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PAKISTAN: Christian member was halted to raise blasphemy case in the assembly

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PAKISTAN: Christian member was halted to raise blasphemy case in the assembly

By Aftab Alexander Mughal

On Nov. 3, During the Punjab Assembly’s session, the speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan, a Muslim who belongs to a right-wing party, did not allow a Christian member Joel Sahotra to speak on a blasphemy case of Aasia Noreen, saying that the matter was very sensitive. Christian member wanted to speak on Aasia’s issue who has been awarded death sentenced by a Pakistani court for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad while she has openly denied the allegations levelled by a Muslim cleric. However, when Ali Haider Noor Niazi of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan party, a party of Islamic hardliners, began speaking emotionally on the same issue, the speaker did not stop him. Protesting against speaker’s attitude, the Christian members, except minister and secretary for human rights and minorities Kamran Michael and Khalil Tahir Sindhu, walked out of the House. Nonetheless, the Christian MPAs (members of provincial assembly) tabled a resolution in favour of their demands and urged the government to review the country’s blasphemy laws.

The House again faced a bitter situation when Pakistan People’s Party MPA Ashraf Sohna, a Muslim by faith, tried to speak in favour of the review of the blasphemy laws, but Mutehada Majlas-e-Amal (MMA, an alliance of Islamic parties) parliamentary leader Ali Haider Niazi immediately stood up and said, “We will not allow anyone to even think about making amendments in the blasphemy law.”

Christians have been demanding for the repeal of blasphemy laws, which have been used against to persecute them, while Islamists have been organising protest rallies in favour of the laws. (END)

Aftab Alexander Mughal

Editor

Minorities Concern of Pakistan

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Aftab Alexander Mughal is a Pakistani journalist and a human rights activist. He is the editor of Minorities Concern of Pakistan, an e-magazine, while he also heads the Asia desk of Spero News . For 14 years, he served the “Minority Rights Commission of Pakistan” and “Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan” as National Director for Research and Publications and an Executive Secretary. From 1985 to 1992, he worked as Youth Director of Catholic Diocese of Multan, Pakistan. Born in 1956 in Muzaffargarh, Southern Punjab of Pakistan, Mughal has worked with many national and international civil society organizations. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science. He has widely travelled and represented Pakistan at regional and international conferences. He has been awarded the "International Award for Excellence in Journalism 2010" by the Union of Catholic International Press (UCIP) whose international office is in Geneva, Switzerland. The award was made at the World Congress, which was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 12 -19, 2010. This is Mughal's second award from UCIP. His first one being the "Media in Your Country Award" which he received on the October 20, 1989 in Ruhpolding Germany. Mughal started his career as a journalist in 1979 and edited the monthly magazines "Nishan-e-Rah" and "Mashal." until 1985. Since then he worked as a freelance journalist. His main area of interest is human rights, peace and religious freedom in Pakistan. He also has been contributing to national and international magazines, newspapers and various news agencies and has several books to his credit on minority rights issues including, “Death or Exile” and “From the Ashes of Shantinagar.” Moreover, he is also a co-author of “Section 295 C, Pakistan Penal Code – Study of the History, Effects and Cases under Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan.”

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