ASIA/PAKISTAN-Open letter from the ruling party: "Guarantee justice for minorities"

Monday, 29 October 2001

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - After the first-rate murders of Judge Arif Iqbal (who in 1997 had acquitted a Christian accused of blasphemy), of Governor Salmaan Taseer and the Minister Shahbaz Bhatti (2010), who had the courage to speak up against the law of blasphemy, "the religious minorities in Pakistan are seriously more insecure", while "Criminals are using this law to protect their interests and hurt others". This are the words reported in an open letter written by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the party that leads the coalition government which includes the President of Pakistan Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Reza Gilani.
The letter, elaborated by the PPP deputy Pervez Rafiq and supported by the entire party establishment, was inspired by the case of Mumtaz Qadri, governor Tesser’s murderer, sentenced to death and defended by Islamic groups: the letter is addressed to Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, who is now Qadri’s lawyer in the appeal trial, but also former Chief Justice of Lahore High Court.
The letter, Fides received, was sent to the State's leading authorities, to the President of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Presidents of the Senate and Chamber, to all the governors of the provinces, to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and other civil society groups.
The PPP asks Khawaja Sharif "why have you decided to defend a person like Qadri, a transgressor of the law?" and asks the former judge of Lahore to speak out on laws passed by the dictator Zia ul Haq, such as the blasphemy law. The text recalls that Zia approved Islamic laws that have damaged the harmony and religious freedom in society. The letter notes, that prior to 1985 (when Zia enacted constitutional amendments and the law of blasphemy as it is now) "it was difficult to see a blasphemy case or cases of murder in the name of blasphemy".
Stating that since then minorities have become "seriously unsafe", the PPP explains that "all citizens who love the nation, including Muslims, are concerned about this situation", especially because of the urgency to ensure the fair administration of justice in cases concerning religious minorities.
According to Fides sources, "the stance of the PPP, in this delicate phase, is important and courageous, but it is to be seen if I will really have an impact on the situation of the courts in Pakistan, heavily influenced by Islamic extremists". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 29/10/2011)