Pakistan has become a society religiously divided rather than a nation united. All of us, who deemed to be religious minorities whether Christians, Hindus, parisis, or Ahmadis are the living testaments of state sanctioned religious discrimination. No doubt Pakistan is in the state of war against terrorism, but there are two kinds of wars that people of Pakistan are facing and paying for. One is external i.e. against terrorism, and the second is internal i.e. between the religions where the religious majority is inclined to destroy the minorities with an intention of Islamization. That generates the persecution of Christians in any and all forms. Pakistan came into being as a liberal, democratic and progressive welfare state with equal rights to its citizens, but what the Pakistani state has failed to give its minorities is the sense of belonging, which is defined by words such as home and nation emerges from law. However, when the art 2 of Pakistani constitution declares Islam to be the state religion then the question for all religious minorities is the same. Have they been allowed to think of Pakistan as home? You can observe that how much biased the state is towards its minorities. Pakistan Minorities are discriminated against both constitutionally and legislatively.
Treatment of Christians in Pakistan: An Overview
Pakistan is an Islamic republic, and the Constitution requires that laws be consistent with Islam. The Constitution states that “subject to law, public order and morality, every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion;” In practice discriminatory laws imposes limits on freedom of religion. Islam is the state religion. Freedom of speech is constitutionally “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam.” Muslims make up 97.6% of Pakistan’s population, Hindus 1.5% and Christians 2.7%. Violence against religious minorities in Pakistan is not necessarily as a result of societal intolerance, but is organised and carried out by groups of religious extremists. There are numerous extremist Muslim groups currently operating in Pakistan. The state’s inability to provide basic services has left room for extremist groups to step in and assume responsibility. The responsibilities include running institutions of learning, clinics and setting up madrasas. Overall, whether a Christian is a convert or born into the faith, he or she is ostracized by the Muslim majority. Converts have told stories of losing their jobs when their Muslim employers learned they had become Christians; and others would not employ them because they are Christians. Blasphemy laws in Pakistan are routinely used to harass religious minorities and liberal Muslims and to settle personal scores or business rivalries. Individuals are detained and convicted on spurious charges and often spent years in jail before acquittal, generally at the appellate level. Mobs occasionally attack and kill the accused prior to their arrest. Religious extremists continue to threaten to kill all those acquitted of blasphemy charges.
An overview of Specific Constitutional Provisions and Laws that Limit the Rights of Christians and Other Minorities in Pakistan
The Preamble: The preamble of the constitution of the Islam Republic of Pakistan, 1973 starts with the constitutional discrimination of religious minorities. It states,
“Wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.”
The State’s Religion is Islam- Under Act 2 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, the state’s religion is Islam.
No Provision Regarding the Abolition of Untouchables: under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, there is no provision in place to abolish the practice of discriminating against people considered untouchables.
Bar of Minorities to Key Posts of the State: Under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1997 the President of Pakistan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Governor of Province, Chief Minister of Province Shall be a Muslim
Council of Islamic Ideology: Under Article 227 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Par 9 Islamic Provision) all existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, and nothing shall be enacted which is repugnant to such injunctions.
Art 228 speaks of the composition of the Council of Islamic ideology consisted of Muslim scholars having knowledge of the principles and philosophy of Islam as enunciated in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, or understanding of economic, political and legal or administrative problems of Pakistan.
Under Article 230 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973, the functions of the Council of Islamic Ideology is to make recommendations for (Majlis-e-shoora) parliament and the provincial assemblies as to the ways and means of enabling and encouraging the Pakistani Muslims to order their lives individually and collectively in all respects in accordance with the principles and concepts of Islam as enunciated in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.
No minority citizen of Pakistan can be a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology. No such Minorities’ Commission or Council has been constituted under the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 to make any recommendations in accordance with the principles and concepts of the respective religions to the National Assembly or Provisional Assemblies.
Federal Sharia Court
During the Islamization process a parallel Islamic Sharia court was created. A new Chapter 3a Federal Sharia Court (Articles 203A AND 203J) was enacted.
The Federal Sharia Court consists of 8 Muslim judges. Who decide if any law or provision in the country is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam. Chapter 3A was substituted by the constitutional amendment order 1980 (Presidential Order No 1 of 1980) S. 3 (w.e.f May 26th 1980).
No member of any minority community can be a judge of the Federal Sharia Court and no non-Muslim legal practitioner can represent anyone before the Federal Sharia Court.
