01/20/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistan government, a disappointment in fight against fundamentalism, says Justice and Peace

NCJP executive secretary complains about government inaction, which is causing suffering to people. Human rights and full religious freedom are necessary conditions to “guarantee peace in the country”. Prime minister says he will not change blasphemy law. PML-Q leader says government policies are like those of dictator Zia-ul-Haq.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pakistan’s government has not shown any “political will” to change the situation; it is just spinning the “same version” of events. Its inaction is causing “suffering to civilians” irrespective of their religious affiliation. Overall, it has been a “disappointment”, this according to Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission on Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Pakistan Catholic Church, who spoke about recent statements by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in which the latter excluded any changes to the blasphemy law, whilst pledging no more abuses in its application.

Recently, Gilani addressed concerns voiced by the Ulema and Mashaikh Conference, reassuring them that the blasphemy law would not be changed. At the same time, he pledged the government would not allow abuses of the law.

Speaking before the conference, he said, “Islam is a religion of peace, brotherhood and tolerance” that “does not teach violence, revenge and killings”. Ulemas and religious leaders, he urged, should  play their role responsibly in the fight against terrorism.

Muslim scholars responded to his appeal saying they would fully cooperate with the government to protect the lives, property and honour of minorities. They noted that Islam lays down what is due to Allah and what is due to humans. They also urged Muslims to help friends and relatives irrespective of their faith.

Christian leaders are not so swayed by the words of the prime minister. For them, the government has been a disappointment so far.

For  NCJP executive secretary Peter Jacob, the prime minister and the president have always spun the same version of events. In his view, they lack the “political will” to pursue changes or “modify laws that cause “suffering to civilians, whether Christians, Muslims, or others.”

For the Catholic leader, what is going on in Pakistan is “not a war of religion”, but he appeals to civil society, which is largely Muslim, to promote changes.

Citing Pope Benedict XVI, he complained about the lack of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, stressing that human rights need greater respect in order to “guarantee peace in the country”.

A “political conflict is underway in Pakistan”, he said, and religion with its extremists elements, is but one of the weapons at play. Salman Taseer’s murder was political in nature, and “not only due to religious fundamentalism”.

In the meantime, leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) have attacked the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and President Zardari for abandoning the party’s original “moderate and progressive role”.

At a meeting of delegations of the two parties, a PML-Q leader said the PPP changed to such an extent that “one cannot differentiate between policies adopted by the Zia ul- Haq regime and the present PPP government.”

Then Pakistan strongman General Zia ul-Haq had the infamous blasphemy law adopted in 1986.

(Jibran Khan contributed reporting)

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