We Have Your Words

Yes, we have your reasons for signing the Secular Pakistan Petition at Change.org.

The Petition was started as one of the things we needed to do after the so-called blasphemy related burning-alive murders of Shaheed Bibi Shama Masih and Shaheed Shahzad Masih in November, and than the school massacre of 132 children in Peshawar by Taliban in December. And now, the murders in Paris of 12 people (I’m Charlie) for ‘offending’ the same groups of religious fanatics.

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We want to share with our readers some of your words and thoughts because they so very well express our common desire to have a secular society with equal rights for all where extreme religious factions do not find a home.

Here, we begin with 30 comments. The first comment was posted 23 days ago by Nasir Khan from Manchester UK, and you will find it right at the bottom of this post.

Shoaib Mir
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
20 days ago
‘Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan, said that religion has nothing to do with the affairs of State. Period.’

Saeed Ahmed
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
20 days ago
‘Because i think that the true democracy cannot be achieved without secularism and that means the right to exercise religion must be an act of an individual and the religion must be separated from state….’

Raheel Naseem Naseem
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
21 days ago
‘its the only way to prosper!’

Wasim Ashraf Rasa
HYDERABAD SINDH, PAKISTAN
21 days ago
‘The country cannot walk on the path of glory without separating both religion and state.’

Pilar Roldan
MAIRENA DEL ALJARAFE, SPAIN
21 days ago
‘Religion is not the way to lead a Country’

Qureshi Manzoor
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
21 days ago
‘I agree to it’

Suhas Khale
LONDION, UNITED KINGDOM
21 days ago
‘I think it is the right thing to do’

Muhammad Hashim
QUETTA, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘I believe in secular democracy’

Abdul Azeez
KARACHI, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘I consider it essential for Pakistan’

Neelam Farid
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘i completely agree with this petition’

Rashid Khatri
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
22 days ago
‘Like to see a soceity without hate…!!!’

Asim Shah
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
22 days ago
‘This the only way to end religious fanaticism and have a peaceful and prosper Pakistan.’

Maha Khan
AUSTRALIA
22 days ago
‘this needs to be DONE ASAP…’

Annem Chaudhry
AUSTRALIA
22 days ago
‘i believe Pakistan can rise beyond the limits of religion’

Hamid Ali Hussain
FRANFURT, GERMANY
22 days ago
‘The jinnah´s vision was a Secular Democracy…’

Hamid Ali Hussain
FRANFURT, GERMANY
22 days ago
‘State is always a nuetral body with equal rights to every citizen..’

Tyra Moin L
ONGBEACH, UNITED STATES
22 days ago
‘that is my watan we r talking about!!’

Christine Hyatt
SURREY, B.C., CANADA
22 days ago
‘I don’t want children to be murdered’

Nabeela Kiani
LOUISVILLE, KY
22 days ago
‘a must to do’

Kausar Jamal
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘It is as important for the future of Pakistan as oxygen for human existence’

Ashiq Jaffri
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘I agree with contents of petition’

Sandy London
AUSTRALIA
22 days ago
‘Pakistan’s estimated population is over 188 million, some of that population needs to be recognised as equal citizens, despite not being Muslims. Any time a state attempts to define and impose religious orthodoxy, basic human rights get shredded. Pakistan is generally perceived to be a nation populated with rather a lot of religious lunatics, and I do not mean just your average culturally religious individual, but rather people who embrace the medieval idea that murdering those of a different belief is a really good idea, so much so that they act upon that thought. While it is true that such individuals do indeed reside there

‘in Pakistan, the real truth is that like everywhere else, most Pakistanis are not that fanatical at all. The Pakistani parliament has no business attempting to define who a Muslim is or who is not. Islam is not compatible with secularism and for this very reason Pakistan needs to change. The separation of church and state is a key foundation of any society and constitution. Terrorism in Pakistan has become a major and highly destructive phenomenon in recent years. The Pakistani government seems to have learnt no lessons. An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has granted bail to Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi. The court cited the reason that the prosecution has been unable to provide evidence against him. Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi was responsible for the Mumbai attacks in 2008 which killed 166 people and injured over 600. What a message to the terrorists after the Peshawar massacre of innocent children and teachers. Instead of reigning in these monsters you are setting more of them free. How many more innocent lives need to be lost? For Christ’s sake Pakistan, wake up. The world is watching, the Peshawar massacre has shook the world.’

