James Shere (MBE), Dr Paul Bhatti, Wilson Chowdhry and Rev Salaam.
The Uk's All Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom and the All Party Parliamentary Group on
Meeting with Dr Paul Bhatti, former
Pakistani Federal Minster for National Harmony, and current Chairman of the
All-Pakistan Minorities Alliance" on Wednesday July 3rd at the Houses of Parliament. Pakistan invited UK Humanitarian Groups to attend a "
The Meeting was described as an opportunity to hear Dr Bhatti discuss the challenges facing religious minorities of all faiths in
, and the ongoing work of the
Pakistani and UK Governments and civil-society organisations, to improve the
During his presentation, Dr Bhatti referred to a carefully prepared speech and provided a brief insight into the problems facing Pakistani Christians, in particular reference was made to the case of Rimsha Masih the 14 year old Pakistani girl accused of 'blasphemy' who was acquitted last year and has recently sought refuge with her family in Canada.
Dr Bhatti described his role in preventing a wholesale backlash against Pakistani Christian communities, by engaging with senior public figures within the Muslim community.
Dr Bhatti acknowledged that blasphemy laws were being used by some Pakistani people (including NGOs) with personal agendas.However, he stated that the Blasphemy laws themselves are not a problem. He also acknowledged that the newly elected government was keen to address the issue of protection of Christians and he welcomed the same.
In all, Dr Bhatti presented an optimistic future for Pakistani Christians and the need for a stronger emphasis of education at grass root level. He did however refer to the need for greater economic investment by the international community.
Dr Bhatti acknowledged and praised the Pakistani Human Rights Commission (PHRC), which caused great concern to Jas Uppal of the "Free Sarabjit Singh" campaign group, she said;
"..it was not clear to me as to why since my experience in contacting them [PHRC] in relation to the cases I had sought help from them, was unimpressive. I sensed the Pakistani Human Rights Commission were towing the political line -mostly likely out of fear of reprisal and retaliation from the Pakistani authorities. The Commission is not free to voice it concerns or champion cases."
"The same applies to Dr Bhatti's organisation, I speculate that he will be allowed a controlled platform to appease the West and to attract financial aid but sadly the current status quo will remain."
A number of groups expressed great disappointment that Dr Bhatti did not refer to persecution of other minorities such as the Pakistani Sikhs and Pakistani Hindus who have similarly suffered beheadings, rapes, forced conversions, tax levied on their businesses and/or to the current mass exodus of these groups to India in fear of persecution. Neither was their any mention of the enforced disappearance of the Baloch people or discrimination against Ahmaddiyahs or those of the Bahai faith. Despite, funding from the UK Bahai's for this recent trip form Dr Paul Bhatti.
Jas Uppal spoke of the defection to India of persecuted Hindus and Sikhs, rather disappointingly Dr Bhatti's response surmised that it is was only natural for Pakistani Sikhs and Hindus to join their kin in India, thus intimating it was their choice to leave Pakistan.
Wilson Chowdhry said;
"Dr Paul Bhatti's constant assertion that the Blasphemy laws of Pakistan are of no consequence is deplorable. The laws specifically refer to the Muslim faith and provide no protection for blaspheming against other faiths. When Bibles are burned by extremists theses laws are not enacted and the culprits escape justice? Yet when a Muslim landlord decides he wants a Christian or other minority owned property, he simply has to allege a blasphemy and a whole Christian community is made homeless and desolate." If these anachronistic laws are not abrogated future generations of Pakistani's will believe that it is natural to venerate in law, one faith above others."
Jas Uppal, Dr Bhatti, Baroness Berrige and Wilson Chowdhry.
A Large group of humanitarians.
Wilson Chowdhry, Jas Uppal, Lyn Julius of Harif a group that represents North African and Middle Eastern Jews.