An Open Letter to the President of Pakistan
Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
President of Pakistan
PAKISTAN: Open letter to the President of Pakistan regarding the killing of two brothers from a Christian family
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is deeply saddened and appalled by the murder of two brothers from a Christian family, victims of a hate campaign launched by banned Muslim extremist groups on July 19. We hold the government and the authorities of Punjab province responsible for this crime and urge you to take immediate measures to restore justice, punish the perpetrators and protect religious minorities of Pakistan.
The AHRC had informed you, as well as the competent authorities, of the brothers’ case (AHRC-UAC-102-2010. We warned you before the severity and urgency of the situation and promptly urged you to take efficient measures in order to protect them. However, you failed to answer our demands or to guarantee the protection of the Christian brothers.
Rahid Emmanuel, 32, Pastor in the ministry of united international Pakistan and his younger brother Sajjid Emmanuel, two residents of Daud Nagar, Warispura, Faisalabad, have been arrested on July 2 on false charges of writing and distributing blasphemous pamphlets. The case triggered a heinous campaign from Muslim extremists, who misused mosques’ loudspeakers to exhort Muslim crowds to take revenge on the Christian community of Punjab.
At that point, we were already very concerned for the brothers’ security. They were held at a police station, without proper protection. It was also feared that a new attack was planned for the end of the month, around the anniversary of a deadly attack on Christians 50km away in Korian village, Tehsil Gojra where six people were set alight and burned to death last year.
We deplore that no efficient measure was taken and on July 19, as both the brothers came out from the court, they were suddenly shot by unknown persons. The elder brother Rashid died instantly, whereas Sajjid died on the way to the hospital. A police officer, Muhammad Hussain also received a bullet injury and is in a critical condition. The attackers escaped unhindered.
Despite our warnings and the threats by extremist elements from the banned Muslim militant groups to kill the brothers, the administration of Faisalabad city and the Punjab government did not take any security measures for their protection. We strongly denounce the sheer negligence and biased attitude of the Punjab provincial government, the police and the federal government, that allowed the execution of innocent victims.
We believe that this crime is partly due to the misuse of mosques’ loudspeakers by Muslim extremists, with the complaisance of the authorities. As you know, Section 3 of the Loudspeaker Act 1965 bans all types of speeches other than Azan (the call to prayer) and the Friday sermon in Arabic. In this case, hate speeches were repeatedly given to encourage violent actions against the accused brothers and the Christian community as a whole. The AHRC repeatedly denounced the weakness of law-enforcement agencies that allows the violation of the law by Muslim extremist groups. We warned you against the abuse of loudspeakers by dangerous extremists, with the tacit support of the police and the authorities, but no action was ever taken to efficiently enforce the law.
Religious minority groups in Pakistan have always been threatened by blasphemy charges and are much vulnerable before the section 295C of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). We regret that the police generally do not follow the requirement of the 295C before filing a FIR. According to the amendment made in section 295C in 2004, it was mandatory that only a superintendent of police can investigate charges of blasphemy before filing a FIR. But the police generally work on the behalf of Muslim extremist groups, which makes religious minority groups always vulnerable before 295C. Once again, we informed you several times of such abuses and their consequences, with no answer or satisfying measures taken.
We further deplore that charges of blasphemy are still met with the death penalty in Pakistan, and desecrating the Quran carries a life sentence. The blasphemy law is regularly misused by people with vendettas against minority.
We urge you to appoint a judicial commission to probe the incident of killing of the two Christian brothers and the attacks on the Christian community. The high police officials must be prosecuted for their negligence in providing security to the Christians when it was obvious that the extremists would attack them.
The Blasphemy law, which was introduced by a fundamentalist military dictator in the 1980s for the purpose of prosecuting religious minorities, must be immediately abolished and all religious minorities must be protected, as it must be the case in a modern democracy.
We also insist that you ensure the fair application of the Loudspeaker Act and the prosecution of every person who contravenes it, especially when loudspeakers are used to encourage religious hatred and violence.
Religious violence is pushing Pakistan deeper into the crisis and it is the government’s responsibility to prevent intolerance, violence and religious extremism. We hope the Christian community and the people in Pakistan as a whole will overcome such traumatic experience by appropriate action of your government.
The AHRC has too many times warned the government against the abuses of criminal groups and law-enforcement agencies. Yet, no progress has been made so far in the implementation of the rule of law in Pakistan.
It is because of the rogue legal system and incompetent rule of law, along with the corruption of the federal and provincial governments and law-enforcement agencies, that religious extremism is deepening in Pakistan and threatens the Republic and its people. We deplore that you show to sign of willingness to fight this plague and finally to implement democracy and the rule of law, two missions for which you have been elected.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong
1. Mr.Syed Mumtaz Alam Gillani, Federal Minister for Human Rights, PAKISTAN
2. Mr. Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, PAKISTAN
3. Chief Secretary of Government of Punjab, PAKISTAN
4. Mr. Tariq Saleem, Inspector-General of Police, Punjab, PAKISTAN
5. Ms Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, SWITZERLAND