Salma Minhas
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘I am signing it because I think the survival of our country depends on it.’

Chanda Bokhari
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
22 days ago
‘This law has to go’

Inayat Abdali
GILGIT, PAKISTAN
23 days ago
‘i want to see pakistan secular sate.’

Rafiq Durrani
PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN
23 days ago
‘We cannot suffer anymore’

Diep Syeda
LAHORE, PAKISTAN
23 days ago
‘A secular state’

Abid Hussain
FREIBURG, GERMANY
23 days ago
‘Because states don’t have religion. People do.’

Soban Khalid
TORONTO, CANADA
23 days ago
‘Because states don’t have religion. People do.’

Nasir Khan
MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM
23 days ago
‘I care deeply about future of Pakistan and believe that religious fanaticism mixed with politics is root cause of many violent crimes in Pakistan.’

Thank you.

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Mentally challenged Babar Masih accused of blasphemy‏

On May 2, 2011 Babar Masih, a resident of Chichawatni, was accused of blasphemy. His case was registered in Chichawatni City Police Station, case number 217.

The complainant of the case, Zeeshan Arshad, alleged in the FIR that”Today, May 2, 2011, at around 8:30pm, I was standing in front of my shop when Babar Masih, son of Iqbal Masih, was passing by while shouting something very loud. I got attracted to him because of his loud voice. He was talking to the stars and calling names of Muslim holy personages.”

The FIR shows that Babar Masih never intended to hurt Zeeshan’s feeling. Also no one in his or her right mind will address the stars and say such nasty things in order to draw ire of public.

The investigation officer was provided sufficient proof of Masih’s treatment but the challan report does not mention this. However, the police have favored Masih by charging him under 295-C PPC but they have charged him with 298, 298-A and 506 of PPC.

CDI is representing Masih and on August 2, 2011 duty magistrate Civil Judge Class 1st Muhammad Zia Khan granted him bail. Yesterday, August 3, he was released from District Sahiwal Jail on bail.

Asif Aqeel
Director, Community Development Initiative (CDI)
asifaqeel@gmail.com
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Pakistan’s Christian Sanitation Workers

Pakistan’s Christian Sanitation Workers Swept into Societal Gutter‏
By Asif Aqeel

Summary
LAHORE, Pakistan, July 7 (Compass Direct News) – While one Christian sanitation worker here has been suspended and criminal charges filed against him for objecting to discrimination against fellow workers, another was killed the same month for not tending to a shopkeeper’s command fast enough. Anayat Masih Sahotra, who has worked as a street sweeper for Lahore’s Solid Waste Management (SWM) department for 24 years, said he is facing baseless charges of forgery and fraud from his employers because of his work as a labor leader for area sweepers, who are nearly all Christians. He was suspended and accused of the crimes on May 14 after he asked SWM Managing Director Wasim Ajmal Chaudhry to fulfill a promise to make 400 Christian workers regular employees with full benefits, he said.

The deep, culturally-rooted disparagement Christian sanitation workers suffer was apparent in another incident in May. Abbas Masih, 36, was cleaning the streets on May 21 when he was murdered for not picking up trash quickly enough, human rights advocates said. Contempt for sweepers is rooted deeply in cultural history, the result of a merging of Brahmanic Hinduism’s ritual impurity with Islamic ceremonial uncleanness in regard to sweepers – almost all of whom were Hindu “untouchables” who converted to Christianity in the late 19th century. Pakistani officials appear to want to keep Christians in this degrading occupation. Several job advertisements from government departments clearly state that sweeper candidates must be non-Muslim; some even specify that they must be Christians.

Article
LAHORE, Pakistan, July 7 (Compass Direct News) – The often unseen or unrecognized abuses suffered by Christians at Pakistan’s lowest level of society – street sweepers – have come into sharp focus this year.

While one Christian sanitation worker in Lahore has been suspended and criminal charges filed against him for objecting to discrimination against fellow workers, another was killed the same month for not tending to a shopkeeper’s command fast enough.

