Through our international affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), we have just filed a report with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) for its thirty-seventh session, documenting the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s ongoing violations of human rights, specifically religious freedom.
Made up of 47 U.N. Member States, which are elected by the U.N. General Assembly, “the Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body . . . responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make [sic] recommendations on them.”
The ECLJ informed the UNHRC that, through our affiliate office in Pakistan, we have firsthand knowledge of the plight of Christian and other minorities. Since we began our work there eight years ago, we have found that:
Pakistan has continuously violated human rights by allowing terrorist attacks on Christians, maintaining broad and abusive blasphemy laws, and inadequately responding to crimes against Christians and other religious minorities.
In December 2017 alone, the Christian community sustained multiple attacks, killing at least fifteen people and injuring many more during attacks on a church and a Christian neighborhood in Quetta.
The Pakistani government’s response to such attacks has been to arrest Christian pastors for lacking the security measures required under the 2015 Punjab Security Ordinance.
Our report informed the UNHRC that the Pakistani government’s lack of concern and injustice reaches to other areas, such as mob violence.
For example, over a hundred people charged for arson, ransacking, and attacking members of Joseph Colony—a Christian neighborhood in Lahore that was attacked after a blasphemy allegation against a Christian man—were acquitted in January 2017.
Our report further highlighted incidents of police brutality. Instead of helping the victims of violence, sometimes police are the aggressors.
In October 2017, six policemen entered a school and beat a seventeen-year-old Christian student to death because he got into an argument with a Muslim student who was related to one of the policemen.
In another incident, while trying to obtain a confession from a Christian man whose employer accused him of robbery, the police tortured the man to death before his son’s eyes.
As we have done on numerous occasions, the report again brought the UNHRC’s attention to Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The report detailed how:
thousands of innocent Pakistanis, including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis, and even Muslims, have suffered [under the blasphemy laws]. The laws are broad and easy to misuse. In fact, many blasphemy cases are a result of personal vendettas. Additionally, over one thousand cases have been registered since the laws were promulgated. Over forty people are on death row or serving life sentences for blasphemy.
A Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, is still on death row under false charges of blasphemy. Her only “crime” was to offer her co-workers water from her cup. Asia’s coworkers told her that they could not drink water from the cup because Asia had made it ceremonially unclean by drinking from it. They asked her to convert to Islam to be cleansed, but Asia refused and affirmed her Christian faith. Asia was accused of blasphemy. A year later, she was convicted and sentenced to death. She has been on death row for over six years and in prison for almost eight.
Our report highlighted many other cases in which our affiliate is providing legal representation to the victims of persecution. We requested the United Nations to:
hold Pakistan to the standards by which it has agreed to abide. Pakistan must protect Christians and other religious minorities and bring the perpetrators of violence to justice.
We will continue to vigorously fight for the persecuted church at the United Nations and on the ground in Pakistan and elsewhere through our affiliate offices.
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