11/10/2014, 00.00
PAKISTAN - INDIA
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The government of Pakistan is responsible for Christian couple's burning

by Shafique Khokhar
According to Peter Jacob, a well-known activist for human rights, the current legal system promotes violence in the name of the blasphemy laws. For a Pakistani politician, local leaders gave a "religious connotation to a dispute about money" to what was a "social question". For Indian bishop, it was a "satanic act;" hence, "It is urgent for world and religious leaders to get together".

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - "The current legal and administrative system of Pakistan is responsible for the repeated violence and injustice committed in the name of the blasphemy laws," said Peter Jacob. The well-known human rights activist spoke to AsiaNews about the murder of a Christian couple in Lahore, on 4 November.

Fuelled by a false accusation of blasphemy, their murder has sparked strong reactions in Pakistan, with many Christians and Muslims coming together to demand justice for the victims of the "black law".

Yesterday, political leaders and social activists met to urge the government to redefine its policies and its laws, at a press conference organised by the District Action Committee of the HomeNet Pakistan and the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM).

According to Arif Ayaz, general secretary of the Awami Workers Party, the Christian couple "is not a case of blasphemy, but a social issue." In fact, "The local clergy plotted to kill the couple, giving a religious connotation to a dispute about money," he noted. "To do so, they roused the religious feelings of Muslims by talking about blasphemy in order to turn them against the couple."

For lawyer Hashmat Barkat, "the State and the Government of Pakistan have failed to encourage a culture of peace and justice and to protect minority groups," who "are most targeted by those who exploit the blasphemy laws in the name of religion."

"The case of the Christian couple has raised many questions," said Naseem Anthony, AWAM programme director, "not only about the worsening state of law and order, but also about how long the state will continue to be held hostage by these man-made laws."

The murder of Shahzad and Shama Masih has also shaken India. For Mgr Felix Machado, archbishop of Vasai and president of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), "it was a satanic act."

"The global community must condemn this evil act," he told AsiaNews, "because to remain silent is to be complicit. It is urgent for world and religious leaders to get together and put pressure on Pakistan to eliminate the blasphemy laws."

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)

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