Anayat Masih Sahotra, who has worked as a street sweeper for Lahore’s Solid Waste Management (SWM) department for 24 years, said he is facing baseless charges of forgery and fraud from his employers because of his work as a labor leader for area sweepers, who are nearly all Christians. He was suspended and accused of the crimes on May 14 after he asked SWM Managing Director Wasim Ajmal Chaudhry to fulfill a promise to make 400 Christian workers regular employees with full benefits, he said.

Sahotra said when Chaudhry refused his request to make the Christian sweepers regular employees according to the requirements of Pakistani law, he told the managing director that he could expect protests. Protest against injustice was their civil right, he said, and plans for a demonstration were underway when he received the suspension order alleging forgery and fraud.

When he went to Chaudhry’s office again on May 26 to object to the injustice of the suspension order, he said Chaudhry referred to him and other Christian workers as Chuhras, an offensive term of contempt for street sweepers, an occupation assigned only to those of such low “untouchable” social standing that they are below the remnant caste system predating Pakistan’s predominantly Islamic society.

“I know you low-born Christian Chuhras, and I know how to deal with you,” Sahotra said Chaudhry told him.

Sahotra left Chaudhry’s office, he said, only to receive a phone call a few minutes later from SWM Assistant District Officer Faiz Ahmed Afridi telling him to come to his office. Sahotra went to Afridi’s office in the evening, where he was offered to sit and have a cup of tea, he said.

“While I was taking tea, police entered the office and arrested me,” Sahotra said. “I was shocked how cunning Faiz had been to me.”

Charges were filed the same day at Islampura police station, accusing Sahotra of criminally intimidating Afridi, though Sahotra said he was calmly taking tea when police arrested him.

The next day Sahotra was granted bail, but a few days later Anarkali police called him, saying the superintendent of police wanted to talk to him.

“The police of Anarkali are tricking me into meeting them,” he said. “They want to arrest me on any other charge in order to mount pressure on me to withdraw my support to the Christian employees who are not being made regular despite having worked there for several years.”

As temporary or “work charge” employees, the sanitation workers’ contracts expire every 88 days, and they are hired every third month. This goes on for decades, with the employees working until they are too feeble to do so without any benefits or pension. They get no days off – no weekends, no holiday, no sick leave.

Their morning shift begins at 6 a.m., but the general public does not want them working when they are awake, so the sweepers prefer to clean streets beforehand. Starting at 4 a.m., they work until 7 p.m. for US$100 per month, leaving them no opportunity to work any other part-time job. Thus they are kept poor, with no opportunity to provide quality education to their children, who
perpetuate the cycle as they too become sweepers.

Murdered Sweeper
The deep, culturally-rooted disparagement Christian sanitation workers suffer was apparent in another incident in May. Abbas Masih, 36, was cleaning the streets when he was murdered for not picking up trash quickly enough, human rights advocates said.

Eyewitnesses said Masih was cleaning streets in the Pir Maki area of Lahore on May 21 when Muhammad Imran, an Arain or agricultural caste member who worked at a flower shop, told Masih to pick up dried leaves and flowers from in front of the shop. Masih told him that he would gather them up when he came back from the end of the street.

“How can a Chuhra argue with me?” Imran said, and he took out a knife used at the flower shop and shoved it into Masih’s heart, according to the witnesses. Masih fell. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Two brothers who own the shop, Muhammad Tariq and Muhammad Shehzad, told Compass that Imran had opened the store that morning. Imran asked Masih to pick up a small pile of dried leaves and flowers and take them away with the garbage, they said.

As witnesses also noted, they said Masih told him that he would pick up the trash upon his return from the end of the street. Imran insisted that he pick up the pile immediately.

“Imran called him names and then took out the knife and stabbed the heart of Masih,” Shehzad said, adding that he was at home at the time but heard about it from another who came home from the scene of the incident. “I rushed to the spot, picked Masih up, put him in a rickshaw and rushed him to the Mayo Hospital. I also phoned the emergency police, Rescue 15, and informed the shop that Muhammad Imran must not be allowed to go, as Masih had passed away in the hospital.”

