07/30/2018, 11.27
PAKISTAN
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Pakistan's Christians harbor little hope in election winner former cricket star Imran Khan

by Kamran Chaudhry

The opposition complains of a rigged result . Fears that a Tehreek-e-Insaf Pakistan government may prevent civilian demonstrations because it is supported by the army. Where it has already governed, Khan's party has reduced the representation of minorities and the labor quotas allocated to them. The future premier defends the blasphemy law.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Christian leaders and activists have little hope that the cricket legend Imran Khan, once elected prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, can improve the situation of religious minorities. 

Fr. Nasir William, director of the Social Communications Commission of the diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, told AsiaNews: "All previous governments have failed to give equal rights to religious minorities in Pakistan".

According to the priest, "in his victory speech, Imran Khan assured us of the basic privileges guaranteed in construction but remained silent when his leaders of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PTI party referred to Christians as kaafir (infidels) and churhas (low caste) in assemblies and television talk shows". Then he adds: "Khan’s five year term may not be enough to counter decades of religious fundamentalism. Chances of big protests and sit-ins are bleak as military is rumored to support his party".

The PTI announced that Imran Khan will be sworn in as prime minister before August 14, Pakistan Independence Day. However an All Parties Conference on Friday demanded re-election in the country rejecting the results of July 25 elections as blatantly rigged. The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) also highlighted a number of issues in its July 27 report. The number of rejected votes was higher than the margin of victory in 35 National Assembly constituencies with a close race, it stated. 

Hyacinth Peter, executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Major Religious Superiors Leadership Conference says Khan has “no interest” in minorities. 

“He has already vowed to defend Section 295-C (blasphemy law) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The former PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province removed all secular content from the syllabus that was introduced by the previous government. These included of pictures of minor girls without dupattas (veils), Christmas cake and a Cross emblem on an ambulance, the mention of good morning instead of Assalamu Aliakum and others,” he said.

In 2013, Khan’s party formed the government in the northern province with support from alliance partners. It approved only 3% job quota for religious minorities in KP while in rest of the country it is 5%. Similarly the number of reserved seats for the Minorities in KP assembly was only 2% while in Sindh and Balochistan it is 5%. 

Church leaders in Pakistan also criticized PTI Government for its failure to release the compensation amount of two hundred million rupees for the families of the martyrs of the Peshawar Church blast in 2013

This February, KP’s PTI-led government provided a grant of 277 million for Darul Aloom Haqqania, the alma mater in the Nowshera district for many jihadists and Afghan Taliban leaders. In 2016, the same university received 300 million rupees (2 million) from the provincial government. According to opposition parties, the PTI government had cut the funds for minorities to fund the madrassa. Media reports added that majority of these funds were reserved for educational expenses of deserving students in Christian institutions.

Rwadari Tehreek, a social movement of interfaith activists, offered several suggestions to Khan in an open letter issued on July 28. The suggestions included supremacy of the law and constitution, independence of parliament, empowered provinces, strengthening of election commission and other democratic organizations, effective local government system, a smaller cabinet, lesser protocol and reduction of non-productive expenditures. 

It also recommended socially uplifting the weaker segments of the society- women, children, minorities, labourers and workers, respect of human dignity, change in syllabus and full implementation of the National Action Plan against extremism and terrorism. 

However Fr. Qaiser Feroz, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops' social communications commission was more vocal in supporting the PM in waiting. “Khan believes in the original vision of Pakistan by the founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah. We believe he will revive the spirit of constitution. All parties should accept the result and support the new leadership for the progress of our country,” he said. 

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