Member of Scottish Parliament concerned over misuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws
GLASGOW, UK (Rebecca Gebauer) John Mason, a member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) expressed his concern over the Pakistan’s blasphemy laws during a meeting with delegates of Global Minorities Alliance at the Alliance’s office on Monday April, 29.
Sheraz Khan, Chief Executive of Global Minorities Alliance gave an in-depth briefing to Mr Mason, MSP for Glasgow Shettleston on the widespread misuse of Pakistan’s disputed blasphemy laws. Mr Khan told the MSP that the laws were being widely misused in Pakistan to settle personal scores and vendettas.
He said the misuse of the blasphemy laws had dealt a massive blow to communal and interfaith relations in Pakistan. He requested Mr Mason to voice the Alliance’s concern over the misuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws in the Scottish Parliament. Mr Mason said that he would write to the Pakistan Consulate in the first instance. A members’ motion or question to a minster would be possible other options.
Mr Khan also drew the MSP’s attention towards infiltration of Islam in the text books of linguistics and social sciences. “A grade 2 book of Urdu language asks questions like: Who are we? and the answer given is : We are Muslims,” Mr Khan told the meeting.
He said that the answer expected of the students is a negation of the historical and geographical fact that Pakistan is a multi-religious country.
When Mr Mason asked Mr Khan if the constitution of Pakistan guaranteed equal rights to minorities, Mr Khan said that protection of all citizens of the country including minorities was enshrined in the articles 25, 26 and 27 of the constitution of Pakistan, regretting that minorities are not given equal rights in Pakistan. “They are discriminated against in almost every area” Mr Khan told the meeting.
Mr Mason enquired of Mr Khan why courts in Pakistan have handed out the death sentence to people accused of having committed blasphemy if there was insufficient evidence. Mr Khan responded that the lower courts have in the past given death sentences to the blasphemy-accused after coming under intense pressure from fundamentalist Muslims and radical clerics.
Mr Khan told Mr Mason that former President Pervez Musharraf had proposed that any blasphemy accusation be probed by a high ranking police official before a First Information Report (FIR) is lodged against the accused.
“It did not see the light of the day as Musharraf had to roll back after Muslim clerics voiced stringent opposition to the proposal”.
Mr Mason asked how the moderate Muslims are coping with the escalation in fundamentalism in Pakistan. Mr Khan told him that moderate Muslims were becoming highly insecure in the face of fundamentalist and the hostile climate in Pakistan.
Mr Khan told the meeting that Ms Sherry Rehman a top liberal politician from the Pakistan People’s Party was also accused of having committed blasphemy some years back which forced her to go into hiding. She was later installed as the Pakistan Ambassador to the United Sates, said Mr Khan.
“If high profile people like Ms Rehman are not immune from blasphemy accusations, one can imagine the vulnerability of members of Pakistan’s religious minorities".
Mr Mason assured his support for Pakistan’s minority groups. He also shared the concerns of the Global Minorities Alliance concerning the use of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. The two men agreed to highlight the sufferings of such persecuted people.
An eight member delegation that attended the meeting included Jagan Nathan a representative of a Hindu temple in Glasgow, Chinaka Odum a Nigerian activist, Rev Peter Gill a minister of Church of Scotland in Paisley, Mr Manassi Bernard an executive member of Alliance, Shahzad Khan, Director Interfaith Harmony, Rev George Fetahdin Gill, GMA’S Director Integration and Development for refugees and Shahid Khan vice-chairperson of Global Minorities Alliance.
Global Minorities Alliance
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Contact number: (0044) 141 250 7293