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    » 04/03/2008, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Pakistani Church welcomes new government, hopes for real reforms

    Qaiser Felix

    In a press release the National Commission for Justice and Peace expresses appreciation for the efforts of the new government, urging it to uphold both an independent justice system and the principle of religious freedom. The Commission also urges ordinary citizens to help the government meet its challenges.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Church welcomes the new government of Pakistan that should be set up over the next hundred days, but is mindful that some important questions that concern the country have not yet been addressed. Reforms are needed to improve the human rights of Pakistani citizens, this according to a press statement released today by the National Commission for Justice and Peace and signed by the Archbishop of Lahore, Mgr Lawrence Saldanha, and its Secretary General Peter Jacob.

    The prelate, who chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, welcomes the new government’s desire to establish “the rule of law and justice”.

    We urge the government to remove discriminations and biases in education policy, substantive and personal laws and ensure affirmative action for the marginalized communities in employment and other economic opportunities,” he said.

    Pakistani Catholics (about 1.2 million or 0.9 per cent of the population in a country that is 97 per cent Muslim) have complained for years that they suffer from unjust policies at both the national but especially provincial levels.

    In the remoter areas of the country Christians are discriminated in education, without the same opportunities that Muslims have, and in employment because Muslims don’t easily higher Christians.

    Instead the mandate given to the present government by the people of Pakistan “clearly reflects their desire for a system based on the equality of citizens irrespective of caste, colour or creed according to the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah,” the founder of Pakistan.

    Issues like religious intolerance and discrimination are as important as the independence of the judiciary, media freedom and provincial autonomy.

    The government should drop the negative policies pursued by the previous administration, which destroyed the good will of the nation and suppressed public opinion, and build instead serious and credible institutions that uphold human rights. As part of this it should ratify international conventions on human rights.

    Under the military government of former army chief General Pervez Musharraf, which lasted from 1999 till last February, personal freedoms in Pakistan deteriorated substantially.

    Under the guise of the “fight against terrorism” the military government went after judges, journalists and human rights activists.

    The country’s religious minorities have fared even worse, crushed between the infamous blasphemy law (which imposes on any who desecrates Islam) and the Hudud Ordinances.

    For Monsignor Saldanha, the government’s good will is not enough to make change effective. For this reason, he urged his “fellow citizens to stand firmly by the government in its efforts to meet the challenges.”

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    See also

    22/12/2008 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani government to celebrate Christmas
    Prime Minister Gilani announces reforms in favour of minorities’ development, identity and political representation. Catholic leader Peter Jacob hopes the government will keep its promises “because in past there were also many announcements but they were not implemented.”

    05/06/2008 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani Church urges government to uphold the constitution against extremism
    In a press statement issued by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, Church leaders call on the government to amend the constitution to fight discrimination and religious intolerance. They also express support for the judges sacked by Musharraf.

    01/04/2008 PAKISTAN
    Enough discrimination we want a modern Pakistan, says Christian lawmaker
    Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who chairs the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, was just elected to Pakistan’s National Assembly. In his maiden speech to the house he makes a plea for equal rights for the country’s non Muslim communities.

    13/12/2007 PAKISTAN
    Spe Salvi is an invitation to be messengers of hope to the world, says Mgr Saldanha
    The archbishop of Lahore and chairman of the Pakistan Catholic bishops Conference talks to AsiaNews about Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, which reminds Christians of their role as messengers of hope and invites them to look up to Christ, symbol of new life.

    03/02/2006 PAKISTAN
    More violence against Catholics and their local church
    In Sialkot District, unknown assailants attack a 70-year-old woman breaking her legs, and seriously injured another, ostensibly over land. This is taking place "because the government has failed to take measures," says the archbishop of Lahore.



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