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Washington, D.C. (May 10, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Pakistani Christian leaders are opposing the appointment of Riaaz Hussain Pirzada, a Muslim, to the position of the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs (FMMA). Pakistan’s Christian leaders are concerned that the appointment of a Muslim will be a further blow to the rights of religious minorities.

The FMMA’s job is to represent religious minorities and their interests to the federal government. Islamists assassinated Shahbaz Bhatti, the former FMMA, on March 2nd for opposing the country’s blasphemy laws.

“[The appointment] is a step towards cornering the [religious] minorities and especially Christians in Pakistan. This seat should be given to a Christian in the light of the sacrifice of Shahbaz Bhatti. We don’t want to see Shahbaz’s struggle against blasphemy laws be reversed. The failure to appoint a Christian to the post is another form of discrimination against Christians,” said the General Secretary of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance, Javed Michael, in an interview with ICC.

A Christian leader who worked with Shahbaz in the struggle for the rights of Christians, Khalid Gill, told ICC, “Hopelessness has prevailed among Christians. They are already deprived of several rights. This appointment makes the situation worse for Christians. But we will continue to struggle [for our rights].”

In a press statement that he sent to ICC and other media, Naveed Walter, President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan, expressed a similar sentiment. He said that, “In a scenario when minorities are facing persecution, the appointment of a Muslim minority minister has revealed the true face of Pakistan’s government. It has also sent a message that it is prepared to placate fundamentalists by giving the post to a Muslim.”

Jonathan Racho, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “We believe that this post should be filled with someone who truly understands what it means to be a minority in Pakistan and boldly works to defend the rights of minorities. We call upon the government of Pakistan to take into account the interest of Christians and other religious minorities and reconsider its decision.”