Sunday, 25 September 2016

Strangers in the Town

Islamabad: Pakistan came into being on August 14, 1947; and probably fourth generation celebrating its independence now. During the struggle for an independent country, the history is witness that Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Jews that lived in Muslim dominated regions of undivided India supported Jinnah’s vision and worked hard for a separate homeland, Pakistan. A prominent Christian politician Dewan Bhader S P Singha voted for Pakistan and thus this country can emerge on the map of the world. The most notable and influential Hindu figure in the Pakistan Movement was Jogendra Nath Mandal from Bengal. Jagannath Azad was from the Urdu speaking belt. Mandal represented the Hindu contingent calling for an independent Pakistan, and was one of the founding fathers of Pakistan. Leading Indian Christian like Pothan Joseph had rendered valuable services as journalists and propagandists of the Muslim League. That means that all communities have played its role for a dreamland. But unfortunately the dreams didn’t come true for minorities of Pakistan.
During early days of founder of the nation Mohammad Ali Jinnah, every citizen had enjoyed equal rights but gradually things have been changed. Jinnah had repeatedly promised all citizens of Pakistan complete equality of citizenship, but this promise was not kept by his successors. After the independence, Mandal was given ministries of Law, Justice, and work-force by Jinnah in Liaqat Ali Khan’s government. He, however, realized his folly in 1950, when some lower caste Hindus were killed in clashes in East Bengal, generating a wave of refugees to India. He himself fled to India and submitted his resignation to Liaquat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Since then minorities of the country has been considered as strangers and bureaucracy and administration treated them as second class citizen of Pakistan. By time to time, legislators, bureaucracy and Mulliasm proved through their acts that they do not own minorities. Series of unforgettable attacks on minorities and discriminatory attitude pushed many of them to re-settle abroad.
During the past seven decades nobody ever realized to bring them on mainstream. Rather keep on persecuting physically and mentally. For example, making educational calendars has become quite a difficult job in Pakistan. One has to give careful consideration especially on religious occasions like Eids, Ashura, in addition to weather conditions and public holidays. Usually no such activities like examinations (semester, term or annual) are scheduled in these days.
Unfortunately no such courtesy is extended to minorities. Throughout the life of Pakistan minorities have to battle with school authorities for ignoring their festivals. At times minorities’ children had to miss term papers or monthly tests in order to attend their occasions. A sizable number of minority students appear in these tests and many of them represent from the remote areas. Most students especially girls, are accompanied by their family members while travelling to main cities. People who have travelled on Eid can understand painful is to travel on such festive days. Christmas, Eastor, Diwali, and other events of minorities are ignored since independence. The authorities concerned should make a better plan to help those who suffer on these counts.
Mandal’s support for Muslim League, his sacrifices for Pakistan, and his love for Muslims cannot be discredited. His ill-treatment at the hands of a bureaucrat is a dark chapter in our history. In Pakistan, there still exist many Jogendras who exhausted their energies in vain to prove that they as patriotic as everyone else.

In the present situation, I should say, it is not only unsatisfactory but absolutely hopeless and that the future seems completely dark and dismal. Confidence of the minorities in Pakistan has not been restored in the least.

