- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2003

The following is from an interview with Shahbazz Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, which includes Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Balmeek, Bheel, Maingwal, Zoarastrian, Baha’i and Kelash communities. He spoke with journalists at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom offices, including Julia Duin of The Washington Times.

Q: What has been the situation of Christians in Pakistan after September 11, 2001?

A: Many of our churches and hospitals were attacked and we lost many innocent lives. Islamic extremists link Pakistani Christians to America, due to their commonality of faith. Because they believe all Muslims around the world are of one nation, all Christians are of one nation as well. Thus, raping and killing and victimizing Pakistani Christians is taking revenge on the West and on America.

Q: Weren’t things bad for minority religions before then, especially because of the blasphemy law under which anyone can be jailed for supposedly insulting Muhammad?

A: All religious minorities must face the blasphemy law, which in the hands of Islamic extremists is always misused. This law is against all international norms. It must be repealed immediately.

Q: Why are Christian women being targeted?

A: Since 9/11, there’s been more discrimination in Pakistan and many cases of rape, kidnapping, abduction and forcible conversions [to Islam] of Christian women. These Islamic radicals think that just by raping and kidnapping Christian women, they are satisfying their religious requirements. The culprits are never punished, even though their links with al Qaeda and the Taliban have been revealed by the authorities, by the press and other witnesses.

Christians are loyal citizens of their country, they are ready to sacrifice for its prosperity and development and are proud to be Pakistani.

Q: So what should the United States do?

A: We want the United States and its coalition partners to realize the plight of those who have become victims of retaliation. Make Pakistan abolish all discrimination laws. Make sure the life and property of the non-Muslim, especially the Christian, are protected in Pakistan.

Jihad warriors and the concept of holy war in the name of Islam should be banned in Pakistan, because these jihad warriors are linked to terrorist groups. Our president has taken progressive steps to ban terrorism in Pakistan, but these terrorist organizations have international links. Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries are supporting them, giving them moral and diplomatic support to continue their activities. Minorities in Pakistan are peace-loving and faithful citizens but they are paying the price of their faith.

Q: Are Hindus getting similar treatment from the Muslims?

A: The attacks after 9/11 have only occurred against Christians, but Hindus are also victims of discrimination laws. You cannot find any Hindu in the Pakistani military. You can’t find any Christian in any intelligence institution. You cannot find any minority in the high bureaucracy. You cannot find any Christian or minority in a sensitive position.

Q: Are Islamic moderates protesting discrimination against minorities?

A: They are upset with what’s happening, but they do not protest or condemn it. I don’t think all Muslims are bad. There are many peace-loving ones, many liberals among them, many good people. But the Islamic militants are terrorists.

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