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"THREAT ALERT!" Issued by Punjab Police Inspector General warns of joint terrorist attack

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LAHORE, PUNJAB:
Elite security forces alert detailing concerns about attacks to government building and Christian communities results in British Pakistani Association challenging western nations to ensure Asia Bibi is provided a security detail  

Punjab Police Inspector General has issued a threat alert that TTP/JuA  are planning a joint terror attack on Asia Bibi. Both the Tehreek-e-Tahaffuz-e-Pakistan (TTP) and the  Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) are said to be actively searching for Asia Bibi in order to assassinate her.

The message  warns of an attack by militants on Asia Bibi and several other listed targets including Christian communities who are vulnerable to attack and often targeted over what has lately been called the "sensitivities" of the general population. The alert also raises concerns about government targets in both the legislative and judiciary branch who have raised the ire of extremists with the acquittal of Asia Bibi. 

BPCA implores western nations to use every diplomatic measure in their power to get Pakistan to release her to their joint security forces and let her exit. Asia Bibi must have a security detail bereft of the corruption that has plagued Pakistani security forces since its inception.

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: 

"Asia Bibi has been at a high risk of attack the entire duration of her case and the potential for her to be killed in Pakistan is reaching an apex.  

"The police leak of sensitive information is a clear indication of the corruption form within and their lack of professionalism and does nothing to inspire confidence. Weakness in the security services around Asia Bibi's detail continue to alarm us.

"The Police Inspector General has now ostensibly confirmed that Asia Bibi is still in Punjab which could make it easier to locate her.

Terror groups have been well able to mobile massive hordes of rioters to block roadways and shutdown services while mocking justice and the rule of law, by holding the nation hostage. They did so after Asia Bibi's acquittal and earlier this year when there was a subtle change made to the oath for public office that was to be administered to Muslims.  

Politicised decisions surrounding Asia Bibi shows she is virtually a political hot potato. Nations have quietly spoken about asylum and there has been admitted fear from UK authorities about terrorist threats and reprisal attacks. However many voices from across multiple faith communities and human rights activists agree that  there must be a strong will to do what is right, and capitulation will not bring peace.

Attempts at goodwill towards the cause of justice mean nothing if Pakistan's PM Imran Khan does not enforce the law. He already began kowtowing to Islamist elements prior to the election. Now he finds himself at odds with the very people he pacified during the race for the polls with his support of the blasphemy laws.   

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

"I have no faith in the Pakistani Security forces who failed in their protection of Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.

"In the case of the latter two Asia Bibi has been confirmed in this alert as a more primary target than both the politicians who were killed calling for her freedom, the fears that she will be killed by a rogue in her own detail as has happened previously are real and must be remedied immediately.

"The threat continues to be imminent and this will not change as long as she is in Pakistan. Every minute she remains there she became a lightning rod for not only terrorists trying to kill her, but for her possible neighbours who would feel it their civic and religious duty.

"Asia should have been put under the protection of a joint independent military force made up from countries from west. 

"The inability to keep security risk levels priavte and the exhibited lack of discretion by police makes this feel like a signal to unleash their worst. 

"It would be a matter of consummate ease for an Islamist to infiltrate the ranks of the security forces a thought that gives me sleepless nights.

"This situation is untenable considering the weakness in security forces how can they be trusted to protect Asia Bibi?

At the creation of Pakistan 23% were minorities and today there are only 3%. Where did the 20% go? How can there any question that the persecution against religious minorities in Pakistan is anything less than genocide?

Christians are now 1.6% of the population and this a setting of fear and violence is a powder keg and the risk of pogrom continues to be a grave concern.

Mr Chowdhry continued:

"From the outset we have always recognise the potential for an attack against Christians in retribution for this innocent downtrodden woman's freedom. These attacks have been increasing over the course of the last years.

"This security alert does nothing to assure that my people are safe or that the authorities will protect them! Perhaps Lord Alton's suggestion that the Home Office to re-examine their policy statement will be taken seriously?"

