The WCC team aimed at to express solidarity with the churches and Christians in Pakistan; to listen and learn from the people about the situation in the country particularly as a result of the war in Afghanistan; to meet with church leaders and others to understand and appreciate the challenges facing the churches in Pakistan and to prepare a report based on reflections of the visit.
In the report its expressed that "The World Council of Churches (WCC) disturbed by the initiation of bombings and missile attacks in Afghanistan issued a statement on 8th October 2001 expressing concern at the military action and called on the United States and United Kingdom to bring a prompt end to such action. The statement amongst others stated:" "We pray for the minority Christian churches and communities who are placed in danger as a result of such actions, specially now for those in Pakistan who, despite their own poverty and small status, began planning to assist the present wave of Afghans fleeing from terror".
About the meetings of the WCC delegations its confirmed That "The National Council of Churches in Pakistan hosted the delegation. All the arrangements for the visit in respect visiting different sites, setting up meetings, appointments, etc were made by Mr Joseph Francis, Co-ordinator of Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS). The programme for the visit was finalised in consultation with Bishop Samuel Azariah, of the Raiwind Diocese and a member of the WCC Central Committee and Mr Victor Azariah, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan. During its week long stay in Pakistan the delegation met widows and families of the Idara staff killed in the September 25th massacre, church and lay Christian leaders, jurists, lawyers, educationists, human rights defenders, journalists, NGO representatives, brick kiln workers, and families of victims of blasphemy laws."
The delegation had meetings with followings in Pakistan but there is not any Christian political and social leaders from any group active in pakistan mentioned in this report to collect the views to complete the said report but the delegation have relied upon the clergy and church base orgnizations and their allied muslim functionaries among muslim groups. They only met:
List of Persons met and Organisations Visited
1. Bishop Sadiq Daniel, Karachi Diocese of the Church of Pakistan
2. Archbishop Simion Pereira, Karachi Diocese of the Church of Pakistan
3. Bishop Samuel Azariah, Raiwind Diocese of the Church of Pakistan
4. Bishop Alexander Malik, Lahore Diocese of the Church of Pakistan
5. Bishop John Mall, Faisalabad Diocese of the Church of Pakistan
6. Bishop Andrew Francis. Multan Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church
7. Fr. Yusuf Emmanuel, Vicar General, Archdiocese, Lahore of the Roman Catholic Church
8. Bishop J.V. Samuel, Church of Pakistan
9. Fr. Peter John, Crisis Committee
10. Fr. Pascal Roberts, Crisis Committee
11. Mr. Victor Azariah, General Secretary, NCCP Pakistan
12. Mr. Zafar Iqbal, Crisis Committee
13. Mr Alen Lobo, Crisis Committee
14. Rev. Raj Kummer, Crisis Committee
15. Mr. Robert Josiah
16. Mr. Samuel Xavier
Non Governmental Organisations and their Representatives
1. Aurat Foundation
4. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
6. Pak - American Solidarity Society
1. Mr. Zaman Khan
2. Air Marshal Zafar Choudhry
3. Prof. Mehdi Hassan
4. Ms. Hilda Saeed
5. Ms. Uzma Noorani
6. Mr. I. A. Rehman
7. Mr. Akhtar Hussain,
8. Mr. Lateef Choudhry
9. Mr. Hamid Henry
10. Mr. Naeem Shakir
11. Mr. Cecil Choudhry
12. Ms Shahtaj Qazalbesh
Jurists and Lawyers
1. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan
2. Justice Rashid Rizvi, former Judge of the Sind High Court
3. Justice Abul Inam, former Judge of the Sind High Court
4. Justice M.L. Shahani, former Judge of the Sind High Court
5. Mr. Munir Malik, President, Bar Association Karachi High Court
Representative of Political Parties and Others
1. Mr. Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Pakistan Peoples Party
2. Mr. Nisar Khuro, Pakistan Peoples Party
3. Prof. Ejazul Hassan, Pakistan Peoples Party
4. Ms. Elizabeth K. Horst, Political Officer, Consulate of the United States of
Dr. K. A. Rowi, Ambassador, Embassy of Iraq, Islamabad
The WCC delegation expresses his concern " Being profoundly concerned about the safety and security of the Christian minority in Pakistan, the WCC delegation tried to understand and find answers to two central questions:
1. What are some of the major causes for the present situation of Christians in Pakistan?
What can be done to address the situation?