Pakistani Christians with false hopes of refugee status

ISLAMABAD: Religious extremism has gone to its peak since Afghan refugees entered in Pakistan. Due to the terrorism Pakistan lost thousands of its precious lives and properties. Religious banned outfits attacked on schools, worship places, parks and even on law enforcement agencies and their places. In the past years those militant organizations have targeted the religious minorities especially Christians. In the latest episode four suicide bombers, wearing suicide vests and carrying latest firearms attacked on Christian Colony, Warsak Dam, Peshawar but due to the prompt action by the security forces they were saved.
The Army Chief General Raheel Sharif played aggressive role in combating terrorism in Pakistan and due his proactive approach the ratio has been decreased. According to the recent statement by DG ISPR Lt. Gen Asim Bajwa, “Pakistan Army has eliminated the militants groups in the country.” But the very next day, the spokesperson for TTP JA, Ehsanullah Ehsan said, “We have carried out the attack.” He said the attack was a response to the Army’s spokesperson (Lt. Gen Asim Bajwa’s) press Conference who said yesterday that militant groups had been eliminated.
Religious minorities in Pakistan are already persecuted under stringent blasphemy law. Since military dictator General Zia ul Haq added new clauses in the law, minorities in the country feel insecure. And usually this law is misused and resultantly many people including Muslims either being killed or suffering in the prisons. In this critical condition, militants groups turned to attack Christians. Twin blasts in the Peshawar Church killed more than 80 worshipers and left many injured. Two churches were attacked in Youhanabad, Lahore that killed dozens of worshipers and many were injured. Later on the occasion of Easter festivity, suicide bomb blast in Iqbal Park, Lahore killed many innocent people.
In this itchy living environment, four years back persecuted Pakistani Christians started reaching Thailand seeking resettlement in the West. Thailand was one of the few countries that allow Pakistani easy entry as tourists. And nearly 10,000 Pakistani have been gathered in Bangkok, and now most of them are living an underground existence. Alas, the UNHCR offered false hope. The typical refugee waits years just for an interview, the first step to receiving official refugee status. So far, no one among them has moved on to Europe, America or anywhere else.
In the meantime, Pakistan Today reported that the Hong Kong delegation had contacted the Interior Ministry to take up the issue of increasing number of illegal Pakistani immigrants sneaking entry into Hong Kong with false hopes of “refugee status”. According to the sources, Thai government did the same about the Pakistani immegrants. Religious minorities in Pakistan face persecution. Christians are disproportionately targeted by blasphemy laws, often as retaliation for commercial and personal disputes. Sectarian murderers are publicly supported and applauded. Public response after the hang of Mumtaz Qadri is common example. Government has failed to protect victims and a “deep-rooted climate of impunity.”
Discriminatory attitude, sectarian threats and attacks drove many Christians from their homes. Asylum seekers are struck in Thailand and other neighboring countries and endure a tenuous existence. On arrival the UNHCR typically gives them an appointment set a year or two in the future; the date often is delayed as the appointment approaches. Once the visa expires, the asylum hopefuls are unable to work legally and subject to arrest whenever they leave home. The Thai authorities stake out neighborhoods and raid apartments where refugees are believed to live. Hundreds of unlucky asylum seekers have been ended up in detention and some even died during the mean time.
Some welfare organizations do their best to help refugees, providing food, sundries and legal aid. But those can only assist a limited number of families. Many of the families flow ebbed after word returned to Pakistan that there is no easy exit from Thailand, those already arrived are essentially trapped. They have sold their possessions. But they see no path forward either.

The European and the U.S. have accommodated millions of Afghan, Syrians and Egyptian Muslims in their countries; resultantly facing terrorist attacks in their countries.  Why can’t they bear the people with the same faith and values? The only feasible solution is that the UNHCR High Commissioner is supposed to make a designation with 90 days and should take up this issue on priority bases. And the U.S. and other European Countries should admit people who are not only in desperate need, but “who share the same faith and values” as the people persecuted for their faith are among the best candidates to receive asylum. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Scorching heat, Ramadan and Pakistani minorities