He said that Masih was “a very good person.”

The Lower Mall police station registered a First Information Report (FIR) only after several Christian leaders protested.

Although Masih had worked with SWM for 16 years, he remained a work-charge employee, so his family was not eligible for financial assistance upon his death. Several Christian leaders protested to the Chief Minister of Punjab Province, whose office in turn wrote to the SWM.

Based on feedback from the chief minister’s secretariat, in a June 9 letter the SWM responded to the Christian leaders: “It is the policy of the government to grant financial assistance to the family of deceased civil servants, and work charge employees do not fall under the definition of civil servants. However, on the death of work charge employees during their engagement, it is the practice to pay financial assistance after getting the approval of the Chief Minister as a special case.”

The chief minister has not responded to the request, and Christians said there is little possibility that he will consider it.

Though Christians account for 90 percent of sewage workers and an even high percentage of sweepers, they make up only 2.45 percent of Pakistan’s population, which is more than 95 percent Muslim, according to Operation World. Masih’s widow, Rukhsana Masih, said that she and her family members had feared filing a police report about the case – Pakistani police are notorious for falsely charging or otherwise harassing marginalized minorities like Christians – and that they were too poor to retain a lawyer. The Community Development Initiative, an affiliate of European Centre for Law and Justice, has since allayed her fears about the legal process and offered to assist her, and she has agreed to pursue justice.

Overlapping Religions
When the Indian subcontinent was divided in 1947 and Pakistan was carved out in the name of Islam, ultimately there was a merging of Brahmanic Hinduism’s ritual impurity with Islamic ceremonial uncleanness in regard to sweepers – almost all of whom were Hindu “untouchables” who converted to Christianity in the late 19th century.

This synthesis, however, came about over time. Initially the founding father of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had no notion of bringing religion into the sphere of political life. He was also an advocate of ending caste-based discrimination. With Jinnah’s early death and the use of Islam for political gain by migrating, Urdu-speaking leaders who previously had no political bases here – in particular the first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan – over six decades Islam permeated every aspect of life: social, political, economic and legal.

After Pakistan became fundamentally Islamic, Muslims confused the notion of ceremonial uncleanness – considered temporary in nature in Islamic jurisprudence – with the Brahmanic notion of ritual impurity, considered innate and permanent. Islam forbids eating and drinking with a kafir or infidel, but it allows it with the “people of the Book.” But as caste-based “untouchability” became confused with the Islamic notion of ceremonial uncleanness, Christians also came to be seen as ritually polluting a person or a thing.

Thus contempt toward Christians is deeply rooted, and there is no legislation to arrest this hatred. Rather, the state appears to want to keep Christians in this degrading occupation. Several job advertisements from government departments clearly state that sweeper candidates must be non-Muslim; some even specify that they must be Christians.

The Pakistani government hasn’t evolved any modern system of maintaining hygiene in metropolitan areas, so Christian sweepers are forced to collect and discard garbage under filthy conditions. Rotten and stinking garbage is a source of several contagious diseases, and most of the sweepers have respiratory and skin problems. A large number of them suffer from tuberculosis and hepatitis B.

One reason Sahotra is struggling to get these workers full employee status is that as temporary workers they are not entitled to any Social Security Hospital. They are not considered government employees and hence are not entitled to treatment in hospitals for government employees.

The same situation prevails at the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), which maintains the sewage system, where about 90 percent of workers are Christians. They face extremely dangerous work conditions. When sewer lines clog because they are too small, these workers are not provided any protective gear as they sometimes dive 30 to 50 feet below ground into manholes filled with dirty and toxic water. When a sewer line gets unclogged, the strong flow sometimes carries away the worker.

Several sanitation workers have lost their lives due to toxic gasses in manholes. Overall, hundreds of people have lost their lives working for WASA, but their families do not receive the benefits that other government employees get because the workers do not have regular status despite working decades for the department.

Caste-Based Blasphemy
One reason missionaries had such success in converting area Hindus to Christianity in the late 19th century was that conversion offered the community a way to socioeconomic as well as religious emancipation.

Although a large number of Christians managed to escape the bondage by attaining education, still an overwhelming number of Christians were caught in an occupation that society rendered humiliating and degrading.