Under Article 203-A, the party to any proceeding before the Federal Sharia Court may be represented by a legal practitioner who is Muslim.
Islamic Sharia Law is the Supreme Law of Pakistan
Since the legislation of the Enforcement of Sharia Act 1991, Islamic Shariah laws have been imposed even on religious minorities, ignoring the secular’s laws and codes of their respective religions. This state of affairs has made the Christian community second-class citizens of Pakistan. Prior to this, in 1979, General Zia-ul-Haq promulgated the Islamic Hudood.
Hudood, the plural of hadd, are punishments, the limits of which are set forth in the Quran or Sunnah. In 1979, as part of the continuing Islamization of Pakistan, an entire new set of laws became effective concerning certain criminal offenses. Termed the “Enforcement of Hudood Ordinance,” they provide Islamic punishments for:
(1) Property crimes, such as theft or embezzlement;
(2) Zina, which is fornication or adultery;
(3) Qazf, which is falsely accusing another of Zina.
Hadd punishments range from whipping a certain number of “stripes” to amputations of a hand or foot or multiple simultaneous amputations to imprisonment for a term or for life to death by execution or stoning, the particular hadd punishment depends upon the degree of the offense.
[Note that another similar law was added to the Pakistan Penal Code in 1979. The “Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order,” which pertains to intoxicating beverages and drugs, provides for hadd punishments in the event of conviction for manufacture, transportation, use, possession or the like.)
Late General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988) initiated his Islamization process to bring all existing secular laws framed by British rulers in conformity with the inductions of Islam as laid down by the Holy Quran and Sunnah In his Islamization process, he either repealed all secular laws or incorporated Islamic Sharia laws to make the existing secular laws in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.
Under Islamic Qanuan-e-Shahdat order, 1984, the evidence of a non-Muslim is not admissible against a Muslim. Only two male witnesses can testify while four Muslims women witnesses are equal to the two Muslims witnesses. However, the evidence of non-Muslims evidence may be acceptable if the accused is also a non-Muslim.
QISAS AND DIYAT ISLAMIC ORDINANCE 1997 (Islamic Compensation Law of Blood Money) In the secular codified law of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 (XLV of 1860) in chapter 15 of PPC relating to Offences Affecting the Human body (Section 299 to 338) has been substituted by Islamic Qisas & Diyat Ordinance 1997 by the Criminal Law (Amendment Act 11 of 1997)
DRACONIAN BLASPHEMY LAW: In chapter 15 of offences relation to religion of the Pakistan Penal code (15 of 1860), 1860 the Islamic Blasphemy Law incorporated.
TABULAR STATEMENT OF OFFENCES
|Section||Offence||Procedure||Punishment||Date of Incorporation|
|295-B||Defiling etc. of the copy of Holy Quran||May arrest without warrant||Imprisonment for Life||Instituted by Ordinance (1 of 1982) dated 18/03/1982|
|295-C||Use of derogatory remarks et. In respect of Holy Quran||May arrest without warrant||Death Penalty||Instituted by Act 3 of 1986|
|298-A||Use of derogatory remarks etc. in respect of Holy Muslim Personalities||May arrest without warrant||Death Penalty||Instituted by Ordinance XLV of 1984 dated 18/09/1980|
|298-B||Misuses of epithets, description and titles, etc. reserved for certain holy persons, ages or places||May arrest without warrant||Death Penalty||Substituted by Ordinance 20 of 1984|
|298-C||Person of a Qadyani group etc. calling himself a Muslim or preaching||May arrest without warrant||Death Penalty||Substituted by Ordinance 20 of 1984|
Blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been used against Christians and other religious minorities. There are several cases of Christians detained for alleged blasphemy against Prophet Islam, Muhammad. These allegations are often false and stem from the Muslim accuser’s desire to take revenge against the accused belonging to any religious minority. HORRORS OF ISLAMIC BLASPHEMY LAW IN PAKISTAN The Muslims are increasingly misusing the blasphemy law in Pakistan as a weapon for persecution of Christians. This draconian law is a hanging sword on the heads of the religious minorities. Usually blasphemy law is misused by the Muslims against the religious minorities to settle their enmity, rivalry, hiding criminal offences like commission of rape and kidnapping of girls belonging to minorities’ faiths. Mainly the Muslim fundamentalists target the Christian community of their having their religion, which USA and European countries profess. After the Afghan War 2001, the atrocities with Christian community have increased. In Islamic Pakistan, there is no legislation to punish, in any manner whatsoever, the false accuser and false witness of blasphemy law. The innocent victim of blasphemy case is condemned unheard. The courts are threatened or frightened to pass the death sentence against the innocent