Scorching heat, Ramadan and Pakistani minorities

ISLAMABAD: Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a Muslim dominated country, where, it is imposed to respect Islam and if any one talk about its force imposition, it can be consider as blasphemy. Minorities of the country are already living under the 24/7 threats and being dealt as second class citizen. Many people are being indulged in blasphemy laws and thousands have been facing such an insulting environment that made their life hell. Discrimination and hate are daily routine matters, at work place, public place, eating place and other areas. Though protection is given in the constitutions but ground realities are different.
This evening, when every Muslim was greeting each others for the blessings of Ramadan, I was thinking about the minorities of Pakistan because willing or unwillingly, minorities’ living in Pakistan have to fast with their fellow Muslims, means law of the country force everyone to go hungry during the month of
Ramadan. In Pakistan, it is unlawful to drink, eat or smoke in public places during Ramadan. You can be sent to jail, heavily fined or may even be beaten by vigilantes. Its peak heat wave in Pakistan during June, with temperatures rises in the different regions routinely around 40 and above degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and days at their longest of the year, governments are trying to alleviate the hardships of the month long sunrise-to-sunrise fast.
Last year, a brutal heat wave killed dozens of people in Pakistan. Many of them died of dehydration while fasting in sweltering temperatures. Even then the respect of Ramadan is mandatory for all citizens of Pakistan.
During the military dictator Zia ul Haq Ehtiram-e-Ramadan (Respect of Ramadan) bill was imposed that prescribes punishments of up to three months in jail and a fine for people who drink or eat publicly. According to the tenets of Islam, is under an obligation to fast shall not eat, drink or smoke in a public place during fasting hours in the month of Ramadan, the law says.
Nearly every restaurant is closed from dawn to dusk, and shopkeeper can only sell take away food items.  And if you are hungry or thirsty the only place for you is home. At offices, public and private places are not allowed to eat.
Basharat Khokher, social activist said that the law is inhuman and violates the fundamental human rights. Those who want to fast have the right to do so, but those who don’t want to fast have equal rights. I am religious and respect Ramadan, but it also is not intended to make you sick or put you in danger. Sometimes it’s so hot, that we can’t touch the metal poles on the scaffolding without gloves. A laborer cannot work in these conditions without water, he added.
“We cannot allow the liberal people to secularize our country, our society,” said Omar Bhatti, a student of Islamic research. “The respect of Ramadan is mandatory for all citizens of Pakistan. There can’t be any compromise on it.” As for religious minorities; they live in an Islamic country and must have to obey its rules.”
Those who do not fast should behave as if they are fasting, Qari Abdul Qadir, a cleric said. “Non-Muslims and elderly or sick Muslims can eat but they should show respect for fasting Muslims and avoid eating or drinking openly” he said.
With the growth of Islamic outfits such as Taliban and it’s representation in the region, situation have become worse in the past years. Religious extremism and intolerance are on the rise in this region. Now even hospital cafeterias and bus stands don’t serve food during Ramadan. And if someone found around eating or drinking might accuse of blasphemy.
Maryam Khushi, a beautician, said forget about Ramadan, I have to be careful about what I do in public throughout the year. What I say, what I wear. People become more pious during Ramadan and I have to be more careful, she added.       
Ramzan Qadir, a liberal Muslim in Islamabad, said respect needs to be two-way street. “If the religious people can’t respect my rights, I am not ready to respect theirs. It is simple as that he told. “And when these people go to Europe and the US, they insist on their rights. They protest against veil ban in France, but they don’t allow Christians in Pakistan to live freely. I found it hypocritical.

The tiny liberal community in the country is not powerful enough to challenge the Islamic laws. Occasionally observed, it is not just involving Ramadan, fanatic Muslims have taken law into their hands and had punished Christians and Hindus for a perceived lack of respect of Islam. In either case, minorities of Pakistan have to respect Ramadan.  

