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ANS (03/16/06) – A Pakistani Christian lawyer has claimed that Pakistani Christians are facing discriminations of sorts.

In his article entitled, “Discrimination against Christians in Pakistan ,” published in the Pakistan Christian Post, Advocate Dr. Raja Nathaniel Gill takes up a host of issues to justify that Pakistani Christians are being discriminated against.

Referring to Article 25(1) of the 1973 constitution that says, “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law,” Gill argues why Christians in Pakistan could not assume some posts including that of President of Pakistan.

“…According to Article 42(2) of the 1973 constitution, the President, Chief of Army Staff etc. shall only be Muslim while Christians cannot be appointed on these high official posts which is against the principles of equality and natural justice,” he argues.

Gill asks why Pakistani Christians could not hold important slots in the country when in neighboring India a Sikh could rule the roost being Prime Minister and an Indian Muslim could serve as its President.

“…both of these persons belong to the minority of India , the majority being the Hindus. So it is a big discrimination with the Christians that in a republic country, they cannot serve the country on the important posts,” says Gill who stops short of mentioning the Islamic republic.

Pointing to the Article 22 (1) that states, “No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if any instruction, ceremony or worship, relates to a religion other than his own,” Gill says the situation on the ground is “absolutely repugnant.”

“The Christians students are compelled to study ethics while the Muslim students study [the] Islamiat which is their own book of religion. According to the above-mentioned article of the constitution, the Christian students must be given the opportunity to study the book of their own religion. The Bible should be added in the syllabus for the Christian students,” he suggests.

He maintains, “The Christian students are compelled to study [the] Islamiat on the ground that, if they choose ethics as the alternative subject, they get just only passing marks while as compared to Muslim students who get 90% marks in [the] Islamiat which makes difference of 30 to 40 marks on the aggregate. If a Christian student takes exam of ethics and the examiner is a Muslim and while marking the paper he is aware that the student is a non-Muslim so he is reluctant to give him the maximum marks in ethics which creates difficulty for the Christian students when he applies for admission for the higher studies.”

Gill adds that it is against the spirit of equity and natural justice that the Christian students are deprived of their fundamental rights while, internationally, the subject of religion is optional, but in Pakistan it is compulsory.

Lashing out at the Pakistan government for denying Pakistani Christians representation in the Upper House of Parliament, the Senate, he says: “…it is not understandable that why the Christians who are the biggest minority of the country is deprived of representation in the Senate.”

The Christian lawyer sees nomination of only four Christian MPs as an injustice to the community at large.

“The representation in the union council, tehsil council, district council, is 5% but in the provincial assemblies and national assembly, the government has miserably failed to give five percent representation to the non-Muslims”, he says.

Coming down hard on the sitting government, he mentions in his article that not even a single Christian or non-Muslim is in the cabinet.

Gill also takes exception to appointment of a Muslim as minister for religious affairs.

“How could a person who does not know the problems of the minorities represent or solve their issues?” he questions.

It is pertinent to mention here that the incumbent Federal minister for minorities’ affairs Ijaz-ul-Haq happens to be the son of late military dictator Zialul Haq who introduced a host of laws discriminating against the religious minorities of Pakistan .

Gill also blasts government for what he calls its failure to stop the misuse of the blasphemy law.

Since the introduction of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, he says not even a single case has been proved against a Christian, adding that many churches, hospitals and schools have been burnt due to this law that is deemed discriminatory by Pakistani religious minorities.

Referring to Hudood Ordinance that was introduced by late general Zialul Haq in 1979 (Prohibition Enforcement of Hadd Order IV of 1979,) he says the ordinance is applicable to all the citizens of Pakistan .

“This ordinance is that when a man commits adultery with a woman, he is punished under this ordinance, whether he is a Muslim or non-Muslim. This law is absolutely against the spirit of Islam as the Islamic Laws are only applicable to the Muslims and the non-Muslims are not subject to Islamic Laws.”

Broaching the issue of alleged discrimination against Pakistani Christian women, he says, “From the Union Council level to the Senate, the Muslims women are given the 33% representation while the Christian women are totally ignored and no seat has been allocated to them in the parliament as well as in the district assembly.”

In the present judicial system, Gill says, not even a single Christian judge is working in the High Courts and Supreme Court of Pakistan.

“So far as the office of the attorney general is concerned, more than hundred officers are working but not even a single Christian is appointed on the above-mentioned post,” he laments.

Referring to Article 36 of the constitution that states, “The state shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the federal and provincial services,” Gill alleges that practically no special seats have been reserved for the Christians or minorities in the federal and provincial departments.