victim at any rate. In blasphemy case, an accuser becomes the prosecutor, judge and executor and extra-judicially kills the innocent victims at his own will and violation without any fear of punishment of committing murder. The murderer, on the contrary, is garlanded as the heir of heaven. As according to Islamic doctrine, a person who kills a blasphemous of Holy Prophet earns heavenly reward (Saawaab). This lacuna in Pakistani Law has encouraged the Muslim fundamentalists to misuse the blasphemy law against the Christian community. No court in Pakistan can dare to give its impartial verdict of acquitting any victim under the pressure of Islamic militant organizations. It is evident from the past traditions that usually the Session Courts of the Districts sentenced all the alleged accused with imprisonment of death. However, in some cases, few High Courts acquitted some innocent Christians. But since the murder of Mr. Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti, a judge of Lahore High Court by a fundamentalist Muslim worker due to his acquitting a famous case Manzoor Masih and two others, the High Courts in Pakistan look frightened to give acquittal judgments under the pressure of strong Muslim militant organizations. There are hundreds of examples when the Majority has misused the blasphemy law to harass, kill, burn and lynch the minorities. Few very recent examples are as follows:
- Undue pressurizing, arrests and torturing the Christian community of Youhanaabad after the lynching of two terrorists involved in Youhanaabad blasts. 2015
- Burning alive a Christian boy named Nauman Masih 14 years of age only because of his religion after Youhanaabad blasts. 2015
- Sandha attack on Christian Community upon a blasphemy allegation on a mentally retarded person. 2015
- Attack on a Christian community in Meer pur khas after alleging a mentally retarded Christian named Yousaf Alias Kaka for blasphemy. 2015
- The lynching and burning of a Christian Couple in Kot Radha Kishan on a blasphemy issue: year 2014.
- Burning of two hundred Christian houses in a colony named Badami bagh after alleging the allegations of blasphemy on one Sawan Masih the resident of the Badami bagh community. 2013.
- Attack on a Christian town named Mehar abad due to the alleged Blasphemy on mentally retarded Christian girl named Rimsha Masih 2013.
- Attack on a Christian community in a village named 31- Chak Mian Channu for religious issues against Asif Kaleem, Asher and Kamran Masih.
- Attack on a Christian community in Jehlum named New Christian colony on a Blasphemy allegations in 2012.
- Assassination of Christian Minister Shahbaz Bhatti upon blasphemy issues in 2011.
- Assassination of two brothers named Sajid and Rashid in Faisalabad after being released from Blasphemy charges in 2010.
- Attack on Gojra Village, burning many houses of Christians upon the blasphemy allegations.
- Attack on Korian Village upon blasphemy allegations 2009.
- Attack on Bamaniawala Village upon blasphemy allegations in 2009.
Human Rights Issues:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life: Killings linked to sectarian, religious extremist, and terrorist groups continue to take place in Pakistan.
b. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: Police failed in several instances to protect members of religious minorities—particularly Christians, Ahmedis, and Shi’as—from societal attacks.
c. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention: A First Information Report (FIR) is the legal basis for all arrests in Pakistan. Police are to issue FIRs provided complainants offer reasonable proof that a crime has been committed. An FIR allows police to detain a named suspect for 24 hours after which only a magistrate can order detention for an additional 14 days, and then only if police show such detention is material to the investigation. In practice, the authorities did not fully observe these limits on detention. FIRs’ were frequently issued without supporting evidence as part of harassment or intimidation. Police routinely did not seek magistrate approval for investigative detention and often held detainees without charge until a court challenged them. Incommunicado detention occur. When asked, magistrates usually approve investigative detention without reference to its necessity. In cases of insufficient evidence, police and magistrates colluded to continue detention beyond the 14-day period provided in the law through the issuance of new FIRs’. Members of the police force are mainly Muslims and offer little or no protection to Christians.
d. Discrimination in Pakistan Laws: Religious discrimination is inscribed in legislation and tends to promote a culture of intolerance and division. Under the discriminatory Law of Evidence, the courts of Pakistan operate under a biased legal procedure. For example, under the Law, court witnesses are judged according to their religion and gender: the testimony of one Muslim male court witness is equivalent to the testimony two Muslim women witnesses. Further, the testimony of one male Muslim is equivalent to the testimony of four non-Muslims.
