By Michael Ireland

Published on Monday, December 31, 2007
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

UNITED KINGDOM (ANS) — According to Impact News (IN) at www.thepath.fm/news , not only have Pakistani Christians lost a vital supporter of their rights, but the assassination of Former Prime Minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has left them with little hope of becoming free from Muslim blasphemy laws.

Nasir Saeed is a legal advocate for persecuted Christians in Pakistan, and is the coordinator in the United Kingdom for the Centre of Legal Aid Assurance and Settlement (CLAAS), an organization that fights for the rights of Pakistan’s 3.5 million-strong Christian minority.

He told Impact News, which is a ministry of CDR Radio Network in Cedarville, Ohio, that Pakistani Christians have always supported Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), because her approach to politics was to not address religion, but to only focus on secularism and equal rights, unlike the other parties in Pakistan’s political system.

“Other parties, if you talk about the MMA, and the Muslim League…they have their own agenda. Muslim League is only for the Muslims,” said Saeed. (The MMA — Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal [moo ta HEE da MAJ lees eh AH mal], the United Action Front, is an alliance initially headed by Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan — the political representative of the Barelvi school of Sunni Muslims, according to globalsecurity.org).

Under Pakistan Penal Code, anyone who in any way defiles the name of the Islamic Prophet, Muhammad, will be fined, and could face life in prison or even the death penalty. Saeed says that Christians had a hope that Bhutto would regain her office and be able to make changes to the blasphemy laws.

“We were asking for equal rights, and she listened to us carefully and she said, okay, once that she comes in power, she will do something about it and we will talk about it and what we could do”

Previously, as two-time prime minister, Bhutto was very open in her opposition to Muslim blasphemy laws. Her assassination has thrown Pakistan into rioting and political chaos just 12 days before elections were scheduled to be held.

The assassination of former Prime Minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is “devastating news” for Pakistan’s oppressed Christian population. Saeed said that Ms Bhutto had been “the best hope” for the country’s non-Muslim population as well as the nation.

“We had spoken with Ms Bhutto about the appalling persecution that Christians currently face. She listened hard to our grievances, and promised that she would attempt to rectify the situation, once she was back in the Parliament,” said Saeed.

“Pakistani Christians around the World had been praying for her and supporting her for many years now. She was the most enlightened and moderate politician and struggled hard to bring real democracy to the country. The Christian minority in Pakistan has suffered a great loss and now fear that they will never be able to replace Ms Bhutto of whom they held great hopes for an end to fundamentalism and persecution.

“Now, following her brutal assassination, we need governments and citizens around the World to speak out, and to apply pressure on Pakistan‘s future Government.”

Although Pakistan’s constitution promises equal rights for all, the country’s non-Muslim population are effectively second-class citizens. CLAAS (Centre of Legal Aid Assurance and Settlement) receives hundreds of first-hand accounts of wrongful arrest, imprisonment, torture and even execution of Christians. Similarly, reports of attacks, rapes and murders on Christians go un-investigated by the police and courts.

At the heart of many of these incidents is the nation’s Blasphemy Laws. These state that a person may face execution for profaning the name of the Prophet Mohammed, or defacing the Quran. These laws have been used for arrest and persecution of Christians, often based on an unsupported allegations made by someone with a score to settle.

A bill was brought to Pakistan’s elected parliament in 2007, attempting to amend the Blasphemy Laws. It was dismissed out of hand by the Parliamentary Affairs minister Dr Sher Afgan who said: “Islam is our religion and such bills hurt our feelings. This is not a secular state but the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

Mr Saeed says that CLAAS will fight on, offering individual legal aid, and support for everybody suffering because of these laws. But, he said, it was time for the World to speak out: “If enough people knew about these appalling injustices, and made their voices heard, we could finally bring an end to the endless tales of torture, rape, execution and mob violence that we have to read about as a matter of course at CLAAS.”
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Michael Ireland** Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station. Michael’s involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department — Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) — of ACT International at: Artists in Christian Testimony (ACT) International. His weblog appears at: Michael Ireland Media Missionary
 
ASSIST News Service (ANS)


1 Response to “Assassination of Benazir Bhutto devastating for Pakistani Christians”

  1. 1 mma

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