Sunday, 29 May 2016

CII curtail women’s right

CII curtail women’s right
CII allowed men to beat women
Few days back, Islamic constitutional body, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has proposed its own women protection bill, recommending ‘a light beating’ for the wife if she defies the husband. This recommendations spark outrage though the CII chairman soften the tone stating ‘violence’ is not permissible in Islam. As he believes that light beating does not mean violence.
Earlier CII rejected Punjab’s controversial Protection of Women against Violence Act (PPWA) terming it un-Islamic and drafted its own bill and will now forward to the Punjab Assembly. However the parliament is not bound to consider its recommendations. The 20-members CII proposed that a husband should be allowed to ‘lightly’ beat his wife if she defies his commands and refuse to dress up as per his desires; turns down demand of intercourse without any religious excuse or does not take bath after intercourse or menstrual periods. The bill also suggested that beating is also permissible if a woman does not observe Hijab; interacts with strangers; speaks loud enough that she can easily be heard by strangers; and provides monetary support to people without taking consent of her spouse.
In a bill of 163-pages there are several bans on women like ban on co-education after primary educations, ban on women from taking part in military combat, ban on welcoming foreign delegations, interacting with males and making recreational visits with ‘Na-Mehram’ (not known), female nurses should not be allowed to take care of male patients and women should be banned from working in advertisements etc….. The CII is a powerful body because of its influence on political system in Pakistan. It advises Pakistani legislature whether laws are in line with the teachings of Islam.      
I don’t know for how long blasphemy laws allow me to speak about Islam or its teaching, but let me tell you; there is difference between women, children and minorities rights and Islamic permission. There are no equal rights for women and other minorities residing in a nation in which the Quran and Sharia Law define culture and society and its rule of law. Women rights given in Islam are the same as recommended by CII. Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran are clear examples and so much so Pakistan is another Sunni dominated Islamic country inspired by Saudi Arabia.
A Muslim apologist usually says that Islam is religion of peace and provide the rights for women, children and for the people of the Book like Christian and Jews. The Council must have given Islamic references in support of these recommendations. And I am giving few quotes from Quran about how Islam deal with other minorities, which one of my US friends quoted.   
Quotes of Quran from “The Quran and Christianity” (6/23/16):
In the Quran, Christians are generally referred to as “people of the book” and then in the various suras and ayahs (or chapters and verses) a number of references are made. In 2:120, “Never will the Jews nor the Christians be pleased with you till you follow their religion. Say: ‘Verily, Islamic Guidance is the only Guidance. And if you were to follow their desires after what you have received of Knowledge, then you would have against Allah neither any protector nor helper.”

In 3:56: “As to those who disbelieve, I will punish them with a severe torment in this world and in the Hereafter, and they will have no helpers." In 3:85: “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” In 3:118: “O you who believe! Take not as your helpers or friends those outside your religion since they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you. They desire to harm you severely. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, but what their breasts conceal is far worse. Indeed we have made plain to you the verses if you understand.”

3:178 states: “And let not the disbelievers think that our postponing of their punishment is good for them. We postpone the punishment only so that they may increase in sinfulness. And for them is a disgracing torment”. Hardly encouraging for the basis for a peaceful co-existence and a comfortable pluralism

Muslim love of the Quran that tells them to physically coerce non-Muslims through humiliation to convert or to kill them if they insult Islam or its prophet Mohammad is a dooms day promise toward Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan.
CII recommendations could rightly be according to Islam but legislature is not bound to obey it. Religions is one’s own dealing with his creator but State deals with every individual’s matter and have to protect every citizen. Today, anyone can construct mosque, synagogue or temple in US or any Christian majority country and can worship according to his faith but not in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Even if someone says that constitution of Pakistan protect the rights of minorities but on ground situation is totally different, Jews cannot even proclaim their faith in Pakistan. And we are witness to the number of attacks on churches and temples and on minorities in the country.         
Decades back, Christian majority countries have separated Church from the State matters. First amendment to the United States Constitution includes a clause that calls for the separation of church and state. Many people now espouse the belief that American government was designed to include “an impenetrable wall” separating church and state. Reason would have been same the domination of religious leadership supervision over the state matters. One should learn a lesson from the history, and may be tomorrow we will come up with the conclusion to do so, if we want to survive.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Join hands to save the lives of Pakistani Christians Way out to long sufferings

Join hands to save the lives of Pakistani Christians
Way out to long sufferings

Islamabad: 7 And the Lord said:  “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. 9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 1:7-10)

The world has seen surly seen the oppression of Christians living in Pakistan. Since Zia’s regime, there are more than 1400 blasphemy cases registered and thousands of the Christians girls have faced force conversions and huge numbers of persecution cases were registered against religious minorities. According to the sources more than sixty people accused of blasphemy were killed before their respective trails were over though the death sentence has never been implemented.
Infect before partition of Indo-Pak, this section was introduce in 1860 and was meant to prevent religious violence. Prior to 1986, only 14 cases pertaining to blasphemy were reported. But later it is being used to settle personal secures. And thus minorities of the country have been facing persecution under this unsympathetic blasphemy law.

