdhry and Knox Thames Director of Policy and Research for the "United States Commission for International Freedom" (USCIRF). 

Once again the educational system of Pakistan was labelled as malicious and not-fit -for-purpose, after a delegation consisting of key figures from several US/Canada based humanitarian groups highlighted major concerns at a Washington conference hosted by the USCIRF 18th July 2013.  Peter Bhatti for International Christian Voice however seemed to have his own agenda with the meeting.

Peter Bhatti leader of "International Christian Voice" a group based in Canada, described a number of blasphemy cases impacting on Christians in Pakistan. After an extensive list of incidents he proposed a number of recommendations, that seemed bereft of any real detail or bite.  We repeat some of these below (from the printed notes of his presentation) with comments of our own;

1)  The blasphemy law and other discriminatory laws need to be reformed or repealed;

Unfortunately Peter did did not explain "which other discriminatory laws" he meant, however we should presume he meant the Hudood ordinances and qisat and diyat laws, to name a few.  Moreover his lack of description of the potential reform of the blasphemy laws suggested little thought had gone into preparing his recommendations.  Perhaps a return to the original format of Section 295 and 295a as introduced during British rule, when these then Public order acts protected people of all faiths and imposed short sentences and small fines would be an appropriate alteration?  Oddly enough Paul Bhatti the former Minister for Interfaith Harmony, has openly opposed reform of the Blasphemy law, stating that they are of no concern both on a BBC Hard Talk interview and a recent address at the Canadian Embassy in London.  The juxtaposition these two brothers have on the issue of the Blasphemy Law, is embarrassing and confusing for our community, however now that Paul Bhatti has lost his ambassadorial role, I envisage he will soon retract his former love for section 295 B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code and support it's abrogation ever so fervently.  Who say's politicians have little conviction?

2) We are disappointed (sic) from the current government of Pakistan for merging the Ministry of Interfaith Harmony into the Ministry of Religious Affairs.  The Ministry of Interfaith Harmony was highlighting the issues of religious minorities of Pakistan. We urge the current government to bring back that ministry in order to help change the mindset of the people of Pakistan towards tolerance and peace in the country and help to counter extremism and terrorism;

On reading this (I dozed off during the spoken presentation), what became apparent to me was an attempt to reassert Paul Bhatti into his futile role, which despite Peter's imagination was of no effect and yielded little of consequence for suffering minorities in Pakistan.

3) Political parties, NGO's and other human rights (sic) organization in Pakistan who strongly believe in human rights. democracy and religious freedom need to be strengthened;

Again Peter failed to mention how such groups could be strengthened, nor was this request directed to any particular body/country.  

4) Religious minorities, especially Christians, belong to (sic) poor classes and need to be (sic) empower to defend their rights.  This way they will be brought (sic) to the mainstream society and can prevent discrimination and persecution.  

We would have preferred more constructive suggestions on how to empower minorities to defend their own rights.  Ways in which they could be supported, would be investment in training for the next generation of politicians from our community.  Creation of pathways to careers in law and politics for those who show a talent, a pathway that is not linked to cultural, familial or tribal ties.  More importantly the election not selection form of electorate proposed by Victor Gill of Philadelphia. 

5) Religious Schools and organizations who teach hate, extremism and violence should be banned in Pakistan and a new syllabus which is free from hate need to be introduced in all Public Schools.  

Just focusing on the obvious has never been a comprehensive solution to any dilemma, Peter and ICV missed a trick and a real opportunity to really describe the educational concerns impacting on minority communities in Pakistan.  This was his only statement on education throughout his whole speech and completely ignored the need for removal of Islamic studies from the compulsory curriculum, for a more inclusive religious studies course, which would encourage more parents to send Christian children to school, fear of proselytising being a forceful discouragement.  He failed to highlight the bonus points awarded to Muslim  university students for learning the Quran by rote, which favours the Muslim students in most courses.  The need for safe schools and travel to school is a paramount need as so often we hear of young Christian girls forced into Islamic marriage, abducted on the way to or from their educational establishments.

6) Bring religious minorities into the mainstream of political life by allowing them to run for general seats, as well as keep their reserved seats.  Such a duel voting system would help uplift religious minorities.

The BPCA has always favoured a single electorate voting system for Pakistan.  The system should include positive discrimination which secures a certain number of tickets within political parties for minority groups. These tickets (candidate selections) will be required to go through the normal election process and monitored vigorously. Parties choosing minorities for un-winnable seats exclusively should be penalised i.e. loss of gained seats that will then go to other minority candidates.  Their will be an onus on political parties to ensure they pick strong candidates who will be empowered in parliament, safe in the knowledge they have electoral support (votes) for their candidacy.


  1. I am from Pakistan. Well it is very easy to say anything sitting in an internet cafe having Starbucks in your hand and a jell in your hair..Criticizing the efforts of others from your comfortable chair.
    why don't you come and fix the problems in Pakistan????

    As I know Bhatti's Family had paid a highest price in my view losing a son ( brother, uncle and a friend of millions)
    Dr Paul has left his comfortable life and struggling for the same mission and vision.
    If you can't be the part of solution in Pakistan, I suggest you go n get a real job.

  2. #1 cannot be achieved in removing the blasphemy law. THis is the power structure of Pakistan. The nation has become more radical Islamic. Also, we've seen the previous legislators killed for it or out of the nation for speaking up.

    What is going to be more effective recommending increasing quotas for minorities in schools to help speed social mobility and economic status. Will take time but more impactful. Main reason they are targeted is economics.

    #6 is also more impactful and realistic. There needs to be more minorities as judges to reflect the diversity of the people that they reside over. Implement #6 as well..

    Bring religious minorities into the mainstream of political life by allowing them to run for general seats, as well as keep their reserved seats. Such a duel voting system would help uplift religious minorities

    The laws cannot be changed in Pakistan. Its an autocratic society. They shut the internet down at moments notice and this creates problems of ecommerce entreprenuers. This nation is not of the modern thinking.

  3. The blasphemy cannot be changed.
    So many leaders have tried. Salman T. tweeted so many times on this point when Imran Khan and Sherry Rehman both opposed it. best solution is to target educational programs for minorities that are living in the bad areas..

    Salmaan Taseer ‏@SalmaanTaseer 27 Nov 10
    Just watched Imran Khan on TV opposing the Blasphemy law! I want 2 see how his friends the mullahs react.Will he be branded apostate?