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Sep-12-2016 14:48printcomments

Pakistani Christians with False Hopes of Refugee Status

Religious minorities in Pakistan are persecuted under stringent blasphemy law.

Pakistani Christians
Photo: (2013)

(ISLAMABAD) - Religious extremism has gone to its peak since Afghan refugees entered Pakistan. Due to terrorism, Pakistan has lost thousands of its precious lives and properties. Religious-banned outfits have attacked schools, worship places, parks and even law enforcement agencies and their places.

In past years, those militant organizations have targeted religious minorities especially Christians. In the latest episode, four suicide bombers wearing suicide vests and carrying latest firearms attacked the Christian Colony at Warsak Dam, Peshawar but due to the prompt action by security forces they were saved.

The Army Chief General Raheel Sharif played an aggressive role in combating terrorism in Pakistan and due to his proactive approach the ratio has been decreased.

According to the recent statement by DG ISPR Lt. Gen Asim Bajwa, “Pakistan Army has eliminated the militants groups in the country.”

But the very next day, the spokesperson for TTP JA, Ehsanullah Ehsan said, “We have carried out the attack.”

He said the attack was a response to the Army’s spokesperson (Lt. Gen Asim Bajwa’s) press Conference who said yesterday that militant groups had been eliminated.

Religious minorities in Pakistan are already persecuted under stringent blasphemy law.

Since military dictator General Zia ul Haq added new clauses in the law, minorities in the country feel insecure. Usually this law is misused and results in many people including Muslims either being killed or suffering in the prisons.

In this critical condition, militant groups turned to attack Christians. Twin blasts in the Peshawar Church killed more than 80 worshipers and left many injured.

Two churches were attacked in Youhanabad, Lahore killing dozens of worshipers and many more were injured. Later on the occasion of Easter festivity, a suicide bomb blast in Iqbal Park, Lahore again killed many innocent people.

As a result of this difficult living environment, four years ago, persecuted Pakistani Christians started reaching Thailand, seeking resettlement in the West.

Thailand was one of the few countries that allow Pakistani easy entry as tourists. Now, nearly 10,000 Pakistani are gathered in Bangkok, and now most of them are living an underground existence.

Alas, the UNHCR offered false hope. The typical refugee waits years just for an interview, the first step to receiving official refugee status. So far, no one among them has moved on to Europe, America or anywhere else.

In the meantime, Pakistan Today reported that the Hong Kong delegation has contacted the Interior Ministry to take up the issue of the increasing number of illegal Pakistani immigrants sneaking into Hong Kong with false hopes of “refugee status”.

According to sources, the Thai government did the same about the Pakistani immigrants. Religious minorities in Pakistan face persecution. Christians are disproportionately targeted by blasphemy laws, often as retaliation for commercial and personal disputes.

Sectarian murderers are publicly supported and applauded. Public response after the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri is a good example. The Government has failed to protect victims and a “deep-rooted climate of impunity.”

Discriminatory attitude, sectarian threats and attacks have driven many Christians from their homes. Asylum seekers are struck in Thailand and other neighboring countries and endure a tenuous existence.

On arrival, the UNHCR typically gives them an appointment set a year or two in the future; the date often is delayed as the appointment approaches.

Once their visa expires, the asylum hopefuls are unable to work legally and subject to arrest whenever they leave home.

The Thai authorities stake out neighborhoods and raid apartments where refugees are believed to live. Hundreds of unlucky asylum seekers have been ended up in detention and some even died during the mean time.

Some welfare organizations do their best to help refugees, providing food, sundries and legal aid. But those can only assist a limited number of families.

Much of the inward flow of families ebbed after word returned to Pakistan that there is no easy exit from Thailand, those already arrived are essentially trapped. They have sold their possessions. But they see no path forward either.

The European and the U.S. have accommodated millions of Afghan, Syrians and Egyptian Muslims in their countries; resultant facing terrorist attacks in their countries. Why can’t they bear the people with the same faith and values?

The only feasible solution is that the UNHCR High Commissioner is supposed to make a designation with 90 days and should take up this issue on priority basis.

The U.S. and other European Countries should admit people who are not only in desperate need, but “who share the same faith and values” as the people persecuted for their faith, as among the best candidates to receive asylum.


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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.