To me persecution of Pakistani Christians is aligned with other issues as well like poverty. There are different options to get rid of long sufferings. Being an optimistic, here are few recommendations, and I feel this is workable and can minimize the level of persecution. Major portion of this marginalized community lives in outskirts under below poverty line. Ninety percent of poor girls work as maid and thus become victim of domestic violence or being rapped and thus being forcefully married and are asked to convert to Islam. Major portion of youth is unemployed or work as laborer with low salary or bounded labor. Practically speaking, any Christian working under Muslim bosses face discrimination in/on regular bases. Even Isfan Yar Bhandara (minority parliamentarian) confessed that minority parliamentarian receive discriminatory development funds in the lower house.

Education is the first and foremost priority, go to school is right of every child and to ensure the provision of education facility can fix the problem. Church based institutions and other buildings can be used to educate the Christian community. Big donor agencies can take this initiative and I assure you after fifteen years, things would miraculously change. Drop out ratio has gone to higher ever since because standard of the public school education cannot meet the required result and education at private sector is much expensive.     

So provision of better employment opportunities to the marginalized segment of society is the only solution for better future. There are number of measures one can take to save the skin. For example; providing small loans in establishing their own businesses in livestock, petty trading, agriculture, stitching, embroidery, handicrafts and small scale rural manufacturing can raise living standard of the poor population. This will help them start earning on their own instead of relying continuously on cash grants by some donor agencies/church based organizations. Any interest free loan scheme can alleviate unemployment and poverty from this marginalized segment.

There may be some organizations working on the same issues but we need to take as a challenge and start working at broader level. Otherwise there are number of options youth can chose at their own, that may be destructive not constructive. So I suggest constructive measures can save Pakistani Christians as sense of deprivation is prevailing among the Christian youth in Pakistan. And its alarming situation.  

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Live your life – let others live too

With due respect to Muslims, multiculturalism is a failure in Pakistan. That being one of the reasons for creation of Pakistan, it is very unfortunate where things stand today. It is quite ironical when Muslims migrate to western nations, and expect them to accept them, and when they do not on any level, Muslim label them as racists. Do Christians migrate to Muslims nations? Do Muslims accept Christians with open arms in their countries? The answer is sadly no. The fact is that Muslims do not let religious minorities to live in their countries with freedom to practise their religion as they wish. I am by birth a Pakistani, not an immigrant; even before the partition my forefathers used to live in the same area called the Punjab province. In the early 2000, we moved to Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and settled in rented houses, owned by Muslims.

Pakistan has become a Sunni Muslim-dominated country, and a narrow-minded mindset has changed the concept of the creation of Pakistan. The founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, struggled for a country where people of all ethnicities and religions would be allowed to live peacefully, and as per their faith. He clearly announced that every person was free to live in accordance to his faith. On March 12, 1949, the second constituent assembly of Pakistan passed the Objectives Resolution, which was proposed by the first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. The Objectives Resolution proclaimed that the future constitution of Pakistan would not be modelled entirely on a European pattern, but on the ideology and democratic faith of Islam. The legislative election in 1954 saw the Awami League come to power, and its leader, Huseyn Suhrawardy, became the country’s first Bengali prime minister. The declaration of constitution in 1956 led Pakistan to pronounce itself as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (official name), with the adoption of parliamentary democratic system of government.

