Pakistan: September 20, 2009: Muslim Governor of Punjab press for Repeal while Christian Federal Minister says in Washington to revise controversial blasphemy law, condemn Shahbaz Bhatti on stabbing at back of Pakistani Christians: read both news sto
Minister vows to revise blasphemy law (AFP)
WASHINGTON. September 17, 2009. Pakistan's minister for minority affairs promised Thursday to work to amend blasphemy laws used to target non-Muslims and said he was ready to die fighting.
Shahbaz Bhatti visited Washington at the invitation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which awarded him a first-of-a-kind medallion for championing the rights of minorities in the Islamic state.
"The stand of the Pakistani government is to review, revisit and amend blasphemy laws so it will not remain a tool in the hands of extremists," Bhatti told commissioners from the bipartisan US government agency.
"They are using this law to victimize minorities as well as Muslims of Pakistan. This law is creating disharmony and intolerance in our society."
A longtime Christian community leader, Bhatti was named minister for minorities when civilian President Asif Ali Zardari took over last year, marking the first time the position has carried cabinet rank.
Bhatti said he has received threats for his work. Pakistan's religious affairs minister was wounded earlier this month in an assassination attempt in Islamabad that left his driver dead.
"I personally stand for religious freedom, even if I will pay the price of my life," Bhatti said. "I live for this principle and I want to die for this principle."
Pakistan's law against blaspheming Islam carries the death penalty. While no one has ever been sent to the gallows for the crime, activists say the law is used to exploit others out of personal enmity.
Earlier this week, a 25-year-old Christian jailed on blasphemy allegations died in prison. Authorities said he committed suicide but rights activists suspected he was tortured.
The death came weeks after an angry mob killed seven Christians in an arson attack that destroyed about 40 houses in the town of Gojra in central Punjab province
Salman Taseer: "exploited" by extremists to target religious minorities, who instead should be "protected". Christian leaders: “important statements”. The cancellation of the norm is decided by the central government which must "inform" the citizens of the violence. The list of anti-Christian persecution in the Punjab.
Lahore (AsiaNews) - Abolishing the blasphemy law to protect minorities. This is what has been "suggested" by Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, who is urging the central government "to consider the repeal" of a law – a plea that has been repeated on several occasions by the Christian community in Pakistan – a law that is used by Islamic fundamentalists to commit crimes and violence. Christian leaders have reacted positively, but now expect concrete steps from the central government.
"The blasphemy law - said Salman Taseer - should be repealed to protect minorities, particularly the growing violence and persecution against Christians by extremists." Speaking to reporters during a dinner in Lahore, the Punjab Governor adds that "there was an abuse of the blasphemy law. This is what I think. This law should be erased. "
Commenting on the statements of Governor of Punjab, Peter Jacob - Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church - said that "it is an important statement" and "a welcome one". "But what counts most - added the activist Catholic - is that the Prime Minister of Pakistan ought to speak of the matter and explain to the people" what's happening in the country.
In recent months Punjab has experienced an escalation in attacks against Christians and their places of worship, committed in the name of "the alleged desecration of the Quran" On 22 April 2009, a band of extremists attacked a group of Christians in Tias, a suburb of Karachi, burning houses and seriously injuring three people. One of these was Irfan Masih, who died three days later.
A crowd of angry Muslims, on June 30, attacked homes of Christians in the village of Wala Bahmani. About 100 homes were damaged, the assailants also stole jewellery and cash, destroying furniture and other furnishings.
On July 2009 a young Christian, Imram Masih was tortured at length by a group of Muslims, then he was arrested by police for having "burned the Koran." The incident happened at Hajwary, district Faisalabad.
On 30 July, thousands of Muslims in Koriyan set Christian property on fire, burning down 51 houses. The madness of Muslims was unleash by an alleged case of blasphemy. Two days later - the first of August - at least 3 thousand extremists attacked the community of Gojra, burning seven people alive (including two children and three women), wounding 19 and burning dozens of homes.
On September 11, new violence in Sialkot: for an alleged blasphemy case against Masih Fanish, Muslims attacked the local church and some buildings, the 20 year-old Christian was arrested. The night between 14 and 15 September, the young man was found dead by guards, an apparent committed suicide, but the signs of torture present all over his body indicate that the young man died from the violence suffered in the cell.
According to data collected by NCJP from 1986 to August 2009, at least 964 people have been charged under the blasphemy law: among these were 479 Muslims, 119 Christians, 340 Ahmadis, 14 Hindu and 10 of unknown religion. At least 33 extra-judicial killings, committed by individuals or angry crowds. Last on the list is Fanish, for whom the Christians are demanding "justice."