In reference to this re-examination of policy Lord Alton said:

“If a systematic campaign of bombings, killings, the burning alive of people and their homes, the rape and forced marriage of Christian girls, and a systematic campaign whipping up hatred doesn’t amount to persecution it is hard to imagine what would have to happen before it is described as persecution.”

Mr Chowdhry affirmed:

"Considering the mass riots with rally calls for her slaying and the precipitous reaction of a majority of the citizenry to Asia Bibi's exoneration, how can there be any doubt in the minds of world leaders that Pakistani Christians are a persecuted group targeted for their faith? 

While Britain still makes its mind up whether it will provide asylum Wilson Chowdhry flies to Australia to seek the support of Australians and their government to come to the aid of Asia Bibi and will be speaking at various locations across the country.

BPCA urges our supporters to: Pray that the authorities will have the wisdom and courage to do the right thing in the situation. Pray for the protection of Christian communities, named targets in the alert and the safe exit of Asia Bibi. Pray that the nations of the world will understand the serious nature of persecution against Pakistani Christians.   

Meanwhile Lord Alton has made an emotional plea in an email dated 19th November detailing the reasons why the UK should grant Asia Bibi immediate asylum. Read below:

WHY WE SHOULD GIVE ASYLUM TO ASIA BIBI

After a visit, in 2015, to detention centres in Thailand, where I saw
some of the thousands of escaping Pakistani Christians and Ahmadis,
caged like animals, and subsequently filmed by Chris Rogers for a BBC
documentary, I chaired an Inquiry under the auspices of the All Party
Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

In 2016, following evidence taking sessions and witness statements, we
published a Report and submitted it to the Home Office, Foreign Office
and Pakistan High Commission.

The Report’s central finding was that the Home Office is wrong to
suggest that what is happening to the Christian minority is simply
discrimination rather than persecution – and we highlighted the impact
that this choice of word has on everything from asylum claims to
humanitarian aid.

The flow of refugees has intensified after the assassinations, in 2011
of the Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, and his Muslim
friend, Salmaan Taseer, Governor of the Punjab, both murdered, after
speaking out against the wrongful imprisonment, sentenced to death by
hanging of an illiterate woman, a berry picker, and mother of five,
Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi.

In 2009 she had been arrested after triggering a dispute with Muslim
women when she, an “_infidel,”_ took a sip of water from a communal
cup while harvesting a hot field. This is a throw-back to the
untouchability of the caste system.

Asia Bibi was accused of blaspheming. And sentenced under section 295-C
of the 1986 blasphemy law – a capital offence.

At the time the Muslim cleric Maulana Yousaf Qureshi announced a bounty
of 500,000 Pakistani Rupees to anyone who would kill her.

The deaths of Minister Bhatti and Governor Taseer were the curtain
raiser for an orgy of bombings, killings, rapes, imprisonment and
abductions.

We should never forget the sacrifice of these two men who gave their
lives for their people. In accepting political office Bhatti knew it
could cost him his life.

Last month I visited Lahore and Islamabad, met many who knew both of
those great men.

The Lahore Bar Council told me tat the unreformed Blasphemy Laws have
frequently been used for revenge, for mendacious and vexatious purposes
– with prosecutions having nothing to do with Blasphemy.

Those laws, following accusations, have led to more than 60 deaths and
dozens of communal attacks.

I do not blaspheme and do not defend blasphemy - but laws that are based
on a wholly disproportionate use of the death sentence; laws which are
regularly appropriated for wrongful purposes; and laws that fail to
recognise the place of the right _not_ to believe or to hold a
_different_ belief does not make for a good or genuinely respectful
society

In 1947, a year before the country signed the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, Pakistan’s greatly admired founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah
crafted a constitution which promised to uphold plurality and diversity
and to protect all its citizens.

Jinnah said: _“You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that
has nothing to do with the business of the State…Minorities, to
whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their
religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference
of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their
protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life and their
culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without
any distinction of caste and creed”. 

Pakistan was founded on principles of equality and justice.

What is now done to its own citizens, and done with impunity, makes a
mockery of those high ideals.