Several cases of Christians falsely charged under Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws have been rooted in such caste-based discrimination.

Asia Noreen (also known as Asia Bibi), sentenced to death in November 2010 for allegedly insulting the prophet of Islam, was working in the fields picking fruit when she took water from a bucket for all workers. Her co-workers argued that she had polluted the water by touching it, and that the water would be drinkable only if she converted to Islam. When she answered, they ensnared her in a blasphemy case.

Remnant Hindu Brahmanic notions of untouchability combined with Islamic fervor for conversion in Pakistan also figured in accusations of blasphemy against Rubina Bibi in Alipur Chatta, Punjab Province. She had bought ghee, an Indian oil used for cooking, but when she felt it was adulterated, she told the shopkeeper to return it and give her money back. The shopkeeper argued that the oil had been polluted for having been poured into the bowl of a Christian, so it could never be returned. The ensuing argument veered into religious issues that ultimately invoked Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

The hierarchical sense of superiority that marked Imran’s alleged murder of Abbas Masih was also present in the ransacking of Christians’ homes in Bahmaniwala, Kasur, in June 2009. Trolley driver Sardar Masih asked Muhammad Hussain to remove the motorbike that he had parked in the middle of the road. Hussain refused, asking how a “Chuhra” could give him an order.

The argument grew into a brawl between two families, with the inevitable accusation from the Muslims that the Christians had committed blasphemy. The entire Christian population of the village fled, and Muslims ransacked their houses.

www.compassdirect.org

The above news analysis was written by Asif Aqeel, director of the Community Development Initiative, a human rights group affiliated with the European Centre for Law and Justice.

Contact Asif Aqeel
Director Community Development Initiative
83-S Block, Model Town Extension
Cell: +92-0300-400-1650
Office: +92-042-583-2641
Fax: 92-042-583-2642
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‘Pakistan Blasphemy Laws: A Fact Sheet’ by Mansoor Raza

The ghost of the draconian Blasphemy Laws, as enacted by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, haunts the present democratic set up as much as it does the Christian, Ahmadis and other minorities of Pakistan. Despite the consensus that there should be a total repeal of the Laws, the nuisance value of ultra-rightists prevents the Party of the Poor from any daring action that would accrue anger of the mullahs. The enactment and acceptance of Blasphemy Laws is a result of the evolution of Pakistani state and before going into that it would be interesting to look at some basic facts about the Laws:

1. The Blasphemy Laws in the Pakistan Penal Code are rooted in the Indian Penal Code of 1860 and they were introduced through Sections 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code during the dictatorial regime of General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq. The newly-introduced sections aimed to protect holy personages of only one religion, i.e. Islam, which is the state religion. Section 295-C which was added by an act of the parliament in 1986, and made it a criminal offence to use derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Under Section 295-C, the offence was punishable with life imprisonment or death.

2. Between 1927 (year in which British colonial rulers introduced section 295-A) and 1986 there had been less than ten reported cases of blasphemy. However, 1986 onwards as many as 4,000 cases have been reported. Between 1988 and 2005, Pakistani authorities charged 647 people with offences under the Blasphemy Laws. Fifty percent of the people charged were non-Muslims. More than 20 people have been murdered for alleged blasphemy. Two third of all the cases are in the Punjab Province of Pakistan

3. The province of the Punjab is home to 81 percent of Pakistnan’s Christians. The seven districts that have contributed most to the blasphemy cases are Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and Toba Tek Singh. The total population of these districts is 25 million, of which five percent are Christian; 50 percent of total Christian population of Pakistan of 2.0 million lives in these seven districts; majority of Christians in the Punjab live in rural areas.

4. According to 1998 Census, the population of religious minorities, in Pakistan, is around six million or 3.7 percent of the total population. The Hindus and Christians constitute 83 percent of the religious minorities in Pakistan, with Hindus outnumbering Christians by a small margin and 93 percent of Hindus live in Sindh.