Since then a strict version of Islam that is against the very essence of Islam has prevailed in Pakistan, in which a large segment of religious clergy took it upon itself to spread hate against other religions. Thousands of people have either been killed or sent to prisons in an effort to ‘save’ Islam. Many Muslims believe that theirs is the only sacred religion, ignoring the importance of Christianity as another divine religion, and they are committed in a self-avowed mission to ‘protect’ it by killing others. There are clerics all over Pakistan who give fatwas, and thus end up creating self-professed vigilantes of faith.

Good Friday is a Christian ritual, and it is a common practice in which Christians gather for mass to pray to God. Honestly speaking, I am not too religious and do not attend church on a regular basis, and on such occasions I usually pray at home as I feel every man has his personal affiliation with his creator. There is more than one reason behind my reluctance to attend church regularly: I have certain issues with some so-called pastors whom I think of as religious businessmen. Therefore, my family members and I gather for the Good Friday service and pray in our house. Once, while the service was on someone knocked at the door; I went out to check, and found my landlord there. He said to me that the house was not a church, and that we are not allowed to say our prayer at home. If we wish to continue, we better leave the house. I explained him that we did not invite any outsider, and it was only other the family members who had gathered to pray on our religious event. However, the landlord did not listen to any reasoning, and ordered us to vacate the house. It was not the first time that he had told us in no uncertain terms to stop praying in our house; in June last year when we gathered for my mother’s death anniversary, he disturbed our gathering, and said the same thing.

Was this country only made for Muslims? Do we, Christians, have no right to live our lives? Will justice be done? Is this a safe place for our children? I am familiar with government-issued statements that minorities have been given equal rights; some minority parliamentarians are doing the same. Moreover, some so-called patriots try to show their loyalty by criticising and alienating others. But my question is: where does a common Christian person stand? A major portion of the Pakistani Christians lives below the poverty line, and it is this same segment that faces problems in everyday life.

Pakistan is a Muslim-dominated country, and Muslims have completely changed the landscape by building mosques and madrassas on every corner; this is something that we, Christians, have no issue with. However, we ask: why are Christians not allowed to build churches? In the capital, Islamabad, there are dozens of mosques and madrassas that have been constructed illegally, but there is no action that is taken. Illegalities are hidden in the guise of piety and religion. The founder of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, created this country, and gave all its citizens equal rights, but his successors have changed the ideology of Pakistan. And the biggest victim is the Christian community of Pakistan. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

World Interfaith Harmony Week – Feb 06, 2016

World Interfaith Harmony Week – Feb 06, 2016

Joao Poulo Sabido Costa, Charge'd Affair of Portugal in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will become a better place to live if exchange of ideas keeps on taking place. There is not much difference in the original messages of love in all faiths. Synthesis of the philosophies of the genius, true lovers of humanity and Saint may bring heaven on the plant, said Jao Paulo Sabido Costa, the Charge’d Affairs Portugal in Pakistan. He was talking at the World Interfaith Harmony Week -2016 organized by REAP & Rah-e-Nijat Ministry. He said that whenever I hear the news of violence being committed in the name of God; I am absolutely repulsed at the carnage caused by the terrorists. The fact that the perpetrators espouse rhetoric linking their senseless murders to Islam disgusts me even further.

Jononov Sharali
Jononov Sherali, Ambassador of Republic of Tajikistan to Pakistan said that faith minorities living in Pakistan must enjoy safety and security unconditionally. He said Islam has issued severe warnings to those who infringe rights of minorities. The saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) urging Muslims to protect the rights of faith minorities should be enough for people and authorities should protect them a
nd others to defend the rights of minorities against the terrorists, who do not represent any faith.
Earlier last year twin blasts rocked the Roman Catholic Church and Christ Church in Lahore and other killings of the Christian couple. Such violence meted out by individuals or a group of people is absolutely against Islam, and must not be tolerated, he added.
Shamim Masih

Shamim Masih, President REAP and Ambassador of “Parliament of the World’s Religion” and Safdar Chaudhry mutually declared that religious motivated violence must be fought together and with passion. The fanatics – weather at home or abroad – must be brought to justice, but that can only be done if people of multi-beliefs are united against them. Ideologies cannot be simply bombed but they need to be replaced with alternatives. The terrorists are killing people indiscriminately – their only aim is to cause chaos, devastation and bloodshed. Such violent actions are far removed from the teachings of any religious leader, he added.

