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A question of faith

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Today the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) highlighted the importance of the upcoming census in Pakistan (begins in March) for the rights of minorities, and the importance of Christians making sure they are registered as Christians. BPCA Chairman Wilson Chowdhry said:

"In previous censuses, sources on the ground have said there was widespread false registering of Christians as Muslims by agents who should be assisting illiterate Christians with their applications, particularly those whose names are not obviously Christian.

"Many Christians are fearful of registering due to perception that registering on the census will result in targeting and persecution.

"In some cases Christian communities have said they have not been approached by census agents and know nothing of the process.  


"We are urging Christian groups on the ground to get as many Christians as possible to make sure they are registered as Christians for the census, because a true representation of the numbers strengthens the case for better representation in government and the quota system." 

He urged other minority groups to do the same for Hindus, Sikhs and others, explaining that in 1947 there were fewer than 150 seats in the National Assembly, and 10 seats were reserved for religious minorities. Now there are well over double that number, with 342 seats, but there are still only 10 seats reserved for religious minorities, meaning that minority representation has gone down from 1.5% to less than 0.33% when they make up at least 10 times that percentage.

Since the census is also used to guide the number of government jobs given to minorities under the affirmative action quota system, not only is there a critical need to make sure they reflect the reality on the ground, there is also strong grounds for suspecting that Islamicist forces within Pakistani society and the machinery of government work to suppress the true numbers of religious minority groups.

Mr Chowdhry said that the true figure for Christians in Pakistan is difficult to pin down, but is definitely significantly higher than the official statistics would suggest. He said:

"Despite the fact that the Taliban is trying to intimidate churches and Christians not to co-operate with the government, we urge that every Christian, human rights group, church and pastor make every effort to get all Christians registered on the census as Christians, and for the Christian community to keep its own tally to hold the government to account on this issue.

"We also urge and expect the Pakistani government to make every effort to prevent attacks and intimidation of Christians and other religious minorities as they register as such for the census: they needs to be a government for all their people, but especially their vulnerable minorities.

"If nothing else, they needs to do this for the sake of Pakistan's reputation, now that Pakistan has been independently verified as the fourth worst country for the treatment of Christians, coming ahead of even Iraq and Syria where Islamic state is massacring Christians."

"An accurate census detailing the correct figure of minorities living in Pakistan, allows the government to  influence public policy and services  to improve the lives of so many victims of perpetual disenfranchisement."

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