5. An analysis of 361 cases of blasphemy offences registered by the police between 1986 and 2007 shows that as many as 49 percent cases were registered against non-Muslims. The cases against non-Muslims should be contrasted with the population of religious minorities which is not more than four percent of Pakistan’s population. Moreover, 26 percent cases against Ahmadis and 21 percent cases against Christians are not in line with their ratio in total population, which is 0.22 and 1.58 percent of the total population respectively. The number of persons nominated in 361 cases was 761. Out of 361 total cases, more than two-thirds cases were found to be from the Punjab, 15 percent from Sindh and 5 percent from the NWFP.

6. Out of 35 districts in the Punjab, police in seven districts – all in central Punjab – had registered 10 or more cases during 1986 and 2007.

7. Forty one percent of all cases in terms of religion were registered. Nearly 65 percent of cases registered were against Christians, and Muslims were nominated in 43 percent cases.

8. A total of 104 cases reached the higher courts between 1960 and 2007, out of which 91 cases were heard by the High Courts in Pakistan and the AJK and the rest by the apex courts (Supreme Court and Shariat Court). In as many as 41 cases, section 295-C was invoked.

9. A study of data and cases study, suggest that there are three types of blasphemy cases:
i) cases which are mere accusations and are lodged to settle scores;
ii) cases which are based on expressing one’s faith, and
iii) cases in which the accused are known to be suffering from some kind of mental illness.

10. It is important to note that the laws introduced by General Zia-ul Haq, which were discriminatory against women and non-Muslims, were largely opposed by women rights organizations. It is unfortunate that some Christian political leadership continued to adjust their positions and sometimes came to defend these laws publicly.

Factors that paved way for the acceptance of the Blasphemy Laws and their endorsement (by a particular segment of the society) are rooted in the evolution of the state of Pakistan and the constitutional development, in a certain manner. Due to the demographic change that accompanied the partition of India in 1947, the areas that now comprise Pakistan changed from a multi-religious society to a mono-religious society.

The social changes that are underway due to urbanization are taking on the traditional class structure that defined neatly the occupational distribution of classes and castes throughout centuries. The resulting fissures are creating tension between the groups and the warring sections are in search of ideologies to justify their struggle; a mere expression of tussle of aspirations.

Traditionally, minorities found refuge in liberal politics and supported the left leaning parties, but lately the liberal parties are losing fast the electoral battle in the decisive constituencies of the province of the Punjab. It is noted with great caution that the demography of Christians is heavily skewed in the Punjab, where the PPP is showing steady signs of involuntary withdrawal. The replacing of the PML (N) by the PPP will have an adverse impact on the future of minorities in the province.

It is safely concluded that religious aspirations of state are used by adventurists to fight an otherwise war of economic aspirations. The Pakistan People’s Party failed to comprehend the evolving new realities and thus lost fast in the electoral battle grounds of the Punjab.

In light of the above-mentioned balance sheet the total repeal of the Blasphemy Laws is only possible through mass awareness, organized campaigns and galvanizing progressive religious leaders for the greater cause of protection of humanity. The state needs to remain neutral and secular in its policies.

Mansoor Raza is a researcher who presented this paper at the Reference for Salmaan Taseer organised by CFD in Karachi on Jan 17, 2011.

First Published May 5, 2011, Citizens for Democracy

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Killer of blasphemy accused gets death

FAISALABAD, April 18: An anti-terrorism court on Monday sentenced to death a man who had gunned down two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy. The court also imposed a fine of Rs4 million.

Maqsood alias Soodi had been convicted of killing Sajid and his brother Rashid and injuring police inspector Mohammad Hussain on July 7 last year.

The convict was also sentenced to 10-year imprisonment each under Section 7-C of the ATA and 324 of the PPC and a fine of Rs200,000. Under Section 337-D, he will pay Rs500,000 Arsh (compensation) to the injured inspector and serve a 10-year term.

In July last year, the Civil Lines police had registered a blasphemy case against the two brothers on charges of distributing handwritten blasphemous pamphlets and arrested them.

Maqsood had killed the brothers near the City Police Office when a police team was taking them to the Civil Lines police station after producing them in a court.