In general observation the Reports says that
"A number of political and social-economic factors in Pakistan impede the development of an environment in which human rights can play a decisive role. In this regard the responsibility of the Pakistani government needs to be identified."
"The military regime of President Musharraf is in itself a proof of the violation of democratic rights in Pakistan. Political parties are restricted in exercise of their legal democratic rights. The priority given to the defence budget means insufficient investments in the social and economic infrastructure. Poverty and lack of education should be the pivotal challenge in nowadays Pakistan. The government presently is not inclined to change its priorities. Violence is dominant in all parts of the country, and in all sectors of daily life, with the government being unable to provide adequate prevention and protection."
Here are the other important parts of the report.
Observations Related to Minorities
Before going into the issue of minority rights it must be emphasised it is not only Christian minority rights that are at stake. The delegation is aware of the plight of other minorities as well. Especially, the situation of Ahmedi's has to be regarded as being no less precarious than that of Christians.
As this issue is dealt with within the framework of good governance, the focus here will be on (minority) human rights in law and in legal and judicial practice. To what extent are human rights in place in Pakistan, and do they provide protection to religious minorities?
Here we distinguish two areas: formal national law (legislation), and its application (the way executive governmental responsibilities and judiciary functions in practice).
Rule of Law
Laws and regulations as enacted by the legislative power can be designated as 'formal national law'. Fair legislation is a pivotal aspect of good governance.
Our conclusion is that at this moment the rule of law is in jeopardy in Pakistan. In fact there is no constitutional dispensation, since in 1998 the Supreme Court validated and legitimised a new period of military rule, albeit it under the condition that general elections were to be held within three years. The so-called 'doctrine of necessity' is predominant.
However, some improvement has to be recognised. The military government organised general parliamentary elections on 10 October 2002. It also abolished the system of Separate Electorates (as valid from 1979) and restored the Joint Electorate System. The present elections have resulted in a hung parliament with none of the political parties able to form a government by itself. For the first time in the country's history a coalition of six Islamic parties have won majority of the seats in the Provinces of Frontier and Baluchistan. This landslide victory of the Islamic parties is being interpreted as a vote against President Musharraf's pro-American policies. The religious minorities are apprehensive about the policies the governments in these two provinces may adopt. Given the public pronouncement of the leaders of MMA it is feared these will be detrimental to their interests.
The reports of international monitors have concluded that in several cases the elections were not as free and impartial as required by democratic norms and standards.
In 1947 when Pakistan was created, the founder of the nation Mohammed Ali Jinnah assured the minorities that they will be equal citizens of the newly independent state. Jinnah's dream of Pakistan was a modern progressive Muslim state and not a theocratic state as was the demand of some Muslim leaders. However, in the 55 years since the islamisation of society has continuously proceeded, albeit in different forms. Already in 1949 there was a move in this direction when the country became the 'Islamic Republic of Pakistan' through the acceptance of the so-called Objectives Resolution. During the earlier military rule (1977 - 1988), under President Zia-ul-Haq, legislation was introduced to promote the move towards islamisation of the country. Formally the Islamic Law (Shariah) is not part of Pakistan's legislation, but several amendments to the Constitution as implemented by Zia-ul-Haq from 1979 have comparable effects.
Religious minorities, relatively speaking have experienced severe problems with the Blasphemy Law. Basically this law is derived from British legislation that was in force during colonial times. It is not directly based on Shariah. In 2001, three persons were awarded death sentence under this law, three others were sent to prison for long terms. 72 people were charged in 54 new cases. The delegation met the wives Salim Masih and Rashid Masih two brothers who were charged under blasphemy law in June 1999. On 11th May 2000 the Additional Session Judge, Pasur awarded twenty-five years imprisonment to the two accused and also fined them Rs.50,000.- each under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code; in addition they were awarded 10 years imprisonment and Rs.25,000-. fine each under Section 295-A. Their appeals are presently pending before the Lahore High Court.
