Mgr John Saldanha, archbishop of Lahore, and Peter Jacob, NCJP executive secretary, have urged the federal and provincial governments in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to do something to alleviate the plight of non-Muslim families forced to “hand over their hard earned bread and butter to the extremists.”
Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant Islamist organisation based in Bara, about 10 kilometres south-west of Peshawar, is responsible for applying the tax.
Local sources said that more than 700 non-Muslim families have had to pay the tax.
NCJP leaders have complained about the lack of security among religious minorities in Orkazai and Khyber agency areas and that they are victims of harassment, religious taxation and expulsion.
The tax also is a threat to the country’s “democratic credentials and political system”. For this reason the government “should make it clear that Pakistan is a democratic country that cannot allow religious minorities to be subjected to such discrimination and economic injustice because they are equal citizens and not a conquered people.” These principles, the NCJP statement said, “are still part of the Constitution and the political system.”
Religious Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti reacted to the appeals of Catholic leaders by strongly condemning the demand on non-Muslims to pay the jizya.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the minister, who is Catholic, said that the tax “is illegal, unethical and against the Constitution of Pakistan.”
Moreover, in condemning those who perpetrate violence in the name of religion, he insisted that the protection of non-Muslims “is our constitutional obligation and moral duty”. The government, he reiterated, “will not let the Taliban threat and harm the minorities.”