People of faith must continue to defend the faith and liberties of each other. The cycle of hate and counter-hate, violence and counter-violence needs breaking,
said Sadia Hayat Khan, the Actor, Producer and Anchor. She produced a documentary “Mein be Pakistan Hon” asking equal rights and opportunities for all.

We must act as our brother’s keeper and put the principle of “love
Group Photo
thy neighbor” preached by all religions, into a living reality. This is the only way that we can restrain the terrorists destroying the peace and harmony amongst the creation of God. And this real message to promote harmony.  People from all faiths (Hindu and Sikh) believed to stand and go along together for the prosperity of the country. Representatives from all walks of life attended the event and appreciated the effort to promote harmony & better understanding.
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Friday, 22 January 2016

Extremists take aim at Soft Target

Extremists take aim at Soft Target

Shamim Masih

ISLAMABAD: Once again Islamic extremists forced sobbing parents rushed into hospitals searching for their children. Taliban insurgent once again hit soft target at Bacha Khan University on 20th January, 2016 Wednesday after a month Pakistan observed the first anniversary of the deadly attack on Army Public School and killed about 150 students and teachers in Peshawar. Four terrorist entered the University and shot killed at least 30 including two teachers, injured students said the toll could be much higher were it not for a teacher armed with a pistol that briefly held off the attackers before being killed. The attackers had chosen a day to attack when students and faculty members gathered at the school for a poetry recital to commemorate the death anniversary of Khan Abdul Ghuffar Khan, the activist and a leader after whom the school is named.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a banned organization claimed the attack through a post on his Face book page, adding that four attackers were sent to the University. On the other hand TTP – Fazalullah group condemned the attack, terming it “against Shariah”. Banned organizations are still operating freely in Pakistan. The government bans an organization; it emerges with a new name, contests elections and even wins seats and takes part in legislations. Lashaker e Tayba, (LeT) banned in 2002, changed its name to Jamat u Dawah (JuD) and still working freely under the guise of a welfare trust - often along with Pakistan Army in cases of emergency and one of its main office in heart of Islamabad, the capital.
son of Liaqat Masih 
It is observed that recently Islamic militants had chosen and hit soft target. Educational institutions, worship places and minorities of the country. All Saints Church in Peshawar was attacked in which more than 127 people were killed and over 250 injured. Later; on March 15, 2015, at least 20 people were killed and more than 80 injured when two Taliban suicide bombers attacked two churches in Youhanabad, Lahore. But when happened next, the average response after these attacks is exactly the same as any other in the past. “They are not Muslims; terrorist has no religion, its conspiracy and so on. Such oversimplified; sweeping statements have become a part of national discourse in Pakistan.
Islamic radicalization has no boundary and it does not need any set organization, its mind set; as a Pakistani Christian writer, I have been raising voice against this mind set and when we talk about this mind set; watchdogs usually see and call to threaten for raising voice of voice less people. We have seen such people from all walks of life. The most ridiculous of all has been the response of Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan, the same were considered as their negotiators back in 2014.
The year 2016 begun with attacks for Pakistani Christians; five different incidents were reported in just first two weeks, on Sunday, January 03, Muslim youth disrupt Christians’ New Year prayer meeting. Muslims in a village Nawapind, in Pasrur who seized a church property have disrupted a prayer meeting at a private residence, a source said. Sources confirmed that local Christians obtained written approval from the district police office. But when Christians began worshipping, some Muslims heading Rashid Jutt reached there and disrupted the meeting. Local police officer, SHO told that police resolved the issue at a village council level meeting. On 7 January, the New Apostolic Church in Batth Village, on Multan road was set on fire after New Year celebration in suspicious circumstances alleged to be arson attack. On the same day a Muslim man went into the Church and burnt copies of Bible in Victory Church, Kasur.
On 14 January, a Pakistani Christian man died while in the custody of the notoriously brutal police of Punjab in Kelaske, Gujranwala. On the same day, TMA worker in Sialkot was shot dead in the morning whilst cleaning the streets. Nazir Masih, a devout Pakistani Christian and father of five children, the only breadwinner was gunned down. He was struck by four bullets and despite the noise this many shots would have made in the constantly busy streets the gunman remain unknown. Four Christian’ girls were victimized in different areas of Punjab. Two Pakistani Christians asylum seekers died in Thailand during January.