The Hudood Ordinance is another example of discriminating legislation. One of its aspects is that it transferred adultery from the private to the public area, allowing police and justice executives to interfere in personal matters. A major negative effect is that it decisively enhances the vulnerability of women who often have to deal with false accusations, harassment etc.
Finally the Law of Evidence also has to be mentioned here. Generally speaking it implies that before court the witness of a male is twice as valuable as the witness of a female, similarly witness of two non Muslims is equal to that of one Muslim.
Dispensation of Justice
Legislation is one thing, dispensation of justice is another. That is clearly so in Pakistan. If only the authorities on all levels of society were serious with regard to upholding legal standards! Notwithstanding the shortcomings of legislation - as referred to above -, life would be significantly more secure for common people, and especially for the minorities. But in practice this is not the case. First of all there is a total lack of accountability, due to the non-existence of parliamentary control. This creates a situation in which people are absolutely unprotected in their basic rights.
An important assessment in this area is the fact that in none of the attacks against churches and Christian institutions over the last year the culprits were arrested and brought to justice. There is a strong conviction among people involved that the authorities do have their clues regarding those to blame, but that they see no reason to prosecute. The involvement of certain government agencies in the attack on Idara-e-Amn-o-Insaf (Karachi, 25 September 2002) cannot be excluded.
>From victims as well as from people involved in the judiciary we heard many stories about corruption, about class justice, about religious and gender discrimination in the way the laws are interpreted and applied.
In rural areas customary law plays an important role. National law leaves room for applying traditional unwritten standards. It can have major impact in the way cases regarding marriage, divorce, forced conversion and 'honour killings' are dealt with. General Zia during his military rule set up a parallel judicial system in the form of Shariat Courts. However this action of his instead of making dispensation of justice cheap and efficient created more complications and also led to corruption. The law enforcement agencies exercise their discretion to register cases under Sharia or under the normal criminal law depending on the bribe the accused was prepared to give. The HRCP reported that in 2001 'approximately two women were killed for honour every day' (7). Under certain conditions people committing these crimes are not prosecuted. The delegation met several people who have been forced to hide for years now, due to the risk of being killed by their own relatives!
People in a weak position in society have no defence against false accusations if filed by more influential people. For instance, women are helpless if accused of adultery by their husbands. The same goes for Christians facing a blasphemy charge; misuse is 'blatant' (HRCP, 8). We were told that proposals have been made already to change the procedures of Blasphemy Law, in order to include a higher 'threshold' (in terms of conditions to file a case). This would probably diminish abuse of this law. However, the government is reluctant to change this law, because right wing Muslim groups have threatened to organise a nation-wide strikes that would cripple the country.
In case of adultery or blasphemy Subordinate courts normally judge that the accused are guilty, and send them to jail. Conditions in prisons are often dangerous for people belonging to religious minority. The law does provide provisions for appeal. However we met the families of accused who have spent over three years in prison awaiting hearing of their appeal in the High Court. We also heard how in blasphemy law cases witnesses, family members and lawyers are confronted and threatened with violence.
Compared with what happens at the level of subordinate judiciary, the proceedings of High Courts and Supreme Court do certainly meet standards of fair trial to a much larger extent. The HRCP 2001 Report however notes 'serious misgivings about the independence of the judiciary' (5).
The delegation was also informed of the reluctance High Court judges sometimes show in accepting blasphemy appeals. The fact that a judge of the High Court was murdered for passing orders of acquittal probably explains this fact. This however does not justify a continued stay of an accused in prison without trial.
In one well-known case the Supreme Court released a man who had been in prison for about three years charged with blasphemy. On being acquitted the man was forced to leave Pakistan immediately, to prevent from being killed by extremist!
