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Pakistan Christian National Party to observe ’Minority Day’

Party forms lawyers’ group to fight for minorities’ rights

By Sheraz Khurram Khan

8/6/07 Pakistan (ANS) — The Pakistan Christian National Party has said that it will observe August 11 as “Minority Day” and will hold a rally in Lahore , the provincial capital of Punjab .

“We announce to observe August 11 as ‘Minority Day’. A rally will be taken place in Lahore from Nasir Bagh to Punjab Assembly in which the Christians from every walk of life will participate,” the Pakistan Christian National Party’s news release quoted the party Chief, Joseph Francis and office bearers as saying.

The rally will start at 2 pm from Nasir Bag Lahore and culminate in front of the Punjab Assembly.

According to the release the party leaders in a statement cited the speech Pakistan founding father Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah made while addressing the first constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947.

Jinnah had guaranteed religious freedom to minorities’ communities in his oft-quoted August 11 speech which minority circles and Christian rights groups believe started eroding after his demise.

The minority leaders have long been campaigning for equal rights as well as for greater representation of minorities in the National Assembly, the Lower House of Pakistan parliament. They have also been demanding minorities’ representation in the Senate, the upper House of Parliament.

Some time back the PCNP chief Joseph Francis announced to run for presidential office despite the fact that Pakistan constitution bars non-Muslims from becoming President of the country.

Francis had then told ANS that he would only believe that minorities in Pakistan have equal rights if he was allowed to contest the election.

Without naming the crises facing Pakistan the PCNP release called for their resolution. It also demanded that the upcoming general elections be held in an impartial manner.

It went on to say that comprising eleven senior lawyers, the Pakistan Christian National Party has formed a group that it claimed would fight for the rights of the minorities of Pakistan, the restoration of the 1973 constitution. The group will also work to ensure repeal of all laws perceived by minorities as discriminatory, it said.

The lawyers include Ms. Aneeqa Maria Akhtar, Hashmat Barkat, Samson Joseph, Justin Gill, Akbar Munawar Durrani, Ms. Shazia Naz, Ijaz Farhat, Javed Sahotra, Akhtar Sindhu, Saleem Gill, Danish Gill, Zakir Paul and Tahir Bashir Sahotra.

The PCNP in its release expressed the hope that the Apex Court of Pakistan will work for ensuring basic human rights to people. It also expected that the Supreme Court would ensure the end of alleged discrimination with religious minorities.

It said the PCNP Chief Joseph Francis hailed Christian lawyers for backing lawyers’ countrywide movement aimed at reinstatement of Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf had sacked the country’s top judge on March 9 over abuse of office, sparking a bitter months-long battle.

Pakistan Supreme Court reinstated Mr. Chaudhry last month as charges against him could not be proved.