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Yet another report to never see the light of day

Police taking away the bodies of Rashid and Sajjad Emmanuel in Faisalabad (BBC)

At this blog we have previously discussed the case of the Gojra report which, while commissioned and produced by the one-man tribunal of Justice Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman and submitted to the Punjab government in October 2009, has yet to be made public. It may be remembered that the Gojra report recommended an immediate review and amendment of the blasphemy laws in the Pakistan Penal Code. However the exact nature and scope of its recommendations remain hidden to the public.

In the meantime (between the Gojra riots and the present), there have been many incidents in which the members of minority communities have been subjected to religious persecution.

In 2009 alone, according to this report by HRCP, more than 41 complaints of blasphemy were reported. Here is just a small snapshot of the incidents that have occurred after the Gojra riots that have gone largely unnoticed in Pakistan’s mainstream media:

– In August 2009 in Lahore a factory owner and two others were killed by factory workers after an accusation of blasphemy
– In September 2009, a Christian Church in Sialkot district was set on fire after an accusation of blasphemy occurred.
– In September 2009, a young Christian man Fanish Masih was arrested on an accusation of blasphemy and died under mysterious circumstances while in custody

Now a fresh tribunal has been formed by Government of Punjab to investigate the killing of the two Christian brothers Rashid Emmanuel and Sajjad Emmanuel outside a courthouse in Faisalabad this month. The one-member tribunal of Justice Muhammad Yusuf of Labour Court 4 will start investigations on August 2 and will submit a final report to the Punjab government within 15 days.

But the question is, will this report, too, be suppressed from the public by the Punjab Government? If so, what is the good of all these commissions and tribunals? Where is the public pressure from “civil society” to force the government to make these reports public under the freedom of information ordinance and to act on their recommendations? Can we simply dispense with this sham of ordering one tribunal after the other? All this does is provides cover for the Government of Punjab to say “look at least we are doing something”. Once the (brief) period of public attention is diverted, the government simply refuses to make the findings of the tribunal public. After the Gojra riots, the victims’ families, knowing that they would never receive justice otherwise had placed the bodies of their loved ones on the railway tracks until an FIR was filed which named the DCO and DPO as suspects. Predictably, no action has been taken following the filing of that FIR. In fact the Punjab government had to be prevented in May 2010 by the LHC from promoting the then RPO Faisalabad Ahmed Raza Tahir (against whom the Gojra tribunal had recommended taking action in October 2009) to the position of CCPO Lahore.

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Other stories:

Blasphemy Law revisited by IA Rehman

World Council of Churches Slams Pakistan’s blasphemy law

Calls for amendments to blasphemy law

About the author

Laila Ebadi

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  • First a committee is formed, then another committee on the first one’s report and it shall continues…it happens only in Pakistan

  • http://thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=253961

    Wasim Arif

    The ghosts of Gojra continue to haunt Pakistani society a year after the hate crime that was committed there.

    Fanish Masih hanged himself in his prison cell after being accused of desecrating the Holy Quran in Jatheki near Sialkot. Before that suicide, the Christian community had been meted out collective punishment for his alleged crime, through the burning of a local church.

    Former federal minister Sherry Rehman said afterwards: “Fanish Masih’s death, whether it was suicide or murder, is most tragic as it highlights the misery suffered by our citizens when they face an institutional denial of fundamental rights.”

    Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman of the Lahore High Court ordered a judicial enquiry into the Gojra incident. The 258-page report resulting from the enquiry was completed in October, But it has not seen the light of day, although federal minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti asked the Punjab government to make it public. The Lahore High Court has not acted to ensure that the report is made public.

    The recent killing of Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel shows that the situation has not improved for Pakistan’s Christians. The denial of fundamental rights to Christians and other minorities is not only a scar on the collective conscience of Pakistan but a betrayal of the Islamic faith.

    In 628 C.E., Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery at Mount Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights. The Covenant of the Exalted Messenger reads:

    “This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a Covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far: We are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and, by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

    “No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry away anything from it to Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s Covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

    “No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (the end of the world).”

    The Charter of Privileges should be made law. Ideally it should be included in any future constitutional amendment. Such constitutional protection will go a long way in the protection of Pakistan’s minorities. Moreover, it will remind the majority Muslim population of their responsibility to protect Pakistan’s religious minorities.

    Let the lessons learnt from the Gojra incident be the beginning of the salvation of Pakistani society. The Muslim majority of Pakistan should reclaim their true faith. The pledge of protection promised to Christians in the Covenant should extent to the other minorities of Pakistan. Pakistanis should start living by the ideals and responsibilities of the Charter of Privileges. Only then will there be closure to the Gojra tragedy.