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House of Commons Hansard
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Persecution of Christians in Pakistan
16 March 2015
Volume 594

The Petition of residents of Pendle,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the laws of Pakistan systematically discriminate against non-Muslims and leads to the persecution of Christians such as Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi, who were beaten, tortured and burned alive on 4th November 2014.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to use its influence to encourage the Pakistani authorities to ensure that perpetrators of hate attacks against minorities are convicted; the Blasphemy Laws are abrogated; modern day slavery in Pakistan is ended; Asia Bibi is released; and that aid to Pakistan is terminated until its human rights record is improved.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Stephenson, Official Report, 14 January 2015; Vol. 590, c. 978.]

[P001421]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

I thank the residents of Pendle for raising these important issues. The Minister of State, my noble Friend the right hon. Baroness Anelay of St Johns issued a statement on 5 November 2014 condemning the appalling mob killing of a Christian couple accused of blasphemy. I support this statement and urge the authorities in Pakistan to bring those responsible for this, and other attacks, to justice. I understand that the police in Punjab have arrested a number of individuals accused of this crime.

Tackling modern day slavery is a top priority for the UK Government and our Modern Slavery Strategy seeks to raise the profile of modern day slavery throughout the Commonwealth. We work with partner governments to implement positive changes in laws and practices and will also work to ensure that global action to end modern slavery is prioritised in the UN post-2015 development agenda.

We continue to raise the importance of minority and religious freedom with the Pakistanis. On 13 November 2014,1 raised UK concerns on the blasphemy laws with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also raised concerns regarding the blasphemy laws and the need for reform with PM Sharif on 5 December 2014. We remain concerned about the case of Asia Bibi and the court’s decision to uphold the imposition of the death penalty for blasphemy and hope the verdict will be overturned on appeal by the Supreme Court.

Pakistan is one of the UK Government’s top development priorities. Our support will not only assist Pakistan to become a more prosperous country helping millions of poor Pakistanis, but will also improve stability and security in Pakistan, the region, and beyond. Our aid to Pakistan does not prevent us from pressing the Government of Pakistan to protect the human rights of all its citizens as laid down in the Constitution and in accordance with international standards.