Nasty Christmas Present for Islamabad Christians

Image of entrance to the H-9 Christian Colony where the BPCA has been providing aid since the villagers from Rimsha Masih’s community fled there after a blasphemy attack in August 2012

akistan’s Supreme court has just received a report they required from Islamabad’s Capital Development Agency (CDA) in which they were ordered to justify
their next planned clearance of a slum in the capital city.

It contained a very nasty Christmas present for the Christian inhabitants of those slum dwellings – this formal submission by an accredited government agency called them ugly and a stain to be removed, providing further evidence of the ongoing direct religious discrimination by the Pakistani government against Christians in pretty much every sphere of life.

It wants them to be removed back to their ‘native areas’, despite some of them having been born in the slums, and many others having lived there for two decades or more. Some of them have had to flee from other slums within Islamabad after religious violence, particularly after the false accusations of blasphemy against the 12 year old Christian girl Rimsha Masih a few years ago (click here).

These are desperately poor Christians, many of whom have fled to the capital escaping extreme persecution, including blasphemy threats, in their home areas.  Many of them actually work for the CDA as street cleaners, whilst the women and children work for the better off families, but the whilst the elite and the authorities use their services, they have not provided housing for them.  European Parliament mission led by Mr. Peter van Dalen (Netherlands), Mr. Arne Gericke (Germany) and Mr. Marek Jurek (Poland) visited Pakistan between 2 -5 November, 2015. The mission aims at a fact finding on blasphemy laws in Pakistan and their application. The delegation met high interlocutors from the government and representative of the civil society.  During the meeting with advisor to the Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz, EU delegation demanded to carry out thorough review of the blasphemy law and its current application, in particular section 295-B & C of the penal code.

Peter Van Dalen, a lead delegate said that EU believes that there is now momentum for Pakistan to start closing the dark chapter of its blasphemy legislation. By doing so, Pakistan would apply its founding principles, as well as its international obligations under for example the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the conditions attached to GSP+ trade benefits granted by the EU.

The EU parliament delegation has handed over the handout to the high officials including Sartaj Aziz and other high officials and demanded the safety of the minority rights.  It said “the legislation which is supposed to protect and safeguard instead has drenched large parts of Pakistan’s society in fear.  During the last decade the security situation has gone from bad to worse in Pakistan.  Especially minorities of the country feel insecure in Pakistan thus Pakistan stands in the top ten source countries of people seeking asylum in the EU.”  The EU parliamentarian said that the blasphemy laws affect them both directly and indirectly as well. The children are often starving, and such families often essentially have to sell themselves into slavery to survive.

These Pakistani Christians face many other problems. They are forced to live in and around the ‘seasonal drainage’ areas of Islamabad which flood every year, but there is no provision made for their recovery or for their safety, so they lose most of what little they have every year.  Furthermore, the CDA does not provide proper drainage or sewerage, pure water, gas, or regular electricity.  Their plight was brought to the attention of EU ministers last month after our officer Shamim Masih highlighted it (click here). Despite the visit of the EU ministers it seems the plight of these suffering Christians has worsened.

The background is that the Islamabad High Court has ordered the demolition of slums in the capital (a great many of them Christian), and a number of them have already been razed. However, this time the Supreme Court has ordered the CDA to give justification for the demolition of the next slum.

Their response to this order has been a document which has described Christians and their dwelling places repeatedly in the most insulting terms, portraying these desperate internal refugees as land-grabbing migrants, and their ‘ugly villages’ as blots on the beautiful capital city.  Not only that, but the CDA report actually states that these internal refugees should be removed because they present a threat to the Muslim majority nature of the capital city.

It is necessary to identify the fact that most of the katchi abadis (slums) are under the occupation of the Christian community who are relocated from Narowal, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Kasur, Sahiwal and Faisalabad and occupied the government land so badly as if it has been allotted to them, and it seems this pace of occupation of land may affect the Muslim majority of the capital.

Some activists on the ground estimated this will force about 150,000 Christians out and onto the streets in the worst of the winter weather.

The CDA has offered no alternative housing or land, and no compensation, despite the constitution of Pakistan guaranteeing the right of shelter to every citizen.

Local politicians describe this as part of the current government parties (the Pakistani Muslim’s League) long-standing animosity towards Christians, claiming a major party leader was behind the burning of 200 Christian homes and several churches in the St Joseph’s Colony of Lahore in 2013. They suggest that the CDA has a policy to remove Christians from Islamabad.  They also believe that it is targeting lucrative land which is near the centre of the capital, and after having played the terror card (see below), they are now using religion as a justification.

According to an Al-Jazeera report, the report also claimed the slums were home to Afghan terrorists and were breeding grounds for all sorts of criminality. It also reports that as well as just saying the slums were a blot on the beauty of the city, it is also a blot against the beauty of Islam, showing the explicitly religiously motivated nature of the move: “ Removal of katchi abadies is very urgent to provide a better environment to the citizens of Islamabad and to protect the beauty of Islam.”

British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) chairman Wilson Chowdhry commented:

“Again we see the institutionalised apartheid that Pakistani Christians face, on top of government agencies and hospitals publicly restricting cleaning to jobs to Christians only, we now have a premier government agency explicitly targeting Christians for their faith. The real blot on the ‘beauty of Islam’ has been CDA’s failure to provide accommodation of any reasonable sort for the serfs on whose backs they stand to make the city of Islamabad work. There may well be criminality breeding in those slums, but that is inevitable when poor people are so discriminated against that they have no other option to survive. The CDA are trying to sweep under the rug a problem largely of their own making. We are glad the Supreme Court has put a stay on these demolitions for now, and we call upon the CDA to actually do something positive for the slum dwellers, not treat them like worst-class citizens whilst they and the elite suck up their lives and treat them like dirt.”

The CDA claims that it has good relations with the Christian community.

Its spokesman told Al-Jazeera:

“This community is part of Islamabad and we ensure that we look after their places of worship and their religious events…..I can’t comment on the Supreme Court reply because that is in court now, but we appreciate the community and its effort and our reply has been taken out of context by some.”

We are committed to helping the Islamabad H-9 Community and we will continue to do all that we can to provide for them but we need your help to do it.  Please give what you can afford, no matter how small, and join with us in showing them the daily love and care that they need.

Thank you.

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Sort Code: 20-44-22
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Ref: Love for Islamabad H-9

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BRITISH PAKISTANI CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION is a trading name for BRITISH PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS LTD which is a charity entered onto the Register of Charities with the Registered Charity Number 1163363

With your support we hope to change the lives of millions of Pakistani Christians.


Slum villagers gather to meet European Members of Parliament

Christians gather to meet EU Ministers full of hope that their plight will come to an end.

Shamim Masih with MEP Peter van Dalen (Netherlands), MEP Arne Gericke (Germany) and MEP Marek Jurek (Poland) at the H-9 Slum now under threat by Pakistani authorities.