07/29/2011, 00.00
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Archbishop Saldanha: Pakistani Christian parties a "failure", unity is needed

A Christian professor, founds the All Pakistan Christian League (Apcl), for a liberal Pakistan and a guarantee of minority rights. The criticisms and scepticism of the Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore: too many parties in the past, but they were short-lived. For the bishop confidence "in the democratic system" is lacking and the situation remains "desperate".
Lahore (AsiaNews) - "I wish the Apcl party all the best, but I don’t believe it will take off or be a success. I fear that it will prove a total failure, like all the other Christian political movements of the past". This is the concise and somewhat disheartened opinion of Mgr. Lawrence John Saldanha, Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore expressed to AsiaNews, about the birth of the Christian party, the All Pakistan Christian League (Apcl). The prelate adds that "over the past 60 years there have been numerous political parties led by willing Christian leaders", but "most of these" have been short-lived and have not served to make the case for and defend the rights of the religious minority.

The All Pakistan Christian League (Apcl) is a Christian-based political movement that aims to promote a "strong and democratic" country, defending the rights of Christians and ensuring their representation at the federal level and in the various provinces. Stressing that this is the first "entirely Christian" party since 1972, the President Salamat Akhtar - along with co-founder Salamat Nawaz - evokes the vision of a liberal Pakistan sanctioned by Ali Jinnah, and calls for unity among Christians, in defence of women and education for young people.

The Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore and former president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference recalls that "in the last 60 years" he has witnessed a number of Christian political movements, but they were short-lived because "the party is restricted to members of a family or group, but does not represent the entire community. " Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr. Saldanha accused Christians of being "notorious for their lack of unity", adding: "they prefer to promote their own party rather than join an already existing reality."

Its policies are linked to money and business, and many parties of the past, said the prelate, existed "only on paper, without feedback from the masses," the initiative of "wealthy men, who have the economic power to promote their activities "and interests. He recalled that the introduction in 2002 by former President Musharraf of a "joint electoral system" - which allows non-Muslims to vote for Muslim candidates of their respective constituencies - has left "little room" to propose to the Christian parties' own candidates " which "almost completely ceased to exist. "

Archbishop Saldanha said he was "surprised" by the birth of Apcl and knows its leader, Professor Salamat Akhtar, who " is quite old and will not have the energy and strength sufficient to lead a party." The problem, according to the prelate, revolves around the "lack of confidence in the democratic system" and "little hope of a change in the future" for a situation that at the moment "is desperate" for the religious minority. "I'm afraid - the Archbishop Emeritus concludes - that this will result in yet another failure." (DS)

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