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Christian lawyer in Pakistan: Christians can’t express their faith

Incidents like this one are increasingly common in Pakistan. This mob in Faisalabad can be seen attacking a Christian nurse wrongly accused of blasphemy under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws.

And here, this man, Muhammad Waqas, openly admits that he had intended to kill Marriam Lal, a Christian nurse, when he attacked her with a knife. A crime for which he has never been arrested.

AKMAL BHATTI
Minorities Alliance Pakistan
“The Christian or other religious minorities, they’re afraid they can’t speak freely about their faith. They can’t express their faith.”

Akmal Bhatti is a Christian lawyer who works on cases like that of the two nurses. He is the nephew of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic activist who was killed by extremists in 2011 for defending Pakistani Christians. Akmal Bhatti too has experienced firsthand the duplicitous tactics often used to frame non-Muslims as blasphemers, even during a court proceeding.

AKMAL BHATTI
Minorities Alliance Pakistan
“I joined a proceeding in the court. My case was fixed there. And I asked the leader of the court to write my name, and he wrote my name as Muhammad Akmal Bhatti. But I am Christian. I am not Muslim. And first I thought I should get a pen and remove the name Muhammad. But at once it came into my mind that if I did that, I would be declared a blasphemer. So I was shocked, and then I adopted another policy and told him that ‘I am not Muslim, I am Christian, so kindly mention my name as a Christian.’”

Though incidents like these are increasingly common, there are exceptions, for example, in Mr. Bhatti’s village of Khushpur, where Roman Catholics are the majority and Muslims the minority.

AKMAL BHATTI
Minorities Alliance Pakistan
“We work together. We give them donations to build their mosque. We respect their religion, and there aren’t any incidents.”

In an effort to make this type of coexistence the norm, human rights advocates like Mr. Bhatti are pushing to repeal those laws, or, at the very least, establish effective mechanisms to protect the rights of those accused under them.He proposes establishing a competent investigation agency and a separate, fast-track court to deal specifically with blasphemy cases, which he says can take more than 10 years. He also urges the government to guarantee that people imprisoned for blasphemy are treated humanely.

CT