ASIA/PAKISTAN - Peaceful Christian demonstration calling for religious identity to be removed from passports disturbed by Islamic fundamentalists

Monday, 17 January 2005

Lahore (Fides Service) - “In Pakistan religion is often exploited and several political measures taken in the name of Islam are abused to dominate and harm certain communities” Father Abid Habib, Co-ordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission of Lahore archdiocese told Fides following a demonstration organised by the local Christian community and a number of associations calling on the government to remove religion from identity.
According to Father Habib “the present government said it would stop this discrimination which violates human rights and is nonsense. This would be a good step for the government but several Islamic religious parties are against the change”.
Recently in collaboration with NGOs the JP Commission of Lahore archdiocese, backed by JP commissions of various religious Orders present in Pakistan, Franciscans and Dominicans, organised a non violent demonstration calling for religion to be removed from passports. The demonstration which brought together religious and laity, students and human rights activists was disturbed by Islamic fundamentalists with slogans contrary to the provision demanded by the demonstrators.
Father Habib said there was tension but no one was hurt. He recalled that religious identity on passports was introduced in the 1970s to prevent extremist members of the Ahmed Muslim minority , disowned by official Islam from leaving the country to go to Mecca e Medina.
Christians welcomed president Musharraf’s decision to change election laws which established that people could only vote for members of their own faith and hope that steps will be taken to abolish other laws for the benefit of Pakistan society including a law regarding school curriculum and the much abused blasphemy law and.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 17/1/2005 righe 36 parole 388)