This link takes you to the story of Iqbal Masih, a 12 years old, incredibly brave, Christian boy in Pakistan who rebelled against his slavery and, as a result, was shot dead. In his short life he managed to influence the lives of many people, and his story deserves to be widely known.
Pakistan receives an average of £383,000 in British taxpayers’ money each and every single day….and yet they trample on the rights of minorities, trample on the ideals on which the State was founded, and trample on the rule of law.
– More than 190 parliamentarians sign open letter to Pakistani Prime Minister
– Bibi’s life in danger every moment she remains in Pakistan
https://adfinternational.org/news/saved-from-death-row-pakistans-supreme-court-free-asia-bibi/ to see the full press release and the open letter quoted below signed by over 190 parliamentarians:
“We urge in the strongest possible terms the Government of Pakistan to guarantee safe passage for Asia, her family, and any of those under threat due to their part in the decision to acquit her, to any country that accepts them.”
Despite conflicting media reports, sources indicate that she has not yet been allowed to leave the country.
November 14th 2018
My Lords, as the Minister looks at future markers for development, with the approaching 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will he look particularly at Article 18 and what it has to say about the right to believe, not to believe or to change belief? Professor Brian Grin says that those countries which respect Article 18 become the most prosperous. How, therefore, do we justify spending £2.8 billion over the past 20 years in a country such as Pakistan which, as the case of Asia Bibi has shown, has no regard for minorities or the rule of law?
My Lords, that is the reason why that funding predominantly goes to the education of young girls in Pakistan which, we hope, will contribute to change in future. I hope that the noble Lord will welcome two major initiatives announced following the Prime Minister’s commitment to act in this area. The first was the appointment of my noble friend Lord Ahmad as the Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion or belief, and the second was a meeting at the Foreign Office last week, where we announced the successful bidders for a £12 million DfID fund to promote freedom of religion and belief. That shows how clear and committed the Government are from the very top.
Sign the petition calling for this innocent woman to be allowed to leave Pakistan:
BBC and Dutch reports of her release from prison:
Question in the House of Lords on India and the Caste System: Asia Bibi case raised along with aid to Pakistan
November 6th 2018
My Lords, notwithstanding the 2013 Indian legislation, the caste system and untouchability predate partition. Scavenging and degrading labour have persisted right across the Indian subcontinent, including in Pakistan. Is the Minister aware that, only last week, a 13 year-old was excluded from a classroom because he had touched the water supply in that classroom? He was beaten and his mother was told he had no place in that school because he was only fit for menial and degrading jobs. Is not this issue of untouchability also to be seen in the case of Asia Bibi, who has spent nine years in prison having touched the communal water supply in her village? She has been exonerated by the courts in Pakistan, yet is still held in custody and not allowed to leave that country. We have spent £2.8 billion over the past 20 years on overseas aid to Pakistan—that is £383,000 every single working day. What difference is that money making to the treatment of minorities and the abolition of things such as caste?
It is making a big difference. I am certainly aware of these cases, because the noble Lord has made me aware of them, and I am grateful to him for that. We are looking at them and following up. The reality is that both Pakistan and India are signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That has some very specific language in Article 18, which talks about recognising that all people are equal and that discrimination is against the law. It is also against their constitutions. We need to work with the Governments of these countries to ensure that they uphold the very laws they have—and we will continue to do that.
Over the past 20 years the U.K. has given Pakistan an average of £383,000 per day – each and every single day – in overseas aid- a total of £2.8 billion (see below).
Last week, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death – and who has been incarcerated in a jail for 9 years – was acquitted by the Supreme Court.
Immediately, a frenzy of hate was whipped up with demands made for her execution and calls were made for the death of the courageous judges.
The same killers had murdered the courageous Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, and Punjab’s Governor Salmaan Taseer, after they spoke out against Asia Bib’s unjust imprisonment.
Now, Pakistan’s Government has promised the lynch mob that the Supreme Court can be overruled, and Asia Bibi prohibited from leaving the country.
