08/19/2013, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Lahore, a 'day of mourning' to assert minorities’ rights

by Shafique Khokhar
Over 300 people from different walks of life attended the event. Among the requests to the Pakistani government, Constitutional reform and end to the blasphemy laws.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Reform of Pakistan's Constitution, which still indicates minorities as "second class citizens", and an end to the anti-blasphemy laws. These are some of the demands presented to the Islamabad government by civil society and human rights organizations. More than 300 people - including young people, teachers, social workers and local leaders - gathered in front of the Lahore Press Club on August 15, to participate in a "day of mourning" for the rights of minorities.

The event was organized by Human Rights Focus Pakistan (Hrfp), a Christian organization for Human Rights, Global Human Rights Defense (Ghrd) Pakistan Christian National Party (MANCP); Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS). Significantly, the organizers chose to hold the rally after the National Day of minorities (August 11) and Independence Day (14 August).

"Today - Naveed Walter, President of Hrfp, told the crowd - is a day of mourning for all minorities in Pakistan, because the basic rights and fundamental freedoms of minorities are easy targets to hit and harass." The activist also pointed out the serious lack of security in which religious minorities live, remembering the fire at the Joseph Colony, or the abuse of anti-blasphemy laws to persecute Christians, as in the case of Rimsha Masih.

"The minorities in this country - noted Joseph Francis, national director of the Claas - feel embarrassed to celebrate the National Day for minorities, because it explicitly shows that these communities are in a more vulnerable position." Even so, he added, "we ask for a reform of the Constitution of Pakistan [1973], which unequivocally states that religious minorities are second-class citizens."

At the end of the event, the participants drew up a list of nine "suggestions" to be sent to the government. These include a review anti-blasphemy laws (Article 295 B and C of the Penal Code, ed) and the cancelation of Articles 2 (Islam is the state religion) and 41-2B (the presidential candidate must be a Muslim and over 45 years old) of the Constitution.

 

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