Yet again, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has received condemnation from Europe. This time in the form of a letter from Member of the Swiss Parliament Erich Von Siebenthal to the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Arif Alvi, which expressed his concerns over the misuse of Blasphemy laws in Pakistan and highlighting the case of two Christian brothers, currently imprisoned in Pakistani custody and sentenced to death.
In his gently worded letter, dated 13th June 2019, Von Siebenthal sought a pardon for these two brothers from the Pakistani President highlighting that it “appears that the brothers fell victim to a conspiracy.” Qaiser and Amoon Ayub from Lahore in Pakistan’s Punjab, were sentenced to hang after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammed in articles and portraits posted on their website. But as Von Siebenthal mentions “Qaiser had received death threats even before criminal charges were filed”.
The Christian brothers have been in prison since 2014. Both men were convicted at the end of 2018 for the “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet”, under strict blasphemy punishments covered by Pakistan’s penal code. As Von Siebenthal also stated in his letter “it appears that the blasphemy law is once again being used to incite people against minorities”.
“The prosecution has proved its case against both the accused beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt”, Judge Javed Iqbl Bosal concluded in a 28-page ruling, “Hence, both the convicts are to be sentenced to death”.
These two Christian brothers were sentenced to death for blasphemy two days after the United States of America put Pakistan on a religious freedom blacklist and only weeks after Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman accused of drinking from a well reserved for Muslims, was acquitted for blasphemy. Her release came after an international outcry over her eight years imprisonment on death row. Despite her release, her safety could not be guaranteed and she and her family had to seek asylum in Canada.
The letter from Switzerland’s Federal House of Parliament came at the same time last week as Pakistani’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, arrived in Brussels to present a speech, in which he denied the seriousness of the persecution of religious minorities in his country, saying that reports of religious minorities being targeted in Pakistan did not constitute a trend and the recent claims of Christian persecution were an example of “western interests” that “want to paint Pakistan in a particular way”.
However, the Non-Governmental Organisation, Voice of Pakistan Minority stated in response to the letter and Qureshi’s comments that “Conditions of religious minorities are deteriorating day by day. Christians face hatred from the majority Sunni Muslims just because of their faith. Last year, Faraz Baddar, resident of Gujranwala became the victim of an acid attack because of his faith and succumbed to his injuries after some days, which marks the first incident of Male Acid Attack in Pakistan.”
Condemnation for Pakistan’s antiquated and unjust blasphemy laws also came from fifty-one cross party politicians from the European Parliament in May this year, who wrote a strongly worded letter to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan regarding Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws and expressed their concerns over the increasing persecution of religious minorities. “The Pakistan is far removed from being the country that its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had envisaged”, the European Parliament letter stated. “Jinnah had always insisted that Pakistan would be a Muslim majority State where people from all religions, whether Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ahmadis or Shias, would be treated equally. Over the last seven decades, successive governments in Pakistan have contributed to implementing discriminatory systems that have resulted in political, economic and social persecution of religious minorities, which have encouraged acts of violence against them by radical Islamic groups”.
The European politicians went on to insist that should the violations of the International Covenant on Freedom of Religion continue, especially with regard to the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, they would be “compelled to call on the European Commission to suspend all subsidies and trade preferences until the effective implementation of the Convention could be assured by the Government of Pakistan.” This is their right under the terms of the European Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preference Plus (GSP+), of which Pakistan is major recipient of the trade privilege.
Pakistan currently finds itself at the centre of multiple accusations and denunciations, but instead of implementing the reforms requested by international organisations and leaders, it is choosing denial. The evidence and list of persons and communities facing persecution and being targeted by the government, authorities and religious fundamentalists is undeniable and rapidly increasing in a country which is becoming ever more radical. The international community must find a way to act together to protect these vulnerable religious minorities.
Source : https://eptoday.com/von-siebenthal-pleads-for-pardon-for-christian-ayub-brothers/