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ICC Note:

At a recent gathering in Pakistan, leaders of the Christian community questioned the inequality faced by Christians everyday. This inequality was once again brought to the forefront when the government released Islamic rioters who had led violent riots on Islamabad for three weeks. This stands in stark contrast to the 40 Christians prisoners still held by the police since a 2015 riot by Christians in Lahore following the bombing of two churches. Discrimination against Christians in Pakistan is both widespread and intense. Will the statements by these leaders help the government to correct these issues? 

12/13/2017 Pakistan (The News International) – In the three-week-long protest last month by an Islamic group in Islamabad, a lot of public and private properties were damaged, but the Punjab government freed all the rioters.

However, the same government has not yet released dozens of Youhanabad’s Christians who were arrested in March 2015 for protesting over suicide attacks on two churches in Lahore that had killed 15 worshippers and injured scores of others.

If non-Muslim communities have equal rights in Pakistan, why is the government not letting the innocent Christians out of jail? This scathing question was put forward by Susan Thomas, a Christian activist and a member of Karachi’s city council, at a meeting held on Tuesday.

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, an organization working for the rights of non-Muslims, organized a provincial consultation with representatives of political parties, civil society organizations and religious leaders to discuss pro-minorities’ policies and legislation.

Thomas, who is a leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), also showed her concerns over the delay in the results of the national census of non-Muslim communities. “We want to know our population and their ratio in Pakistan because it will help us in getting our rights and funds.”

Pitanbar Sewani, a former-member of the Sindh Assembly, said considerable legislation had been done by the assembly, but it was never implemented properly. Discussing the bill passed in the Sindh Assembly last year criminalizing forced religious conversions and subsequent forced marriages but returned for amendments after pressure came from religious parties, he said the bill would be tabled in the assembly’s next session.

“The bill was passed in the assembly within five minutes when all political parties, including the MQM-P, voted in favor of it. But later the MQM-P members raised some objections to it.” Sewani said that if the bill against forced conversions did not pass, the Hindus and other non-Muslim communities would boycott the upcoming polls.

Demanding the revival of the separate electorate system for the non-Muslim communities in the country, the former MPA said wealthy non-Muslim individuals bought tickets form political parties to become parliamentarians on reserved seats.

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