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Death threats issued against Mr. Joseph Francis and other Christian leaders in Pakistan
Human rights group urges government to provide security

04/04/2011 Pakistan (ANS)-A leading human rights campaigner in Pakistan has urged the government to provide “full-fledged security” for Mr. Joseph Francis, Director of CLAAS (Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement), after Francis has received death threats for his work on the repeal of the country’s controversial blashemphy laws.
Naveed Walter, President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), told the ASSIST News Service that he is concerned for the safety of Mr. Francis, and other Christian leaders, who are also receiving disturbing threats.

Mr. Walter said, “CLAAS, under the leadership of Mr. Joseph Francis, provides the legal aid assistance to people who are persecuted because of their religion. It is an organization that is working to unite Christian lawyers on a platform to assist in cases that relate to the blasphemy laws in specific. Before 1992, Christian lawyers were afraid to take these kinds of cases.”

Walter went on to say, “Mr. Joseph Francis is also a highly profiled Christian political leader and is a Chairman of the Christian National Party. His political services for the minorities is unforgettable. He has challenged the constitution of Pakistan for the job of President without the discrimination of religion. [A non-Muslim cannot be either Prime Minister or President of Pakistan].

“He has refused the ‘reserve seats’ for the minorities and has demanded that political parties should issue ‘party tickets’ to minority leaders as they do for Muslim politicians, so they can participated in general elections. His tireless struggle for the minorities has been marvelous.”

He went on to say, “After the assassination of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Mr. Francis could be a next target of the Taliban and extremists. The Government must ensure his security.”

Walter said that HRFP and CLAAS “both share the same vision for human rights for Christians and other minorities.”

He urged Christians around the world to pray for the security of Mr. Francis and for “the work that he has initiated in Pakistan for the minorities and marginalized communities.”

Walter then stated, “The Government must take notice of threats that he is receiving before the Christian community looses this great leader.

“We also strongly condemn the death threats to Christian leaders and we are not afraid. I have also got threats from unknown people during the campaign for the total repeal of blasphemy laws and now, during the recent demonstrations following the assassination of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti.

“We are committed, at any cost, to continue our peaceful struggle until religious freedom prevails in Pakistan.”

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