In conclusion it will be fairly accurate to say that the Pakistani government fails in all major areas of its responsibilities. Legislation is discriminative in character. Law-enforcing agencies are often biased. The administration of justice shows serious flaws. Culprits of horrible acts of violence are not brought to justice. Victims of false accusations face intolerable processes. There is no rule of law, neither in its material nor in its formal aspects. This is one of the major causes of the plight and fear of Pakistani minorities. Christians suffer due to lack of good governance.
This report is not meant to present an overall picture of the human rights situation in Pakistan. It can only point to the issues, focussing on some of the areas. Those interested in a more in depth analysis and concrete statistics should read the aforementioned HRCP Report on 2001. It is an alarming document. As far as the position of Christians is concerned its conclusion is clear: "Like other minority groups, their situation in fact appeared to have worsened in recent years" (156).
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
A. Pakistan is passing through a critical period of its history. Repeated military interventions have stunted the growth of democracy and democratic institutions. Mainstream political parties have suffered the most at the hands of the military as compared to the Islamic parties who have received support and encouragement as quid pro quo. In this climate of political uncertainty legislations have been made through official Decrees and Ordinances. Repeated tinkering and manipulation of the Constitution by the military authorities has destroyed its sanctity. While the subordinate judiciary is riddled with corruption and inefficiency the Superior Courts too have lost much of its reputation of integrity and independence. Due to lack of adequate oversight the law enforcement apparatus is in shambles. Criminal activities are rampant, not a day goes by without someone being shot or killed, but no one is arrested or brought before the Courts of Law. As a result the culture of impunity has become all pervasive in Pakistan society.
Feudalism, poverty, lack of education and religious intolerance have led to a culture of exploitation and oppression. The most effected are those from the rural areas where there is hardly any rule of law.
The problems facing Pakistan, because of half a century of misrule, are not only immense but also complex. There are no easy answers because democratic structures based on a system of checks and balances no longer exist. Even if elections are held they are in form and not in substance in order to sustain a participatory democratic process. The economy lies in shambles despite Pakistan's acceptance of the IMF prescription; foreign investment has virtually dried because of the war in Afghanistan and the uncertain conditions in the country.
B. The discriminatory practices and policies against the religious minorities were intensified during General Zia's military rule. It was during this period that Blasphemy laws, laws of Evidence and Shariat Act were introduced. These laws adversely affected the religious minorities and women. General Zia also set a parallel judicial system in the form of the Federal Shariat Court that resulted in contradiction and confusion in the legal system. Most of the Islamic measures he introduced focussed on forms and rituals rather than substance. His encouragement of Islamic militancy and use of Islamic symbols and idioms for political purpose resulted in the creation of an environment of religious intolerance. Since these measures were introduced none of the successive governments had the courage to reverse this drift towards religious bigotry and intolerance. General Musharraf did attempt to amend the procedural part of Blasphemy Laws to prevent its abuse, but had to retreat under threat from the Islamic parties.
If the government of Pakistan wants to build a modern progressive society that is just and fair to all its citizens, it must take steps to review and where necessary amend and/or repeal provisions of the Constitution and Statutory Laws that discriminate against religious minorities and are not only a source of victimisation and harassment but also sow seeds of communal disharmony. As a long term measure the government has to embark on a gigantic educational programme in order to create and nurture a culture of tolerance and peace. The vast majority of Muslims in the country who do not approve of the present trend towards hatred, violence and killings must speak out boldly and condemn the wanton sectarian killings that are giving the country a bad image.
C. The US led war in Afghanistan and President Musharraf's joining the International Coalition against terrorism has earned resentment and anger against the West, which is identified with Christianity. President Bush's use of biblical terminology - crusades, fight between good and evil and the use of the term 'axis of evil', have further aggravated the situation. Muslims in Pakistan are of the view that the Christian West remains oblivious to the sufferings of their compatriots in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. They feel that injustice is being done to the 'Ummah' and this calls for retaliation. The US has been a long-standing ally of Pakistan since the country gained independence in August 1947. Pakistan has benefited much from the military and economic aid provided by the US government, yet, today there is a general air of hostility towards the US amongst the common people on the streets.
