02/23/2021, 14.15
PAKISTAN
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Christian leaders slam Minister Shah: Pakistan does not protect its minorities

by Shafique Khokhar

At the ceremony commemorating the centennial of the “Nankana massacre,” Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics minister claims that Pakistan respects and protects non-Muslims whilst India commits ‘atrocities” against them. Activists and clergymen are dismissive of such claims. Rev Bashir cites a long list of abuses, from sexual assault to false accusations of blasphemy.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Minister Ijaz Shah spoke recently at the centennial of the Saka Nankana or Nankana massacre. His controversial speech sparked outrage.

At the ceremony held last Sunday in Nankana Sahib, Lahore (Punjab), the politician said that all minorities in the country are respected and protected, while in India they are the subject of “atrocities”.

This elicited an immediate response from some prominent individuals, including some Christians, who cited many examples of violations, evidence that minorities are protected only “on paper”.

The minister spoke at an event marking the centenary of the Nankana massacre, an anniversary that brought many Sikh pilgrims from across Pakistan and also abroad.

The anniversary commemorates the killing of more than 260 Sikhs, some as young as seven, at the hands of the last Udasi Custodian, Mahant Narayan Das, and his mercenaries when the area was still part of British India.

The three-day observance coincided with the birthday of Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism, which was celebrated in the presence of politicians, religious leaders, minority representatives, activists and worshippers gathered in Nankana Sahib.

Addressing those present, the Anti-Narcotics Minister said that “good treatment of minorities is one of the obligations of the Islamic religion” and “the white colour in our national flag represents minorities”. Guru Nanak, he added, “taught the lesson of peace and love to people”.

Mr Shah also noted that the Baba Guru Nanak University was under construction, and that it would bring an educational revolution in the area, paid entirely by the Pakistani government.

The minister's celebratory words raised concern, even outrage, in many representatives of religious minorities who say that it is false to say that “religious minorities enjoy full respect in Pakistan”.

For Rev Javed Bashir, a pastor with the Voice of Christ Pentecostal Church in Karachi, Ijaz Shah's words are contrary to reality “because not only Christians, but all minorities face a difficult situation” that is getting worse “day to day”.”

“Let us pray for the leaders and authorities of our country, that they may bring true peace and prosperity to our nation,” the Christian leader said. “We are concerned about the future of our young people” and it remains essential to “educate children”.

Citing a recent report by International Christian Concern, Rev Bashir noted that non-Muslims are at critical moment, subjected to many abuses and acts of violence.

The report, he points out, documents at least 38 episodes of persecution that include “discrimination, sexual assaults, kidnappings, forced conversions, forced marriages, spurious accusations of blasphemy, and even murder.”

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