By Our Staff Correspondent | From the Newspaper
Dawn.com
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Memorial service in memory of Late Shahbaz Bhatti, Surrey, April 3/2011‏

Condolence meeting & memorial service in memory of Late Shahbaz Bhatti‏

Violence in the name of religion is on the continuous rise in Pakistan. Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, minister for minority affairs and the only Christian in Pakistan’s cabinet, was gunned down in Islamabad on 2nd March, 2011, more or less just two months after the brutal assassination of Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer. Immediately after the Pakistani Taliban claimed the responsibility of Bhattí”s killing and justified it on the grounds of the minister suggesting changes in Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws.

Fraser Valley Peace Council in association with the Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians and the Indo-Canadian Workers Association is holding a condolence meeting and memorial service in sad remembrance of Shahbaz Bhatti. Please join us to express solidarity with voices of tolerance and reason in Pakistan.

The program details are as under:
Silence is not an option, Silence means more Deaths….
Condolence meeting and memorial service
In remembrance of Shahbaz Bhatti,
Slain Pakistani Christian leader, Pakistan’s Federal minister for minority affairs

Chief Guest
Shuja Alam, Consulate General of Pakistan.
Guest Speaker
Ujjal Dosanjh, MP
Speakers
Gurpreet Singh (Director News, Radio India Ltd)
Dr. Saif Khalid (Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians)
Surrinder Sangha (Indo Canadian Workers Association)
When
Sunday, 3rd April, 2011 (1.30 pm sharp)
Where
Newton Library, 13795 70 Avenue, Surrey, BC V3W 0E1

We the organizers strongly believe that the silence is not the option and time has come that the individuals and groups who believe in peace, freedom and human dignity should stand up and make their voices heard against the hard-liner, extremist and violent minority within Pakistan and elsewhere in the world.

In Solidarity and peace,
Members and supporters of
Fraser Valley Peace Council
Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians (Vancouver Chapter)
Indo-Canadian Workers Association

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CPSHR (Vancouver) Supports Minority Rights in Pakistan

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) Statement sent on the eve of Vancouver’s March 15 Candle Light vigil.

The Quran says: God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for your faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just. (Quran, 60:8)

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) stands in solidarity with the struggles of Pakistani people for human rights and the longstanding injustice to non-Muslims in Pakistan.

We condemn the murder of Minister Shahbhaz Bhatti, for speaking out against the Blasphemy Laws, preceded by the assassination of the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer who had taken up the cause of Aasia Bibi, a poor Christian labourer who is currently imprisoned awaiting death by hanging under the Blasphemy Laws, an injustice which has caused a litany of suffering among Pakistan’s religious minority.

CPSHR believes that people of all religions who suffer oppression and violence must place perpetrators accountable to humanity outside their religious claims. Any beliefs, seemingly based on the Quran, the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes oppression and injustice, is far from its calling.

We add our voice to all those who are campaigning for the repeal of Blasphemy Laws to protect Muslim and non-Muslim lives, minority rights, freedom of speech and democracy.

Stop the persecution of all minorities in Pakistan!

Release Aasia Bibi and all those being victimized by discriminatory laws!

Long live international solidarity!
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Candle Light Vigil: Call for the repeal of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

Tuesday, March 15th
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Approximately 35-40 people gathered this evening in front of the Pakistani Consulate in downtown Vancouver for a silent, candlelight vigil to call for the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan and to demand equality for all minorities. Pakistanis from a variety of backgrounds, including members of the Christian, Ismaili, Ahmedi, Sunni and other communities stood side by side in solidarity along with allies from the Filipino, Iranian, Sri Lankan, Palestinian, Sikh communities as well as others. A number of young Pakistanis were also in attendance. Those in attendance lit candles, wore black arm bands and held a Pakistani flag draped in black to signify that they were in mourning for the lives, rights and freedom lost because of religious intolerance. Many creative signs were held up for passers by to look at, including ones that said “My Islam Does Not Equal Blasphemy Laws”, “Justice for Asia Bibi”, “Say No to Religious Intolerance” and “No Justice from Unjust Laws”. Messages of support also came in from Pakistan and other places from a number of groups and people including a Christian youth group based in Pakistan and members of the local Jewish community as well as interfaith and progressive Muslim groups.

