Pakistan: Faith & sexual minorities targeted by Islamist extremists
Switch UK aid until Pakistan blasphemy law is repealed
London, UK – 25 November 2014
“We were remembering a young Christian couple in Pakistan, Shahzad Masih and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi, who were beaten, stripped naked and burned alive; leaving their three little children orphaned. They had been falsely accused of blasphemy and desecrating the Qur’an. The violent crowd of over 3,000 people was orchestrated by the local mosque,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“As well as killing Christians and attacking their homes, shops and churches, Islamists and vigilante mobs are also persecuting Shia, Ahmadi, Hazara and Sufi Muslims. Other victims of “sharia justice” include Hindus, atheists, secularists, humanists, lawyers, journalists, MPs and gay people.
“Pakistan’s blasphemy law is a violation of free speech and human rights. There are currently 17 people on death row for alleged blasphemy, with 19 others serving life sentences. A Christian mother, Asia Bibi, has been sentenced to death on similar concocted blasphemy charges. These charges are often trumped up to settle personal disputes.
“The blasphemy law should be repealed. The UK should withdraw overseas aid from the Pakistani government and switch it to aid agencies that don’t persecute or discriminate, until such time as the blasphemy law is repealed and other human rights abuses are ended, including the government’s terror campaign in occupied Balochistan,” added Mr Tatchell.
He attended and spoke at the vigil, which took place outside the Prime Minister’s residence, Downing Street, London, on Saturday 22 November. It was organised by the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), with the support or Christian and secular organisations, including the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
PHOTOS of the protest: http://bit.ly/11OLYFZ
Free use but please credit the Peter Tatchell Foundation
The brutal murders of Shahzad and Shama took place on 4 November in a small village near Lahore. The married couple were poor bonded labourers – in effect semi-slaves – who worked for a brick kiln owner.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chair of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
“We call on the British government to engage in dialogue with Pakistan and assert pressure for much needed political changes:
“Repeal the harsh blasphemy laws of Pakistan that have been a tool for discrimination against minorities.
“Reform the biased constitution of Pakistan that creates a lower status for Christians and other minorities by having a national faith and by prohibiting some senior state roles from being held by non-Muslims.
“Emancipate modern-day slaves in Pakistan by eradicating the practice of bonded labour via new legislation and protective agencies.
“Ensure the usual practice of a short remand leading to freedom for persecutors is terminated; plus protect witnesses and prevent bribes – allowing Pakistan’s legal system to attain successful prosecutions.”
“This recent attack on an innocent couple brought me to tears. The mob who perpetrated this crime must be brought to justice. The murder of an innocent couple and their four-month foetus is a despicable and pernicious act. Any failure to punish the culprits will continue to support the expectation of impunity held by extremists.
“The BPCA has lodged an additional complaint with the High Commissioner of Pakistan over the use of mosque loudspeakers to stir up mass frenzied hatred towards the victims.
“It would be a travesty of justice and would send out mixed messages, if the imams involved in the preaching of hatred were not prosecuted. However, I would not be surprised if once again all they receive is a slap on the wrist. This case proves in no uncertain terms that it is not safe for Christians to live in Pakistan,” said Mr Chowdhry.
Donate to the children of Shahzad and Shama
The BPCA has initiated a permanent benevolent fund for the family of Shahzad and Shama, stating:
Our desire is to free them from their bonded labour status. We will work towards providing a new safer environment for this family, who have suffered the loss of loved ones in a hellishly brutal and savage manner. The family have been left with serious emotional and psychological scarring and are receiving counselling. The orphaned children are being cared for by Shahzad’s family and your donations will help support them, as they grow to adulthood. If you would like to contribute to our appeal our bank details are as follows:
Sort Code: 20-67-90 Account number: 63468976 Bank: Barclays
Ref: Love for Shahzad and Shama (regular standing orders must use this reference).
Alternatively, if you would like to send an immediate donation please use the Pay Pal facility on the top right hand corner of the BPCA website: www.britishpakistanichristians.org
Or send a cheque made payable to the BPCA, 57 Green Lane, Ilford, Essex, IG1 1XG.