It is a disgrace that a Commonwealth country, which is the biggest recipient of U.K. aid, should have such a disregard for justice and the rule of law – and trample on the rights of its minorities in this way.
The U.K. needs to consider sending its daily subvention of £383,000 to a more worthy recipient.
The Life Of Asia Bibi – An Innocent Woman – Hangs In The Balance As Pakistan Faces the Lynch Mob
After nine years in prison, Pakistan’s Supreme Court courageously found Asia Bibi to be innocent of Blasphemy charges that carried a death sentence.
Now, lynch mobs, defying the rule of law, have demanded her execution and have persuaded the Pakistan Government that she should be banned from leaving the country.
The Pakistan Government have also said that attempts can be made to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.
This makes a mockery of the rule of law and, meanwhile, Asia Bibi – an innocent woman, a mother denied her freedom for nine years, continues to be held in custody.
Now her lawyer has had to flee the country – saying he fears for his life.
Dr.Taj Hargey, a Muslim Imam based in Oxford, was so right when he wrote in The Telegraph, yesterday that Asia Bibi should be granted asylum in the UK and spoke of “the deafening silence” from British people of Pakistani origin and of “our collective shame in not preventing her cruel incarceration.”
Daily Mail editorial
Daily Telegraph letter
On whose side do we stand – the side of an innocent woman and the rule of law or on the side of the lynch mob?
See this report by BBC World:
Not a good use of our aid if it’s being used to repair the damage inflicted by the lynch mob
“The protests are thought to have caused damage in the region of £900million.”
See Ewelina Ochab at Forbes:
Question in the House about Pakistan – Monday October 15th 2018
Pictures I took in October 2018 one of Pakistan’s “colonies”- shantytowns where religious minorities live in squalor.
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
My Lords, having visited Pakistan earlier this month and seen first-hand the abject, festering conditions in which many of the country’s religious minorities live, and having heard accounts of abduction, rape, the forced marriage of a nine year-old, forced conversion, death sentences for so-called blasphemy—the Minister may have heard the interview on the “Today” programme on Saturday morning with a young woman whose mother has spent eight years on death row for so-called blasphemy with a death sentence hanging over her—and in one case, children being forced to watch as their parents were burned alive, I ask the Minister: how can the Home Office in all those circumstances continue to say that what is happening in Pakistan to religious believers and humanists is merely discrimination, not persecution?
Baroness Williams of Trafford
I do not think I or the House would disagree with the noble Lord in the examples that he cites, particularly those in Pakistan of certain religious groups being persecuted under blasphemy laws. Sadly, the laws in Pakistan are quite different from the laws here; unpalatable though we might find them, they are the laws there. Nevertheless, each application to our asylum system should be dealt with in terms of the persecution that people might face.
Subject: Questions tabled on Pakistan
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
Asked on: 16 October 2018
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 15 October (HL Deb, cols 282–3), whether the Home Office will now reclassify the systematic attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan as persecution rather than discrimination.
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
Asked on: 16 October 2018
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many claims for asylum in the UK were successful in respect of religious minorities from Pakistan over the past five years.
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
Asked on: 16 October 2018
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of Pakistan to ensure that Pakistan’s quota system for jobs is not used to place workers from religious minorities in menial occupations.
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
Asked on: 16 October 2018
Department for International Development
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what training programmes in Pakistan they support to help illiterate and impoverished members of minority communities to qualify for jobs.
Tabled on 10 October and due for answer by 24 October.
Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what percentage of the UK’s bilateral aid programme is directed towards the rebuilding of Pakistan’s colony shanty towns in which families from the country’s minorities live; what assessment they have made of the number of people, in total, living in those colonies and their access to running water, electricity or education; and when officials from the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office last visited those colonies to assess the conditions of people living there. HL10527
Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that (1) Pakistani refugees have recently been rounded up by Thai police and taken to detention centres, and (2) Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has issued an instruction to the Immigration Bureau to detain all foreigners without visas, stating that they will be deported within a month; and whether they have assessed the likelihood that Christian and Ahmadis may face persecution when returned to Pakistan. HL10528
March 2nd was the seventh anniversary of the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti – Pakistan’s brave Minister for Minorities. See:
Seven Years Later, Pakistan Has Failed To Bring Shahbaz Bhatti’s Murderer To Justice
If a country cannot bring to justice the killer of a Government Minister what chance do the country’s persecuted, beleaguered and fleeing minorities have?