No proper or handsome posts in Government Jobs are offered to the Christians. For the government or their recruiters/ ministers or representatives Christians should only work for the sanitation. Therefore Christians in Majority only get Government jobs in Sanitary and cleaning departments on low levels. There are no jobs for the Christians in beurocracy, education, police, security, district level or the high ranking government departments no matter how competent or eligible the Christian candidates are.
f. Forced Conversion
Today Christian girls, especially minors are the prime target of Muslims, who in order to get admission in paradise abduct these girls, rape them and to escape from the law and also to prevent them from going back to their Christian parents, forcibly convert them to Islam. They not only forcibly convert these girls but also forcibly marry them as well and in such cases, the police and the judiciary have played a biased role by protecting the perpetrator and harassing the victim and her family. In some cases the honorable Judges of the High Courts have said in their decisions that since the girl(s) has embraced Islam therefore, the parents has no right to have her custody.
It is a harsh reality that the Christians of Pakistan have been treated badly all over the world. It is so true that no country is ready to accept them on the basis of Humanity and persecution; they instead prefer to adopt and welcome the Muslims from Syria, Iran and Iraq. In spite of the known fact that Christians are equally been persecuted, violated, killed, sabotaged, sold and maltreated in Pakistan as well
Following are the few recommendations which may deem fit for the betterment and progress of Christians in Pakistan.
- The education systems of Pakistan need strict reforms. There is a lot of hate material added in the syllabus against the religious minorities. The Voice Society along with other civil society organizations is trying to make reforms in this system because we believe that by eliminating the hate material from the syllabus will create a huge difference in the thinking and tolerance of the society regarding religion. Therefore with a possible intervention of the international community, politicians and organizations like European Union and United Nations in the education system of Pakistan and the syllabus there can be a huge difference in the thinking of the society at large.
- State should act as a parent to all religions/ citizens of Pakistan. State should not act as a party for any religious dispute and should play a balanced role in the resolution of any religious dispute. E.g. in the case of Youhanaabad’s riots and lynching of two Muslim terrorists involved in the Church Blasts, state acted as an Anti-Christian agent and it resulted in the undue and countless arrests of Christian youth and thus created a new example of countless police torture physical and Mental.
- The Embassies in Pakistan should also consider Christian staff as Visa officers in Pakistan. Unfortunately the Embassies only hire Christians for the domestic works or lower scale jobs. This itself creates a lot of religious discrimination when the Visa officer do not interpret properly the Application of a Christian applicant intentionally and thus results in the refusals of the visas of Christians saying that documents were not complete or vice versa. Whereas the Muslims are granted visas in Majority.
- The Clergy or religious leadership should be kept away from the persecution issues, because religious priests could not stand for the rights of the people against Muslims, nor they have enough awareness about the legal systems and also they cannot stand against the religious fundamentalists. Therefore Government prefer to negotiate with them because Government knows that the priests are formatted to forgive in the light of religion and therefore many incidents include Gojra Massacre, Sangla hill incident 2005 when 5 churches were burnt down, Badami bagh massacre, Youhanaabad crackdown and many many more were left unheard and justice was never done due to non-prosecution of cases from the Christian community.
- Child marriages of Christian girls should be prohibited and laws should be reformed upon forced conversions as well.
- Pakistani Christians should be given asylum in the Europe on the basis of generalized marginalization and persecution of Christians in Pakistan and a time frame should be fixed for the procedure for maximum six months. In case of refusals of the asylum a family or a person should be intimated and deported within six months instead of years of waiting and then refusing.
- Religious freedom and equal rights should be for all. The international community should play a greater role in speaking against discriminatory laws, Pakistani Government to meet its International obligations by paving the ways for genuine religious freedom and tolerance.
- The participation of Christian Human Rights organizations and Christian Human rights activists in International human rights sessions and conference should be made possible instead of inviting Muslim well known human rights activists from Pakistan, because they never provide the true picture of lawlessness and Human rights violations and religious discrimination to the International community.
Aneeqa M. Anthony
The Voice Society
Advocate High Court
Human Rights Lawyer
Member: Lahore Bar Council
Punjab Bar Council
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
International Society for Human Rights