Lord Alton and MP Jim Shannon battle for the rights of Pakistan’s Minorities.
An official All Party Parliamentary Group for International Religious Freedom Hearing on the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, was held
at Portcullis House today. The event gathered together key individuals from across the UK to contribute to two evidence hearing sessions focused on
the nature of persecution in Pakistan, the treatment of Pakistani refugees and how to tackle UNHCR and Home Office policies on this issue.
The event was championed by Lord Alton who recently visited Thailand after a discussion with the BPCA, and met with the some of the thousands of Pak-Christian
asylum seekers there who find themselves re-persecuted. It provided an opportunity to humanitarian NGOs to challenge the UK on its Foreign Policy towards
Pakistan, its flawed Home Office Policy and to call for tougher measures. After the visit to Thailand Lord Alton spoke to the BPCA, he said:
“The exodus from Pakistan is driven by visceral hatred and a fanatical disregard for the rights of minorities. In a country where the brave Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, can be murdered in broad daylight, where churches are bombed, where an illiterate woman can be sentenced to death of alleged blasphemy charges, where a husband and wife can be burnt alive in front of their young children, and where there is a culture of impunity which rarely leads to those responsible being brought to justice, it is little wonder that many Christians are fleeing for their lives. It doubly compounds their suffering when the international community fails to step up to the plate in defence of those who have to endure such pitiless suffering and hardship.”
At the evidence hearing sessions concerns were raised about the blasphemy laws of Pakistan, the nations biased constitution, anti-minority propaganda within
the national curriculum, gender discrimination and insouciance from the statutory authorities towards minorities, which campaigners have referred to
as persecution rather then the held position by Britain in their Home Office Policy of severe discrimination. Home Office Policy has resulted
in an extremely low success rate for Pak-Christian asylum seekers in the UK. Moreover wider concerns about the impact of this position on the
global community were raised when a UNHCR officer in Thailand explained that the UNHCR derive their position from Britain’s, much due to the fact that
Britain is still seen as a lead authority on foreign matters.
Ranbir Singh from the Hindu Human Rights Group described the common rape and forced Islamic marriage of minority girls and the imposition of an Islamic
Jizya Tax (tax on minorities for their protection) in Khyber Pakhtunkwa upon Sikh and Hindu minorities. He reflected on Britain’s foreign aid budget
and compared it to the Jizya tax. He said:
“By sending billions to Pakistan partly to gain commitment from the Pakistani Government for protection of their own minorities we are playing into the
hands of extremists. In essence the UK and America are sanctioning a Jizya Tax which is an utterly reprehensible act.”
Jas Uppal founder of Justice Upheld, described the deplorable detention of accidental border strayers from Pakistan to India and vice versa. Victims
find themselves arrested for espionage and jailed indefinitely. In the case of Sarabjit Singh he was incarcerated in a prison cell for over 30
years and eventually murdered within the cell. She also explained how the Sikh turban made them easily identifiable targets for persecution and
reminded visitors of the two reported Sikh beheadings in 2010 (click here). Mrs
“The Sikh community of Pakistan are still very patriotic about their country and despite the hatred they face they would give their lives to protect the
nation, but themselves are treated as anathema. The birth place of the Sikh faith is Pakistan so for us all it is a special place and we hope
one day the populace there will accept us.”
Lyn Julius of Harif, a group that represents Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, described how once 3000 Jews lived in Karachi and others more
sporadically across the country. The Bene Jews of Pakistan, had built synagogues and had a thriving community until the Islamist movement spread
through Pakistan in the 1970s. That movement coupled with the Arab-Israeli wars created great animosity towards Jews in Pakistan who, faced with
a hostile and untenable environment, left their homes and fled. Mrs Julius spoke of the new primary targets being Christians, she said:
“First it was the Jews now I believe Christians have become a primary target for eradication from Pakistan.”
Rubab Mehdi Rizvi, former European Spokesperson for the Ministry of Minorities, told of the indiscriminate murders of the Shia Muslim minority in Pakistan
that are now numbered in their hundreds per year. The murder of 43 Shia Muslims in a bus by militants was one case she highlighted, an attack that
Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant claimed to have organised. Rubab also described how during a preplanned and authorised Moharram procession, police
officers arrested the legal participants on the behest of the local Sunni majority, and all those incarcerated were then tortured by the police.
