22 February 2018
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  • » 03/31/2017, 18.46

    PAKISTAN

    Christian and Muslim activists want prosecutor disbarred for pressuring accused to convert to Islam

    Shafique Khokhar

    Syed Anees Shah acknowledged that he promised freedom in exchange for conversion to 42 Christian prisoners jailed in 2015 after a Taliban attack on two churches. Government and courts should take action against such “abhorrent behaviour".

    Lahore (AsiaNews) – Christian and Muslim activists are calling for Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah to be disbarred after he acknowledged telling Christian prisoners that he could get them out of prison if they converted to Islam.

    The case broke out yesterday when the Lahore magistrate admitted making that offer to 42 Christians from Youhanabad who are in prison charged with lynching two Muslim men shortly after a Taliban attack against two churches that left 19 people des and more than 70 injured.

    Speaking to AsiaNews, the activists said that the government and the Supreme Court must take a tough stance against the magistrate for trying to "forcibly convert innocent Christians by means of blackmail."

    Prof Anjum James Paul, president of the All Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association, appealed to the head of the Lahore High Court to suspend Shah.

    "He has openly violated Article 20 (a) of the Constitution of Pakistan which guarantees every citizen the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion," Paul said.

    Among Christians "There is a lot of fear because they are vulnerable. In the past, they have been targeted for refusing to renounce Christianity,” he explained. “They also face many challenges in getting justice since the courts can come under mob pressure.”

    Noting that “There are no other examples of people forced to convert to avoid a trial,” he went on to say that “This [case] shows how much influence the prosecutor had on the court." His behaviour sends a chilling message: "If a non-Muslim wants freedom and equality in Pakistan, he has to become a Muslim."

    "What would happen if a Christian prosecutor had made the same offer to a Muslim?" asked provocatively Rojar Noor Alam, head of Programme-Caritas in Lahore.

    More importantly, "The prosecutor’s blackmail raises serious doubts about the independence of the judiciary and the judicial system in Pakistan. We should all defend the independence of judges and the government should get rid of those elements who tarnish the name of the state with such acts."

    For Naseem Kausar, a secular Muslim activist, teacher and writer, what happened is "one of the worst examples of nepotism. This is the domain in which we're raising our voice to have a secular constitution and laws in Pakistan.”

    In her view, “The dominant interpretation of religious laws only promotes a specific class that favours a conservative mind-set. This increases injustice and barbarism." In fact, "This case is clear evidence that mixing Constitution and laws with religious ideas shelter the brutality of the cruel."

    Kiran Simon, activist and lawyer, also condemns the attempt to convert Christians in Youhanabad. However, he notes that this "is not the first case. I remember a few cases of blasphemy where some [people] converted and others did not, suffering harsh consequences.”

    “I think the government and law enforcing agencies should identify such people,” she added. “A legal professional, whether a defender or prosecutor, must act according to the law in a neutral way.”

    Sadly, “In Pakistan, some prosecutors who show off their piety also engage in such abhorrent behaviour. They should be disbarred."

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    See also

    16/08/2017 15:34:00 PAKISTAN
    Christian prisoner who refused to reject his faith dies in custody in Lahore

    Indaryas Ghulam died under mysterious circumstances in police custody. He had burns and cuts on his body. He was one the 42 people arrested for lynching two Muslims after the Youhanabad church attacks. The prisoner could have saved his life had he denied Christ.



    28/04/2016 09:40:00 INDIA
    Madhya Pradesh, police interrupt a Christian marriage: "The spouses are Hindus"

    Security officers and Hindu extremists stormed a place of worship in Satna, arresting 10 people including the pastor and the groom's parents. He is accused of having converted the pair illegally to Christianity and celebrating a marriage between minors. Christian leaders: "This is abuse of anti-conversion laws".



    11/04/2006 SRI LANKA
    Anti-conversion bill to become law soon
    Members of committee tasked with reviewing bill are appointed. If they approve, the bill will only require third and final reading. Christians are concerned and warn: If the vote is not secret, it will be hard for anyone to vote against the bill.

    19/04/2006 INDIA
    Christian groups against approval of Rajasthan anti-conversion bill

    John Dayal, a well-known human rights activist, has written an open letter to the State governor, urging her to "use her legislative powers to reject the decree and to prevent it from becoming law".



    29/07/2005 SRI LANKA
    Archbishop of Colombo tells government to respect religious freedom
    Archbishop Gomis makes his appeal as two "dangerous" anti-conversion bills make their way through parliament. The recent attack against a local Catholic church was the work of outside fundamentalists who act without reason but to destroy. "The Catholic community is not afraid; fundamentalists are a minority".



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