MEFD special hearing in the Dutch House of Representatives on minorities in Pakistan

 
 
MEFD special hearing in the Dutch House of Representatives on minorities in Pakistan

MEFD special hearing in the Dutch House of Representatives on minorities in Pakistan

The Hague, 05 Mar. (MEFD)

On Tuesday 4th March, Middle East Forum for Development organised a special hearing regarding the human rights situation of minorities in Pakistan in the Dutch House of Representatives. The foreign affairs committee hearing, which was chaired by Pieter Omtzigt, Member of Parliament (MP) from the Christian Democrats, was attended by fellow MPs; Michiel Servaes of the Labour Party and Joël Voordewind of the Christian Union.

MPs

From left to right: Pieter Omtzigt, MP of the Christian Democrats, Michiel Servaes, MP of the Labour Party, Joël Voordewind, MP of the Christian Union.

In this hearing, Pieter Omtzigt received a delegation of Pakistan experts comprised of professor Desmond Fernandes, a leading expert on genocide and author of the recently published book “The Targeting of Minority ‘Others’ in Pakistan”, Mehran Baluch, representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council and European Union, and Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA). In attendance was also Mosa Zahed, founding director of Middle East Forum for Development. The meeting focused on targeted minorities in Pakistan, in particular on the plight of Christians and the “kill and dump” policy which is carried out with impunity by Pakistan’s security forces in Baluchistan province.

From left to right: Mosa Zahed, Founding Director of MEFD, Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of BPCA and Mehran Baluch, representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council and European Union.

From left to right: Mosa Zahed, Founding Director of MEFD, Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of BPCA and Mehran Baluch, Baloch representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council and European Union.

Professor Fernandes emphasised during the meeting that the situation of minority groups in Pakistan has become much worse. He said “If you look at the situation in 2013, atrocities against minority groups, including Christians substantially, has actually increased”. On the issue of the blasphemy laws, Fernandes raised his concerns regarding the recent ruling by Pakistan’s Federal Sharia Court, which specifies that life imprisonment is not enough for blasphemers and that the only permissible punishment is the death penalty. “This suggests that there are specific directions and orders from the highest level, suggesting that the situation is just going to increase in terms of deterioration of circumstances for Christians and certainly for a lot of others”, Fernandes reiterated.

Fernandes also pointed to reports from genocide scholars and others relating to the genocide of the Hazara Shia, Ahmadis and others. According to Fernandes, in Baluchistan the Pakistani security forces enjoy total impunity which has resulted in a total abuse of power. Fernandes underscored that “law enforcement and security agencies now have unlimited powers to search houses without warrants, to shoot suspects on site, to confiscate property, tap telephones and hack computers”.

Caption first photo: Pieter Omtzigt MP of the Christian Democrats and chairman of the special hearing on Pakistan.

Pieter Omtzigt MP of the Christian Democrats and chairman of the special hearing on Pakistan.

Mehran Baluch argued that Pakistan’s secret service agencies have given a freehand to Islamic extremists to target the people of Baluchistan and that a similar atrocity is taking place in Sindh and Punjab provinces. He said, “The situation in Baluchistan is much worse than other parts of Pakistan where Pakistani intelligence agencies and armed forces are committing heinous crimes, not only against ethnic and religious minorities but against humanity”. Mehran Baluch further argued that the Hazara community face a genocidal process at the hands of extremists. He emphasised that “there have been numerous deadly attacks against Hazara which have claimed the lives of hundreds of people”. Mehran Baluch appealed to the international community to undertake necessary measures and pressure the government of Pakistan to stop human rights violations against Baloch people and other minorities.

The hearing on Tuesday regarding human rights in Pakistan is a follow-up to a meeting last April, which was also organised by Middle East Forum for Development. Wilson Chowdhry, who also attended that meeting, focused on the potential for “Special Status” for Pakistani Christians. He emphasised to the Dutch MPs that “this will make the asylum process for Pakistani Christians more bearable in the Netherlands”. The Chairman of the BPCA further highlighted the issues of persecution and discrimination of people of various faiths, cultural identities and several Muslim sects in Pakistan.

Mosa Zahed, Founding Director of MEFD, addressing the Dutch MPs

Mosa Zahed, Founding Director of MEFD, addressing the Dutch MPs

The Dutch MPs were keen to hear from the Pakistan experts what approach the Dutch government could adopt in order to stimulate improvement of the human rights situation of minorities. Joël Voordewind from the Christian Union argued that his party, in collaboration with other political parties, requested the Dutch government offer Pakistani Christians and Ahmadis special status last year due to the fact that they are being heavily persecuted. The Dutch government did offer such a status to Ahmadis however not to Pakistani Christians. Voordewind further said that he and his colleagues appealed this decision and expect an answer by June of this year.

Middle East Forum for Development will continue monitoring the human rights situation in Pakistan and engage with civil society organisations and parliamentarians across Europe in order to promote the basic rights of ethnic and religious minorities.

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2 Comments
  • Pingback: Netherlands hears plea to grant Pakistani Christians special status « Middle East Forum for Development

  • Pervez Yousaf |

    Dear Sir/Dear Madam,

    I am a born Pakistani Christian and resident of Lahore.
    An article was published in Daily Times, Lahore on March 25, 2015 titled “The reality of Christian suffering”. In this article the author referred a statement of the Netherlands government that “The Netherlands has recently designated Pakistani Christians the status of a high risk group, which means Christians are not protected in Pakistan and therefore they are Netherlands.”

    The author further says that “Similar endeavors are being made in other countries too”.

    Looking for authenticity I visited http://www.christiansinpakistan.com, where I found the following news that refers your organization:-

    “Dutch Government to facilitate Pakistani Christians seeking asylum
    According to media reports, the Dutch government made an announcement that Pakistani Christians will be designated as a “high risk group.” Designation of Pakistani Christians as a “high risk group” would open the door for them to receive special considerations as refugees in Holland.

    As per reports, thousands of religious minorities fled Pakistan due to ever increasing religious persecution. Many of these Pakistanis have taken asylum in the Netherlands. Due to designation as a high risk group, these Pakistanis will have access to further protections under the Dutch government.

    The Middle East Forum for Development (MEFD) and British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) on the other hand, had organised a Special Hearing in March 2014, at the Dutch House of Representatives. During this hearing they insisted for special status to be given to the Christians in Pakistan. They further urged the Dutch Members of Parliament to take effective steps to protect the persecuted Christians in Pakistan.

    The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a report in November 2014 on the status of religious minorities in Pakistan. The change in asylum policy for Pakistani Christians was announced on December 18. The chair of the House of Representatives in The Hague was informed that if a Pakistani Christian reports being persecuted because of his faith, the government will accelerate the process to issue them an asylum permit.”

    I am writing to you for further clarification. If it is true could you let me know whether any other country/countries intend to open asylum for Pakistani Christians?

    Could you also advise me that how and where one can apply for asylum in the Netherlands.

    With profound regards,

    Pervez Youaf

    Lahore – Pakistan

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