She reminded the panelists of the need to work together and show solidarity, she said:
“I had only recently been given my posting at the Ministry of Human Rights when the BPCA approached me to help with the submission of clemency for Asia
Bibi. Our letter was the first to reach the Prime Minister and President even before Shahbaz Bhatti spoke out for her, we were informed of an
instant stay on her execution and it is unity such as this that will achieve eventual equality in Pakistan.”
Wilson Chowdhry and Desmond Fernandes of the BPCA both spoke at the event. Desmond, a genocide expert, provided factual evidence of the growing levels
of hatred meted out towards Christians in Pakistan that equated to persecution. On the first day of the hearings Wilson Chowdhry read a statement produced
by our lead researcher Nathanael Lewis which provided several case studies on the situation in Pakistan, and provided potential solutions to the ongoing
concerns. In a touching tribute Lord Alton thanked Wilson for attending and sharing time with the group as his mother had passed away on 5th
On the second day Wilson described the severe treatment of Pak-Christian asylum seekers from their arrest and detainment in the Immigration Detention Centre
and Central Jail of Bangkok, both infamous for their brutality. He said:
“UNHCR asylum papers have no weight, arrests are indiscriminate despite UNHCR approved asylum status as the Royal Thai Government has not ratified the 1951 Convention on Asylum or the 1967 Protocol. Several preventable deaths this year alone and images of children and lactating mothers in prison, has not moved the UNHCR to a swifter administration of Pak-Christian asylum seekers. The fact remains that the UNHCR is woefully understaffed and delays of up to 10 years for re-settlement for a community they deem severely discriminated against, has resulted in re-persecution of suffering Christians of Pakistan.”
On the last day BPCA took Bridget John as a witness. Her asylum case in the UK was refused on evidence technicalities, simply because the authentic
death certificate of her husband’s death could not be validated, nor the post-mortem certificate that evidenced he had been poisoned. Moreover
the fact that she had been brutalised and raped when placed in a police cell for daring to call for the investigation and arrest of the Muslim murderers
of her husband, could not be proved as apparently the wounds and scars could have been afflicted by a friend or family member to create the story and
there was no evidence of the unofficial detention.
“My son and I are utterly terrified of being sent back to Pakistan – a country which now holds nothing but painful, distressing memories. I was tortured and raped by my husband’s murderers for daring to report them to the police. Men who took his life simply because they hated him for being a Christian, a blasphemy accusation enabling them to act with impunity. The same men threatened the life of my son and, as the widow of a man accused of blasphemy, my life is also in danger. In Pakistan we would be extremely vulnerable and as a single Christian woman with a child, I do not believe there is any way I could possibly escape persecution. Life for women is difficult enough in Pakistan, but Christian women are viewed as completely worthless and widows as easy targets.”
Katherine Thane, Operations Director of the APPG for Religious Freedom of belief, said:
“We will be publishing the report and launching it from within parliament and sending it out via our APPG network. We will also be sending it directly
to Ministers and relevant parliamentarians in UK parliament. We also hope that it will be picked up by members of the International Panel of Parliamentarians
for Freedom of Religion or Belief in up to 60 countries.”
Pauline Crichlow, a Senior representative at the UK Home Office, who attended the evidence hearing sessions as an observer spoke with Wilson Chowdhry after
the event. She spoke of the excellent accounts provided by participants and iterated that the Home office would await the report and will review the
contents with due diligence.
Pakistan will stop persecuting its religious minorities.
Bridget John and her son will not be sent back to Pakistan but can remain in safety here in the UK.
All those responsible for policy making in the UK will grant persecution status to Pak-Christian asylum seekers.
Please give what you can to help Bridget and other Pak-Christians who are seeking asylum. Your gift can be sent using these bank details:
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With your support we hope to change the lives of millions of Pakistani Christians.
Wilson Chowdhryand Pauline Crichlow a senior Home Office representative who was present at both sessions.
Wilson Chowdhry and MP Jim Shannon member of defence sub committee who was present at both sessions.
Wilson Chowdhry and Gurinder Jhans reseracher and events coordinator for evidence hearing sessions.
L-R Wilson Chowdhry (ChairmanBPCA), Rev Rana Youab, Bridget John (asylum seeker) and Morris Johns (Pakistan Minority Rights Organisation)
L-R Ranbir Singh (Hindu Human Rights Group), Desmond Fernandes (BPCA Researcher), Lord David Alton and Asif Mall (Pakistan Minority Rights Organisation)