As extremists are taking soft targets but our government has not provided any security to churches and educational institutions in the country. Bishop Humphrey Peter said that government did not provide any security for churches and other institutions. I have not been to understand, where do we stand? What is the future of our children? Security of an individual is purely responsibility of the govt. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Out of the frying pan into the Fire

Out of the frying pan into the Fire
Shamim Masih

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is predominantly a Muslim country with its 97 percent of population adhering to Islam and the religious minorities make just a fraction of the population with varying estimates few percent of the total population. Constitution of country guaranteed the rights and protection of the all its citizens. Founder of country, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, apparently promised freedom for other religious minorities in his address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 and Christians along with other religious minorities agreed and believed his promise. But unfortunately it didn’t come true and Pakistan is now not known as a responsible democracy. Recently many banned organization have been openly speaking against the rival sects, and other religions, resultantly killing of many innocents from religious minorities. Pakistan has been a growing hatred problem and most of it is being driven from within the urban/semi urban centers. Though Article 20 of the constitution deals with the “Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions and 36 is about the protection of minorities and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities but reality is unfortunately has gone to worse because of the growing violence against the religious minorities in Pakistan.
Based on the 10 incidents which took place in one month (October 2015) only in Punjab, USCIRFurged the U.S. State Department to enlist Pakistan among nine nations as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) – a designation for those nations considered to be the worst violators of religious freedom. These include government that “engage in or tolerate” systematic ongoing, and unspeakable violations of religious freedom.
In the recent years, attacks on religious minorities have increased though Pakistan Islamic persecution of Christian’s may not be on the level of ISIS; nonetheless it is still quite horrific. The long sufferings in the country have been worsened by a sense of deprivation among the locals, and an inclusive political system is unable to achieve sustainable peace and stability. Thus many Christian families like Hindus have fled to other countries seeking protection and rights to live like other human beings. But this is very unfortunate that Pakistani Christians are not being welcomed in Europe like EU welcomed million Muslims.
According to BPCA, Samina, a Christian woman who had fled violence-ridden Karachi and sought refuge in Thailand, died on Christmas Eve after she was arrested after her visa expired. She was arrested as part of an ongoing wave of arrests of foreigners deemed to have overstayed their visa and was detained in horrific conditions. Most Pakistani Christians, asylum seekers who have given that status by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) but because Thailand refuses to sign the relevant Refugee Protocols that most other nations have, it does not recognize that status, and treats such Pakistani Christians as illegal immigrants. Therefore thousands of Pakistani Christians are either living in prisons or hiding places and if found are badly treated.

While I am writing story, another man, Bashir Masih, reportedly died there. Sources confirmed that there are more than 200 people still in the lock ups. And many more are living miserable life in hidden places fearing of being arrest at any times. Australia, Canada and many European countries have granting immigration visas to thousands of Pakistani and Afghans in the recent years. But Christians’ visa applications are turned down in thousands in the last year, 2015. In fact these applications are rejects without citing any convincing reasons, in fact many of them on frivolous grounds, which surprisingly cannot be challenged at any forum. Will the situation remain same for Pakistani Christians?