The targeting of Arabs and Muslims in the US through racial profiling, finger printing, detention without due process, delay and denial of visas for security reasons by US authorities all combine to sustain this growing anger and hatred. The coming into power of the Islamic parties in Frontier and Baluchistan the two provinces bordering Afghanistan will further intensify this religious divide. The main reason for the Islamic parties gaining a landslide victory in the two provinces, for the first time in the country's history is the clear anti American position they took during the general elections. The victory of the Islamic parties is largely due to their blunt and severe criticism of President Musharraf's pro-American policies. While these parties may moderate their position towards the US because of pragmatism they will continue to take hard-line in respect of domestic policies. This means rough times ahead for the religious minorities.
D. The military soon after the country's independence has continued to meddle in civil and political affairs. Over the years it has not only tried to increase its influence in this area but has also endeavoured to institutionalise its role in civil and political affairs. During the last over fifty years no government has been able to function without the shadow of the military hovering over its head. The Inter-Services Intelligence of the army has become so powerful that it can make or break any government. It remains unaccountable despite the issue being raised before the Superior Court to bring its activities under check. The military is also heavily involved in industry and commerce. It is presently one of the largest employer in the country. Serving and retired military personnel have infiltrated every sector of civil society - diplomatic corps, civil services, education, industry, commercial business, etc. Pakistan has one of the largest standing armies in the region. The major portion of the country's annual budget is taken up by defence and debt servicing. This is at the cost of social sectors - education, communication and housing.
The policy of confrontation with India, with which Pakistan has fought three major wars has been a great burden on the economy. As long as the Kashmir dispute remains unresolved, this situation is not likely to change. With the emergence of Islamic parties as a major player in the country's politics Pakistan army will get a greater boost in its hard line policy vis-Ã -vis Kashmir and India.
E. The delegation was pained to hear of the differences and disputes in the Karachi Diocese of the Church of Pakistan. Though it was not a part of its mandate to address this issue the delegation is of the view that a critical time like this the Church can ill afford to be divided. We pray that the leadership can come together in a spirit of healing and reconciliation to face a common challenge that lies ahead. The delegation calls on the global church to be in solidarity with the Church in Pakistan and to remember it in prayers.
1. The WCC/CCA should continue to monitor the situation of Christians in Pakistan, and to accompany and support the churches there during this period of trial and tribulation through visits, prayers, solidarity support and through sharing and exchange of information.
2. The WCC should provide whatever assistance is necessary to the recommendation put forward by the churches in Pakistan to form a national ecumenical organisation that could develop a common strategy and speak with one voice on national issues that affect the Christians in Pakistan
3. The government of Pakistan should consider setting up a permanent Independent Minorities Commission. The Commission should inter-alia study the situation of religious minorities and make necessary recommendations to the government. In addition the Commission should be mandated to hear complaints of discrimination against religious minorities and recommend actions to the government.
4. The NCC-Pakistan should be encouraged to develop its capacity and strategize to promote inter-religious cooperation and collaboration between Christians and Muslims in Pakistan for building a culture of peace and tolerance. This should include sharing information about the position of churches in the West regarding war against Islamic countries as well as the advocacy efforts to promote and protect the rights of Muslim citizens in their countries.
5. The WCC and CCA should encourage churches in Pakistan and India to promote people to people contact for peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two neighbouring countries.
6. The WCC should make a special appeal to partner churches and related agencies in Europe and North America to increase and coordinate their assistance to Pakistan with a view to:
- restore the functioning of Idara-e-Amn-o-Insaf so that amongst others it could continue to provide legal aid and assistance to victims of human rights violations;
- contribute to the Fund set up by the Crisis Committee for the families of the Idara staff killed in the terrorist attacks;
- encourage and support the efforts of the churches in their literacy programmes.