The vigil was organized by a grassroots, Ad Hoc group of progressive Pakistanis who came together specifically as individuals united around the common principle of repealing the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan. This vigil signifies the start of what is hoped will be a sustained campaign. There are other events being planned.

Any queries can be directed to repealthelaws@gmail.com
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Repeal the Blasphemy Laws! Candlelight Vigil, Vancouver March 15/11

Protect Human Rights of Minorities in Pakistan!
Repeal the Blasphemy Laws!
Candlelight Vigil to Commemorate the Lives of all Victims of Blasphemy Laws
March 15th, 6pm
Outside the Pakistani Consulate, 510 W. Hastings Street
(corner of W. Hastings and Richards, across from SFU Harbour Centre)

As you may know, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was recently assassinated for speaking out against the Blasphemy Laws and the resulting ongoing persecution of religious minorities. This was preceded by the assassination of the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer who had taken up the cause of Aasia Bibi, a poor Christian labourer who is currently imprisoned awaiting death by hanging under the Blasphemy Laws. Countless other Pakistanis continue to be persecuted because of these heinous legal relics of the Zia dictatorship in conjunction with a dangerous and unconscionable appropriation of Islam, deliberately distorted for the sole purpose of political or economic gain.

We believe that it is the Blasphemy Laws themselves and the resulting persecution and violence that are un-Islamic and contrary to both the tenets of Islam and the founding principles of the nation. We stand in solidarity with the struggles taking place in Pakistan to ensure equality for ALL Pakistanis and feel that we must speak out strongly where other voices are being threatened into silence through harassment and direct death calls.

Through this vigil, we want to begin building alliances with sister organizations and supportive individuals for effective lobbying to put pressure on the Government of Pakistan, the Chief of the Army Staff, and the leaders of all political parties to repeal the Blasphemy Laws, and to abolish religious extremism and vigilantism. We believe, the Blasphemy Laws must be repealed in order to protect Muslim and non-Muslim lives, minority rights, freedom of speech and democracy.

Please stand with us. This issue requires your urgent support.

Protect Human Rights of Minorities in Pakistan!
Repeal the Blasphemy Laws!
Candlelight Vigil to Commemorate the Lives of all Victims of Blasphemy Laws
March 15th, 6pm
Outside the Pakistani Consulate, 510 W. Hastings Street
(corner of W. Hastings and Richards, across from SFU Harbour Centre)

Please join us in a candlelight vigil to
– Protest the persecution of all minorities within Pakistan
– Push for the repeal of the blasphemy laws and all laws that discriminate against all minorities
– Honour all lives lost to extremist violence including the recent assassinations of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti
– Support the release of Aasia Bibi and all those now being victimized by discriminatory laws

For more info
repealthelaws@gmail.com
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=150985018294095

Organized by
Ad Hoc Group For the Repeal of Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan
Vancouver, BC
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Pakistani Christian woman falls victim to blasphemy laws

London
February 24, 2011
(PCP)

A Christian woman in Faisalabad has been accused of blasphemy following a dispute over land. According to our colleagues in Pakistan, Agnes Bibi has been arrested and detained by the police. It is believed she was in competition for a valuable piece of land with local Muslims and that they accused her of blaspheming against Islam when they failed to take hold of it.

Her arrest has spread a fresh wave of fear among Christians in Faisalabad, who like Christians across Pakistan remain tense after a judge sentenced mother-of-five Asia Bibi to death for blasphemy last November. Asia remains in jail where she is awaiting the start of an appeal hearing at the Lahore High Court, which has been delayed due to threats being made against the judges.

Faisalabad is also the city in which two Christian brothers were shot dead by Islamic militants outside a courthouse where they had just attended a hearing on the blasphemy charges against them. Their killers are still at large.

CLAAS UK Coordinator Nasir Saeed said: “We are greatly concerned for the welfare of Agnes Bibi as we have already seen the extremes to which blasphemy charges can go with the case of Asia Bibi. She is fighting a desperate battle to have her death sentence overturned and extremists are offering rewards for anyone who takes her life if she is released. This is the reality facing victims of the blasphemy law. We ask that the charges be dropped and that Agnes be released from prison immediately.”

www.pakistanchristianpost.com
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