Pakistan bans TV stations in sweeping 'attack on religious freedom'

PAKISTANI officials have banned 11 Christian television channels in what local priests are calling a blow to religious freedom in the region. Pakistan, home to some 2.8million christians, ordered the censoring of pro-Christian programmes after the nation's TV regulatory body declared them illegal. One censored station, Catholic TV, broadcasted from Lahore where 42 adult Christians and 30 children were killed in a suicide blast while celebrating Easter last March. Catholic TV founder Father Morris Jalal said: "As citizens, Christians have the right to practice their religion, but if they block you, it means not all citizens are equal. "When someone bans the expression of faith, which is a fundamental right, there is persecution." The move to ban the stations leaves Pakistan's Christian minority with no public media presence after 17 years of having been allowed to broadcast across the country. Father Jalal added: "We must protest this decision, and we hope the West does it as well." Father Mushtaq Anjum, claimed the action, which made "the proclamation of the good news illegal," was a "discriminatory law that affects non-Muslims". Other members of the local Christian community have also asked the government to revoke the measure, calling it an "act of intimidation" and an "attack to religious freedom". It comes as a 16-year-old Christian boy faces the death penalty after he was accused of insulting Islam in a Facebook post. The boy has been arrested and charged with blasphemy after a photo of the Kaaba in Mecca, one of the holiest sites in Islam, appeared on his profile. Locals reportedly claimed the image showed the holy site with a pig's head on top. It is unclear if the boy posted the image, was tagged in the post or liked the post. But under Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws the teenage boy faces the death penalty or a life sentence.

Pakistani Christians Refused Entry into UK: 'They Were Not Wealthy Enough'

Two Pakistani Christians have been refused visas to visit the UK because they were deemed "not wealthy enough" by the UK government.According to ChristianToday.com, the two Pakistani men were getting ready to make a trip to visit a church in Glasgow, Scotland. Two men from the Glasgow church had visited their congregation in Hyderabad, so the two Pakistanis were going to return the visit. The Scottish church was going to pay for all their expenses. However, the two men received notification from the UK government that "Immigration officials refused the applicants visas on the basis they could not prove they were wealthy enough to be allowed into the UK," according to the Glasgow church. "We remain committed to our twinning link with the diocese of Hyderabad, with whom we enjoyed tremendous hospitality when members of our presbytery visited Pakistan last year," stated Rev. Graham Blount, upon hearing the news that the men were refused entry into the UK. "We are deeply concerned at the refusal of the UK Government to grant visas to two of our invited partners, despite the Church of Scotland guaranteeing their travel arrangements as well as their accommodation and subsistence while they are here, the refusal seems grounded in their personal financial circumstances," he continued. Blount added that the church is writing to the UK government to voice their concerns. Wilson Choudhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association also voiced his condemnation of the UK's decision: "This latest refusal is a poor indictment of the UK Home Office process which clearly is not free of bias. I will be praying for the family and will register concerns with the Home Office and Foreign Affairs Select Committee over the obvious maladministration and request a review of the decision. I hope something can be done to revoke the decision which flies in the face of common sense."

US Lawmakers Ask Nawaz Sharif to Protect Religious Minorities

WASHINGTON: Expressing deep concern over human rights violations in the Sindh province of Pakistan, influential American lawmakers have asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to protect Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities in the country. "We are urging Prime Minister Sharif to do everything in his power to protect the Sindh community, as well as religious minorities, from attacks," Congressman Brad Sherman said yesterday as he and four other members of the US House of Representatives wrote a letter in this regard to Sharif. "The Sindhi community includes tens of millions of people in Pakistan who are striving to preserve their language and culture, but Sindhi activists are subject to enforced disappearances and sometimes targeted killings," said Sherman. The four other lawmakers are Kerry Bentivolio, Adam Schiff, Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Petri. "Violence against minorities everywhere is an unacceptable violation of human rights," said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "In Pakistan, we have heard reports of torture, executions and disappearances of peaceful and politically active Sindhis and Balochs who are Hindu, Christian, Shia and other religious minorities. "These religiously and politically motivated attacks are abhorrent, and I strongly urge Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take action to address these troubling offences. "The Government of Pakistan must stand up for human rights, and against violent radicals who seek to persecute and kill those with differing beliefs," Gabbard said. The five Congressmen expressed deep concern for the declining human rights situation in the Sindh province of Pakistan through a letter issued yesterday. "Sindhi activists are regularly persecuted for voicing their concerns about government policies. We are greatly troubled by reports of repression and attacks on non-violent, politically active Sindhis attacks that include enforced disappearances, torture, and executions," the letter said. "One horrific example includes the case of Maqsood Qureshi and Salman Wadho who were allegedly shot and then burned alive inside of their car while travelling to a political rally in Karachi," it added. "We stress the need for those responsible for ordering these killings, and similar attacks, to be held accountable for these appalling violations of basic human rights," the letter said. "There are similar reports regarding Baloch political activists, with mass graves being discovered in the province of Balochistan," the letter added. "The human rights violations are not only political, but also religious in nature. Hindu Sindhis experience increasing encroachments on their ability to freely practice their religion. Accounts of Hindu temples in Sindh being forcibly entered and desecrated represent an affront to the rule of law and basic tenets of religious tolerance," the lawmakers said. Christians, Shias, and other religious minorities in Sindh have also deeply suffered, they said adding that scores of Pakistani Shias and Christians have been killed or injured in attacks, many of them in Karachi and Hyderabad. Christians are regularly detained, tried, imprisoned, and even sentenced to death for allegedly violating blasphemy laws. Houses of worship have been attacked, as well. "We believe that all persons should be free to practice their religion and should not be immersed in fear because radicals deem them to be blasphemous. We fear that certain radical and violent groups are allowed to act with impunity by elements of Pakistani security forces. If this is true, we urge you to address the situation accordingly by strongly countering these actions and policies throughout the Pakistani government," the lawmakers said. "We believe that the basic provisions of human rights can and should be provided by the Government of Pakistan to Sindhis and the Baloch alike. "We urge you to seriously address these concerns and work to make Pakistan a free and fair country for all to live in, where religious minorities are not persecuted and differing political beliefs are not met with violence," the Congressmen said.

