URGENT APPEAL: Government lack of commitment to minorities in Pakistan indicates a regression from the work of Shabbaz Bhatti

10-05-2011

The Hague, The Netherlands

URGENT APPEAL: Government lack of commitment to minorities in Pakistan indicates a regression from the work of Shabbaz Bhatti [UA_PA_10_05_2011]

ISSUES: Minorities; Blasphemy Law; Freedom of religion and Belief 

Dear Friends,

Since the assassination of the Pakistani Minister of Minority Affairs, Shabbaz Bhatti, the Pakistan cabinet’s only Christian minister, on 2nd March 2011, the Pakistani government’s approach to the appointment of a new representative for minorities has been fragmented and the political situation is complex to say the least. GHRD is concerned that the Government’s actions following Bhatti’s murder reflect a lack of commitment to repeal the blasphemy law and will not result in any positive change for minorities.

The recently appointed federal minister for minority affairs Mr Mian Riaaz Hussain Pirzada, a Muslim lawmaker from the PML-Q party, has been removed, leaving the position of federal minister of minority affairs once again open. 

At the same time, President Zardari has appointed Paul Bhatti, the brother of Shabbaz Bhatti as the Prime Minister’s “special advisor” on minority affairs, responsible for formulating and implementing Government policy on minority issues. The creation of the new position is largely to circumvent constitutional requirements that federal ministers must already be members of parliament and GHRD understands that Paul Bhatti will be acting as the federal minister in all but name. We are concerned by Mr Bhatti’s statements reported by Asianews that “Street demonstrations or changes to the “black law” [the blasphemy law] are not necessary. The causes of extremism must be eliminated, but the law can stay. If people are honest and peaceful, it cannot lead to abuses”. 

GHRD and its local partner, Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) urge the Government of Pakistan to give clear guidance on the issue of minority affairs and to ensure that the wellbeing of minorities are at the forefront of decision-making. 

Specifically, we call for the immediate appointment of a new federal minister of minorities who is a strong and impartial minority representative committed to the repeal of the blasphemy law, in line with statements made by the EU parliament in March 2011. We also appeal to the Government of Pakistan to fully repeal the blasphemy laws and to release all those imprisoned under this discriminatory law. 

GHRD urges the international community to continue to place pressure on the Government of Pakistan to act in accordance with the wellbeing of minority communities and to repeal the blasphemy law. In order to do so, please take action and forward the letter below to the relevant listed authorities.

In order to help, please print the following sample letter and send it to the relevant authorities found below. Sample letter: 

Dear

According to Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD): Since the assassination of the Pakistani Minister of Minority Affairs, Shabbaz Bhatti, the Pakistan cabinet’s only Christian minister, on 2 March 2011, the Pakistani Government’s approach to the appointment of a new representative for minorities has been fragmented and the political situation is complex to say the least. I share GHRDs concern that the Government’s actions following Bhatti’s murder reflect a lack of commitment to repeal the blasphemy law and will not result in any positive change for minorities.

The recently appointed federal minister for minority affairs Mr Mian Riaaz Hussain Pirzada, a Muslim lawmaker from the PML-Q party, has been removed, leaving the position of federal minister of minority affairs once again open. 

At the same time, President Zardari has appointed Paul Bhatti, the brother of Shabbaz Bhatti as the Prime Minister’s “special advisor” on minority affairs, responsible for formulating and implementing government policy on minority issues. The creation of the new position is largely to circumvent constitutional requirements that federal ministers must already be members of parliament and having read GHRDs appeal I understand that Paul Bhatti will be acting as the federal minister in all but name. I am concerned by Mr Bhatti’s statements reported by Asianews that “Street demonstrations or changes to the “black law” [the blasphemy law] are not necessary. The causes of extremism must be eliminated, but the law can stay. If people are honest and peaceful, it cannot lead to abuses”. 

I second GHRDs and its local partner, Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) contention that the Government of Pakistan to give clear guidance on the issue of minority affairs and to ensure that the wellbeing of minorities are at the forefront of decision-making. Specifically, we call for the immediate appointment of a new federal minister of minorities who is a strong and impartial minority representative committed to the repeal of the blasphemy law, in line with statements made by the EU parliament in March 2011. We also appeal to the Government of Pakistan to fully repeal the blasphemy laws and to release all those imprisoned under this discriminatory law. 

Along with GHRD I urge the Government of Pakistan to act in accordance with the wellbeing of minority communities and to repeal the blasphemy law.In order to help, please write to the authorities listed below: 

1. Mr. Asif Ali Zadari

President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

President's Secretariat Islamabad

Pakistan

Tel: +92 (51) 9204801

Fax: +92 (51) 9207458

E-Mail: publicmail@remove-this.president.gov.pk


2. Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani 

Prime Minister 

Prime Minister's House

Islamabad

Pakistan

Tel: +92 (51) 920 6111

Fax: +92 (51) 920 1596

E-Mail: secretary@remove-this.cabinet.gov.pk


3. Minister 

Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs 

R Block Pakistan Secretariat

Islamabad

Pakistan

Tel:

+92 (51) 9202712

Fax: +92 (51) 9202541

E-Mail: minister@remove-this.molaw.gov.pk


4. Mr. Syed Mumtaz Alam Gilani 

Ministry of Human Rights

Old US Aid Building

Ataturk Avenue

G-5, Islamabad

Pakistan

Fax: 92 (51) 9024108

E-Mail: sarfraz_yousuf@remove-this.yahoo.com


5. Dr. Fehmida Mirza 

SpeakerNational Assembly of Pakistan

Parliament House

Islamabad

Pakistan

Tel: +92 (51) 9023734

Fax: +92 (51) 902 4673

E-Mail: speaker@remove-this.na.gov.uk


6. Human Rights Council Pakistan

House No. 143

Sector I 10/4

PO Box 2720 Islamabad

Pakistan

Tel: +92 (51) 902 4441738

Fax: +92 (51) 902 4441737

E-Mail: hrc@peace.org.pk

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