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All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief
Full report at:
19 February 2016
APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief Inquiry Finds UK Government Policy on Pakistani Religious Minorities Inadequate
Contact: Katharine Thane Phone: +44 (0) 207 219 2446 Email: [email protected]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On Wednesday, 24 February, the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief launches its inquiry report on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Pakistan & UK Government Policy. The report challenges the Home Office’s Country Information and Guidance on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts while also finding that Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus in Pakistan face a real risk of persecution, the likelihood of which depends on their encounters with and actions amongst people of other faiths or beliefs.
The APPG inquiry’s main findings and recommendations include an urgent requirement for a new country guidance case regarding Pakistani Christians to provide sufficient and accurate guidance for Pakistani Christian asylum cases. At the very least, the APPG urges the Home Office to limit the use of the current AK and SK country guidance case in its Country Information and Guidance (CIG) report on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts to be used only for cases involving Evangelical Christians and blasphemy charges from non-State actors. In the report, the APPG urges the Home Office to acknowledge the strong evidence highlighting Pakistani authorities’ failure to protect minority religious communities from rights violations and amend its CIGs accordingly. The inquiry also highlights concerns about the possibility of internal relocation of Pakistani religious minorities, which the APPG urges the UK Home Office to recognise as unsafe and unviable.
Home Office staff involved in asylum cases, including interviewers, interpreters, case workers and presenting officers, are also recommended by the APPG to be sufficiently sensitised and trained in the different religious doctrines and terminologies of religious denominations in Pakistan, as well as the cultural contexts which have enabled and supported the persecution of members of Pakistan’s minority religious communities.
Furthermore, the APPG urges the UK Department for International Development to ensure that overseas development assistance is only provided to organisations and government departments in Pakistan that can demonstrate their understanding of and commitment to upholding Pakistan’s international human rights obligations. This appeal is made in conjunction with the recommendation that the Government of Pakistan be supported in maintaining its international obligations that include protecting freedom of religion or belief, repealing punishments that are cruel, inhumane and degrading or amount to torture and preventing hatred and incitement to violence that is broadcast on Pakistani media channels, including in the UK.
The APPG inquiry into the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan and as asylum seekers stems Lord Alton’s visit to UNHCR’s Bangkok detention camp. During the visit, it was discovered that the UK Home Office’s CIG Report on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts, which states that such individuals are not at “a real risk of persecution”, was being used to justify unduly prolonging granting asylum to Christians fleeing Pakistan. The APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief subsequently launched an inquiry into the treatment of different religious communities in Pakistan and the adequacy of current UK Government policy regarding these communities. The report due to be launched on Wednesday 24th February is the result of the APPG’s three-month long investigations and analysis which draws on evidence from over 20 organisations, lawyers and academics.
At the launch of the report Lord Alton said:
Our report emerged from a visit to the detention centre in Bangkok where escaping Pakistan Christians are kept in degrading conditions. Instead of being helped to find asylum they have been left to fester while being told by the UNHCR that their cases will take years to process. In London, we then held evidence sessions at Westminster at which parliamentarians heard accounts of Christians being burnt alive, bombed, tortured, raped or mown down by murderers – while those responsible have been protected by a culture of impunity. Others have been imprisoned on spurious charges.
The official line of the UK Government is that there is no persecution, the reality is the opposite of that and our report dispenses with that illusion.
Pakistan is the biggest recipient of British aid – more than £1 billion in the last couple of years – and we should be demanding that British aid is used to protect minorities and to staunch the flow of refugees. And we need to dispense with the fiction that the Christian minority, and other minorities are treated fairly and justly. There is outright persecution and we should not hesitate in saying so.
March 2nd 2016 – fifth anniversary of the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti
See Ben Rogers:
report from LEAD
Pakistan: LEAD will be remembering murdered Christian minister Shahbaz Bhatti on his fifth death anniversary on March 2, 2016 and ask authority to get justice for his killing.
Bhatti, the only Christian in Pakistan’s government, was assassinated on March 2, 2011 outside his mother’s home in Islamabad.
He was the first Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs from November 2008 until his assassination. The ministry was later dissolved.
Bhatti had received numerous death threats since 2009, when he spoke in support of Pakistani Christians attacked in the 2009 Gojra riots in Punjab. These threats increased following his support for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy.
The United States had tried to obtain increased security for him and get him an armoured car but before it became successful,he was gunned down.
Bhatti himself foretold his death and recorded a video, which was to be released in case of his death, where he said “I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us, and I am ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community … and I will die to defend their rights.”
The group Tehrik-i-Taliban told the BBC that they carried out the attack, because Bhatti was a “known blasphemer.
Sardar Mushtaq Gill,Human Rights Defender,who heads LEAD asked Pakistani authorities to make assure to get punish the perpetrators who killed Bhatti as Salmaan Taseer’s killer was hanged for his wrong doings.
“I know when Extremists see that we as Christians are demanding and asking for equality on the bases of citizenship,they turn against us to make silent our voices as they made silent forever Bhatti,but I pledge to continue the voice raised for minorities by Bhatti whatever the consequences I have to face till my last breath,” told Sardar Mushtaq Gill,a Christian human rights lawyer.
He further stated that his group is also under death threats and our enemy has attacked us number of times because the enemy tries to make our voice silent forever as they made silent Bhatti.
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