Homage paid to the assassinated Christian leader Shahbaz Bhatti on the occasion of his birth anniversary

All Pakistan Minorities' Alliance honored and commemorated assassinated Christian leader Shahbaz Bhatti on the occasion of his birth anniversary. In a seminar held on Friday, September 9, APMA which was planted by the murdered leader himself. This seminar was attended by APMA members, political leaders from various outfits, members of civil society and others. While addressing the audience at the seminar, secretary general of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Sardar Latif Khosa said insulting Islam or any other religion is designated as a crime under the law. Prevalent dual standards relating to blasphemy cases and events surrounding them have tarnished Pakistan's image. He further criticized that dictators had endorsed fanaticism. Furthermore, Advocate Abdullah Bhatti stated that the assassinated leaders Benazir Bhutto, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti had appalled the world. These leaders were champions for rights of the marginalized citizens of the country. He further paid homage to the non-Muslim Pakistanis who had been instrumental in the national progress. He mentioned the names of Sir Zafarullah, Dr Abdus Salam, Justice (r) AR Cornelius, Justice (r) Bhagwandas, Cecil Chaudhry and Shahbaz Bhatti as national heroes of the country. Father James Chanan stated that Sahbaz Bhatti was a champion campaigner for the rights of minorities. He urged for the apprehension of the assassins of the great leader. Furthermore, Manohar Chand Chairman of Pakistan Hindu Welfare Council said that Shahbaz Bhatti struggled for the welfare of all minorities in Pakistan. Vice Chairman of APMA Najmi Saleem, said that Shahbaz Bhatti had been pivotal in the betterment of religious minorities. He was the one who got five per cent job quota for minorities and seats for them in the Senate passed by the government. It was owing to his efforts that August 11 was declared as the National Minorities Day.

Protection demanded for circulation manager of Christian monthly Saawan magazine

Karachi: November 13, 2016. (PCP) Advocate Chaudhary Azra and Advocate Sumaira Gill from Lahore called Miss Jacquiline Sultan, Advocate High Court of Sindh and informed her about Shalokh Irfan S/o. David Irfan, Circulation Manager of Monthly SAAWAN International" (Bhatti Street, Bethlehem Chowk, Bahar Colony, Kot Lakhpat Lahore) case and said that Shalokh Irfan has filed Criminal Petition in the Hon'ble Court of Session Judge Lahore against Station House Office, PS Liaquatabad Lahore. Shalokh Khan received a call on 1st November 2016 from unknown person who threatened him as to desist from his activities such as propagating Christianity in Pakistan otherwise he along with his family members will be in danger. Shalokh Khan tried to register his case but concerned SHO refused. Hence he filed Petition U/S 22A, 22BCr. PC for Seeking Registration of Criminal Case and protection through Basharat Ali AWan, Advocate High Court.. Miss Jacqueline Sultan who is also an active Human Rights Activist said that Non-Muslims are facing Hardships in Pakistan. Even Police is not cooperating with the Non-Muslims. She said our education system in Pakistan should be established in such a way that people of all religion and faith and their children study according to their faith and religious beliefs and unprejudiced curriculum / syllabus be formulated. She demand amendment in the constitution as well as in discriminatory laws so that every religious community to be treated on equalism. She expresses deep concern about Shalokh Irfan and his family life and request Government of Pakistan and Government of Punjab: To provide protection Shalokh Irfan and his family, His case be registered in concerned Police Station, Strict action should be taken against religious extremist who preach hatred against the religious minorities in Pakistan and Strict action should be taken against unknown caller to safeguard precious lives of Shalokh Irfan and his family. Miss Jacqueline Sultan, Chaudhary Azra and Sumaira Gill, Advocates concluded that untiring efforts and struggle for voicing for the rights of minorities should be initiated to protect previous lives and properties of Non Muslims of Pakistan.

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