Wilson Chowdhry demands equal democratic rights for Pakistani Christians
03 Aug 2013
To introduce Mr. Wilson Chowdhry, we can say, a committed, dedicated and courageous Christian leader who was born in London but his heart beats with nation of his ancestors in Pakistan. When he witnessed incident of Gojra in 2009, he stepped forward to form British Pakistani Christian Association BPCA to share miseries of millions of oppressed and persecuted Pakistani Christians.
The role of Pakistani Christian Diaspora in London remained a ray of hope and encouragement for Christians in Pakistan because whenever they read news items of protests in favor of their rights in UK in Pakistani newspapers, they became confident that they are not alone. But after 1990, suddenly such protests or publications which were imagined to be voice of Pakistani Christian from London vanished.
I was amazed that BPCA under leadership of Wilson Chowdhry was hitting streets of London for rights of Pakistani Christians again like era of Naseem Dean and his blog like monthly of Allama Sharar; Mr. Chowdhry was in front of Pakistani High Commission in London, next day, in front of 10 Downing Street, presenting memorandums to the office of British Prime Minister or with an English Band under any monument to raise voice for equal democratic rights of Pakistani Christians.
I was always anxious to meet this young leader of BPCA but time never provided me a chance for years. Suddenly, I came to know that Wilson Chowdhry is visiting USA to participate in a session in Washington DC called by United States Commission on International Religious Freedom USCIRF on situation of Pakistani Christians on July 18, 2013, and will come to Philadelphia also.
I met Mr. Wilson Chowdhry in home of Mr. Victor Gill in morning of July 19, 2013; we talked about health of Mr. Taskeen Khan, Mr. Nasir Saeed, other friends in London and on movements of Pakistani Christian Diaspora in UK.
I requested Wilson Chowdhry to give interview for Pakistan Christian Post PCP for which he agreed and here
under are contents of Interview;
Q; Thanks for visiting Philadelphia and giving time to Pakistan Christian Post for talking with you; You were in Washington DC on July 18, 2013, to participate in a meeting called by USCIRF on situation of Pakistani Christian; What issues of Christians of Pakistan were discussed in it?
A: Many issues were discussed ranging from abduction, rape and forced Islamic marriage by zealots who have been brainwashed into thinking that bringing minority women into servitude is somehow a holy act that will earn them a place in heaven. The lack of literacy amongst minority groups and demonization of minority groups within the national curriculum was spoken of and raised great ire amongst local groups who have been campaigning against the inculcation of such hatred for decades. Misuse of the blasphemy laws of Pakistan however was the key focus and despite comments from Peter Bhatti suggesting the blasphemy laws were not a problem directly the majority view was these laws have to be abrogated.
I believe groups such as the USCIRF are taking more notice of the humanitarian issue pertaining to Pakistan. However, the relationship many countries have with Pakistan is based on its position as an ally in the war against terror; this has weakened the effectiveness of such groups. Moreover, ministerial relationships are often diluted through trade agreements with some countries.
Recommendations to be made by the USCIRF focus on dialogue with Pakistan over the blasphemy laws of Pakistan and it exists national curriculum that caricatures minorities living there. If improvement can be made in these areas it will bring some hope to the situation, but not for many years as the process will be elongated.
Q: What system of Election you suggest for Pakistani Christians?
A: Pakistan should be encouraged to hold a single electorate voting system. The system should include positive discrimination that secures a certain number of tickets within political parties for minority groups. These tickets (candidate selections) will be required to go through the normal election process and monitored for parties choosing minorities for unwinnable seats only which should result in some form of penalty i.e loss of certain seats that will then go to other minority candidates. The onus on the parties will then be to ensure they pick string candidates who will be empowered in parliament with the knowledge they have people’s votes behind them.
The BPCA believes the blasphemy laws need to be returned to their original context when initially created as a public order act that protected all faiths form incitement to hatred. The original laws imposed a small fine or sentence and were not as extreme as the Islamicised version, altered under the reign of Dictator Zia Ul Haq. These new laws with their life sentencing or death sentence that prescribe blasphemies only against the Islamic faith are draconian and discriminatory.
Q; what are reasons that Christian representation in democratic institutions is decreasing?
A: Too many Christians are frightened to entre democratic institutions as Shahabaz Bhatti's murder proves that no-one is safe and Christians with strong convictions will be targeted.
There is too much division amongst Pakistani Christians. If they could be made to work more collaboratively the campaign would be strengthened considerably. We need to learn such solidarity from the Muslim community who has shown that block voting and campaigning is the most effective tool for change in democracies.
Q: What are future plans of BPCA for Pakistani Christians?
A: Any campaign that tries to highlight the plight of victims of injustice are valuable. Our campaign is only a small piece of the jigsaw and together with other groups has served to create greater awareness of the issues in Pakistan. Asia Bibi is the emblem of the Campaign for justice in Pakistan and we believe we have contributed significantly the cause.
We have challenged countries to introduce improved accountability and traceability to their grants to governments and institutions. It is bizarre that despite the billions invested by America do millions by Britain there has been little or no change in Pakistan. Many would argue the situation has worsened and become more intense. Private donors need to be more vigilant too and need to seek evidence for where their donations have been spent.
The BPCA intends to continue campaigning for justice in the case of Asai Bibi, who has suffered 4 years imprisonment under false blasphemy charges. We will also challenge for justice in other similar cases of which we believe at least 40 occur per year. Our report on the targeting of minority others in Pakistan is being used by a number of countries to gauge the effectiveness of their asylum process for minorities in Pakistan in Holland and Canada; this has resulted in a special status for Pakistani Christians. Our main intent for this year is to produce an in-depth report on educational discrimination, demonization and caricatures of Minorities in National Curriculum and the issues that prevent minorities accepting the existing educational system in Pakistan.