Pakistan was founded on principles of equality and justice. What has been done to its own citizens, and done with impunity, makes a mockery of those high ideals.
The white in the nation’s flag is there to represent the country’s minorities but as those minorities suffer and Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies and frightened leaders fail to speak or to act justly its flag has been dragged low.
Failure to act jeopardises the country’s future and undermines the prospect of a diverse and respectful society.
That is why we should never forget the sacrifice of Shahbaz Bhatti who gave his life for his people – accepting political office even though he knew it could cost him his life.
Shahbaz Bhatti شہباز بھٹی
- Pakistan: Jubilee Campaign report on the plight of Pakistani Christians:
See these latest parliamentary replies:
From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers <NO_REPLY.HL.QASYSTEM@parliament.uk>
Sent: Friday, October 26, 2018 2:38:02 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL10631 received from Lord Bates, the Department for International Development
Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL10631):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much UK aid has been received by Pakistan in the past 12 months and in total over the past 20 years; whether any other country receives more bilateral aid than Pakistan; and what indicators are used to establish the effectiveness of this aid in reaching the country’s religious minorities. (HL10631)
Tabled on: 15 October 2018
DFID Pakistan’s budget for 2017-18 is £325m. Cumulatively, DFID has spent £2.8bn on aid to Pakistan for years 1997 to 2016. Details of year end spend for each country can be found in the Statistics on International Development (SIDS) report.
Our development assistance targets the poor, regardless of race, religion, social background or nationality. We have in place robust indicators as part of mandatory monitoring arrangements to ensure UK aid reaches the intended beneficiaries and is not being used in ways that encourage or promote prejudice or discrimination against religious or other minorities. Details of indicators for individual programmes are available on the devtracker website.
Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2018 at 14:37.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL10846):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how British (1) foreign policy, and (2) aid programmes support persecuted minorities in Pakistan (HL10846)
Tabled on: 22 October 2018
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:
Promoting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, is a fundamental part of the British Government’s work, including in Pakistan.
We remain concerned by the treatment of minority communities, including religious minorities, in Pakistan.
We regularly raise our concerns about the protection of minority communities, including religious minorities, with the Pakistani Government at a senior level. The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of advancing the rights of minorities during her telephone call with Imran Khan in August following his election as Prime Minister of Pakistan. I raised our concerns about Freedom of Religion or Belief and the protection of minority religious communities with Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister, Dr Shireen Mazari, in September 2018.
Under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, the UK has supported projects in Pakistan to promote greater tolerance and religious freedom.
We ensure that our development assistance, delivered through the Department for International Development (DFID), targets the poorest people in Pakistan regardless of race, religion, social background, or nationality. DFID Pakistan does not disaggregate results or budgets by religion.
Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL11071):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of the case of a Christian school boy in Pakistan who was excluded from class and beaten for being accused of tainting the school’s water by touching the tap; and whether they will establish whether UK aid is used to support schools such as this. (HL11071)
Tabled on: 29 October 2018
The Government of Punjab has taken swift action and the head teacher of the school concerned has been suspended pending a full investigation. The Pakistan Human Rights Minister and civil society have publicly supported this timely action. UK aid is not directed to individual schools in Punjab. In partnership with provincial governments DFID has supported over nine million children in primary and over five million in secondary schools to gain an education in Pakistan.
Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2018 at 14:31.
Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL11070):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of (1) the number of children believed to be illiterate in Pakistan, (2) the number of children not in formal education, and (3) the proportion of children from religious minorities in Pakistan who are illiterate or not in formal education compared with the population as a whole. (HL11070)
Tabled on: 29 October 2018
The latest UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey reports an illiteracy rate for 15-24 year olds of 24% for Punjab. The DFID-supported 2016 citizen led Annual Status of Education Report for Pakistan estimates the proportion of children aged 6-16 out of school as 19%. This report is based on data collected from over 83,000 households. The 2017 DFID-supported census results will provide data on the educational status of all children and will be able to disaggregate by minority status. This is not yet publicly available.
Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2018 at 14:30.
Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL10927):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 22 October (HL10527), whether they take into account the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan when deciding on the prioritisation of UK overseas development aid; and whether they intend to instruct Department for International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials to visit minority communities in Pakistan and to report on the (1) number of people living in shanty towns and informal settlements, and (2) conditions in which they live. (HL10927)
Tabled on: 23 October 2018
DFID Pakistan targets development assistance to improve the lives of poor women and men, regardless of race, religion, social background, or nationality. As part of DFID planning processes, we assess the situation of poor, marginalised and excluded groups to inform priorities. DFID Pakistan works to reduce inequality and exclusion of minorities by promoting tolerance and greater understanding of minorities. As part of routine programme monitoring, and where security allows, DFID staff visit programme sites, including shanty towns and informal settlements. We do not collect disaggregated population data on minority groups.
Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2018 at 12:34.
Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL10981):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made, if any, of (1) the level of child labour in Pakistan; (2) the number of children of school age believed to work in brick kilns, workshops, factories or as domestic servants; and (3) the percentage of children from religious minorities falling into these categories. (HL10981)
Tabled on: 24 October 2018
Child labour is widespread in Pakistan but there is a severe lack of data on the issue, including in which sectors children work. DFID Pakistan is committed to help tackle child labour and modern slavery. In partnership with UNICEF, we are funding a pioneering child labour survey which will be used to identify the children most at risk and support the government to strengthen protection. Survey results should be disseminated by the end of 2019. The information will not be broken down by religious status.
Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2018 at 12:33.
Asia Bibi’s family and supporters and their reactions:
Ashiq Masih (55 yrs), husband of Asia Bibi, said:
“Our family was elated by the recent decision to free my wife but news of the governments capitulation to the rioters who ant us all dead has broken our hearts.
“My daughters weep for their mother their hope that they would be reunited has been broken and they are trying to piece together their frail confidence that she will return to them.
“That fundamentalists can cause our government to shift direction, alarms me, but I trust our God will give freedom and peace to Asia – through the prayers of our many millions of supporters who are not violent.
“Jesus loves us and died for us, He will be feeling our pain and will show the world his divine nature by beating these impossible circumstances.”
Eisham Masih (18 yrs), said:
“We have been moving around from home to home staying away from any places where people who hate us could find us.
“Sometimes we have seen and heard the large riots and we have watched as little tv as possible – all it shows us, is how many people hate us and want us dead. We choose to remember the love shown to us in countries outside of Pakistan.
“I have cried for joy when I heard my mother would be set free, I now cry for the despair of our situation only God can save us all and when I pray I have felt his presence at my darkest moments. He will show the world that no worldly institutions can thwart his plans for us.
It is a great concern how international bodies and even some western governments can ignore the ruthless and capricious abuses of human rights in Pakistan, and why after so many years Asia Bibi’s infamously mishandled case was never condemned by the UN.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) begin their preparations for their scheduled meeting next week and accordingly this desire for aid money could be an extenuation of why PM Khan signed an agreement with the extremists (click here)
Islamabad will receive another visit from on the IMF team’s initiative in the coming weeks for discussions of a possible IMF-supported economic program. How timely was the capitulation to rioters on the day that the IMF arrived in Islamabad…
Some believe that the cave in was simply a ruse to end the rioting, which would fit in with the huge number of 250 arrests of rioters that has taken place since the ostensible capitulation (click here)
Wilson Chowdhry said:
“The farce of appeal after appeal, with judges stepping out at the last minute that has gone on for almost 10 years cannot be lost on the World. Why are these human right abuses and these clearly unacceptable blasphemy laws in Pakistan so often ignored?
