11/11/2009, 00.00
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Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy campaign at the UN minorities forum

The second UN Forum on Minorities Issues opens Tomorrow in Geneva. It will focus on minority participation in politics. The NCJP delegation will submit a proposal to fight extremism in Pakistan and strengthen minority representation.
Geneva (AsiaNews) – The campaign to raise awareness about Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, launched by Christian activists in association with AsiaNews, has moved to Geneva, Switzerland, for tomorrow’s opening of the second UN Forum on Minority Issues.

The delegation representing the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Pakistani Catholic Church will take part in two days of meetings with representatives of governments, UN agencies, national human rights organisations and non-governmental organisations. The theme of the forum is ‘Minorities and Effective Political Participation’. Gay Dougall, an independent UN minority expert, will chair the proceedings.

NJCP Executive Director Peter Jacob spoke to AsiaNews about the issues he will raise during the discussions, namely the need “to reinforce the presence of the Christian minority in Pakistan’s political life, civil society and economy.”

This battle is conducted at the same time as that against blasphemy laws, which impose life in prison or death on anyone who desecrates or defiles the Qur‘an or the name of the Prophet Muhammad, a legal tool used by Muslim extremists to strike at minorities and further “Islamise” the country.

The recommendations made by Christian activists include:

·         An independent national minority rights commission with the powers of a tribunal to look at participation of minorities in all spheres of national life, including political participation.

·         An independent inquiry, with the participation of international experts, to determine the socio-political causes of insufficient minority participation in Pakistani politics.

·         The repeal of constitutional and legal discrimination, including the blasphemy laws, which bar members of minorities from holding certain public offices such as the presidency, the post of prime minister, that of provincial governor, etc.

·         The term minority should have a broader meaning to include national, ethnic and linguistic minorities as well.

·         The number of minority representatives in the Senate, National Assembly, and the four provincial assemblies should be doubled so that they can participate more effectively in the important affairs of state.

·         A certain number of seats should be reserved in the Senate.

·         The electoral system should be changed to guarantee at least 10 per cent of the seats to minorities.

·         Minorities should be more visible in positions of power in the provinces, the federal cabinet, ministries and parliamentary committees.

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