“Prohibiting her departure from Pakistan means she will never have a moments peace, and makes her a more open target for extra-judicial killing by restricting her movement.
“We call on world leaders to take a stand for truth and justice and open their doors for asylum to Asia Bibi, her entire family, and also the family of Joseph Nadeem their long time guardian.”
With the acquittal of blasphemy victim Asia Bibi it may have been easy to forget that blasphemy laws continue to exist and be supported by the Pakistani government with the full weight of the death penalty.
Timely asylum is desperately needed not only for the family of Asia Bibi, but many others who could still suffer extra-judicial killing but still prosecution by the state for blasphemy allegations. Without the ability to leave the country it seems to be only a matter of time before they find her.
Asia Bibi’s husband has appealed to the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the UK and Prime Minister of Canada to help his family and their guardian’s family in a video sent to the BPCA:
Joseph Nadeem, guardian to the family, said:
“We require ten guaranteed offers for asylum from any country in the west but no-one is offering us any asylum, every embassy we apply to is delaying the process.
“We have committed no crime yet all of us are being treated as pariah’s and every day that we remain in Pakistan we are a day closer to death. Asia will be released soon and she cannot remain in Pakistan it will incite people to hatred and it is imperative that a western nation offers us a safe way out of the country.
“We have lost our lives for the last ten years and have also been living in isolation. We seek refuge in Britain, the US, Canada or Australia countries in which the largest Pakistani Christian diasporas reside – we need the support and fellowship of our community.
“These four countries are preferred as I have a good command of English and Asia’s family have a little knowledge of the language already, this will help us adapt quicker to the demands of a new country of residence.
“We are not objects for display but real human beings and will have to one day become less dependant on others but of course we will accept the first offer of asylum that comes our way – we are desperate.”
ACN News: Tuesday, 6th November 2018 – PAKISTAN
Asia Bibi’s husband and daughter, Ashiq Masih and Eisham Ashiq, during their October 2018 visit to the UK as guests of Aid to the Church in Need (© Aid to the Church in Need).
“Help us leave Pakistan” pleads Asia Bibi’s family
- “We no longer have even anything to eat…”
By John Newton and Marta Petrosillo
WITH Asia Bibi and her family fearing for their lives, her husband has called on the international community to help them leave the country.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Ashiq Masih described how the family is still living in secret following calls for his wife to be killed after she was acquitted of blasphemy last Wednesday (31st October).
He said: “Help us get out of Pakistan.
“We are extremely worried because our lives are in danger.
“We no longer have even anything to eat, because we cannot leave the house to buy food”
Violent protests organised by Islamist political movement Tehreek-e-Labbaik following Asia Bibi’s acquittal forced the family to remain in hiding.
In order to end the protests, Pakistan’s government agreed a deal which allowed Tehreek-e-Labbaik to begin proceedings to have Asia Bibi put on the “exit control list” to prevent her leaving the country.
The government also pledged not to object to any review of her appeal verdict.
Asia Bibi is still in prison, despite Supreme Court judges ordering her release when her sentence was overturned.
Mr Masih called for the media and the international community to continue to focus on his wife’s case: “As it is precisely this attention that has kept Asia alive to date.”
Referring to ACN events where the family has spoken about their situation, including the lighting up of the Colosseum this February, Mr Masih said: “I thank Aid to the Church in Need in particular for giving us the opportunity to speak to the world.”
Saif ul-Malook, Asia Bibi’s defence lawyer, left Pakistan due to security concerns and is now in the Netherlands. He intends to organise a press conference later this week
Following a call to the governments of the UK, US and Canada last weekend asking them to offer asylum to the family, Mr Masih also appealed to the Italian government to offer them sanctuary.
He said: “I appeal to the Italian Government to help my family and me get out of Pakistan”.
The family has also requested asylum in Spain and France. They are hoping that all of Asia Bibi’s children will be granted asylum.