The white in the nation’s flag is there to represent the country’s
minorities but as those minorities suffer and Pakistan’s law
enforcement agencies and frightened leaders fail to speak or to act
justly its flag has been dragged low.

Failure to act jeopardises the country’s future and undermines the
prospect of a diverse and respectful society.

In the face of a systematic campaign of visceral hatred Pakistan’s
contemporary leaders have done little to uphold Jinnah’s vision –
and, equally, there is little evidence that more than £2.8 billion of
British aid, given over the past two decades, is doing anything to
support beleaguered minorities, often the poorest of the poor, or to
promote religious freedom or peaceful co-existence.

Since 2002 on 114 occasions I have raised questions or made
interventions about Pakistan – the first, in 2002 when I asked the
Government whether they agreed that _“a good test of the democratic
credentials of any government is the way they treat their minorities and
uphold human rights?” 

I highlighted that _“over the past 12 months in Pakistan there have
been 39 deaths, 100 injuries and nine attacks on churches, church
buildings, hospitals and schools? Does she recognise that one of the
continuing sources of persecution against that tiny minority in Pakistan
has been the blasphemy laws?”

Nine years later, in 2011, in the aftermath of Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder
– for which no one has ever been brought to justice – Ministers were
telling me:


_“The issue of religious tolerance is part of a wider attack on
Pakistan’s democratic tradition. It is essential Pakistan supports
political freedom wherever it is threatened."

And that
“We see Pakistan as a country to which we are bound by
longstanding ties, but also a country where we must put forward our
values in a strong and effective way”

If a country cannot bring to justice the killer of a Government Minister
what chance do the country’s persecuted, beleaguered and fleeing
minorities have?

The following year, in 2012 I raised the killing of Shugufta Baber,
a teacher at the Convent High School in Okara, her two sons and her
sister Samina Bibi; the vulnerability of Christian women; and the
failure to use UK aid to help beleaguered minorities.

Consider again that in the past twenty years we have given Pakistan
£2.8 billion of aid - - the equivalent of £383,000 each and every
single day. It is our biggest bilateral aid programme.

Yet precious little of this aid reaches the poorest of the poor in the
country’s minorities – because the Government say they are
“religion blind” and do not “discriminate”.

Every time I raise this issue they repeat the same mantra that they
don’t _“discriminate on grounds of religion”._

Yet Pakistan’s religious minorities are actively discriminated
against - victims of violent persecution.

They live in abject conditions in slum “colonies” which DFID says
it doesn’t even send its officials to visit. Why? Because it doesn’t
discriminate.

How does this deliberate blind spot square with the fate of three
Christian women from a village near Pattoki whose case I raised in 2013
when they were publicly beaten and humiliated?

Later that year I commended Baroness Warsi, then Minister for saying

“that senior politicians in countries like Pakistan have a
“duty” to denounce persecution and to set a standard for
tolerance.”

In that same year 83 people were killed in a twin suicide bombing at
the end of a service at All Saints Church in Peshawar.

Yet the Home Office say it’s not persecution and DFID says it won’t
discriminate in favour of these minorities.

In 2014 I urged the Government to seek “a fair and just trial in the
cases of Savan Masih, Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, sentenced to
death for blasphemy”

That same year I again raised the case of Asia Bibi, the failure to
bring Minister Bhatti’s murderers to justice and the burning to death
in Kot Radha Kishan of a Christian couple following allegations of
blasphemy and in 2015 challenged an ideology that could lead “to the
burning alive in a kiln of a Christian couple in Pakistan by a mob of
1,300 people while their young children were forced to watch.”

In 2016 I raised the murder of Khurram Zaki who campaigned against
sectarian violence and religious extremism.

In the same year at least 72 people were killed and more than 300
injured when a suicide bomb ripped through the parking space of a
crowded park in Lahore where Christians were celebrating Easter Sunday.
A Taliban faction claimed responsibility.

Later in 2016 I asked how we were reacting “_following the statement
of the Chairman of the Pakistan Senate's Standing Committee on Religious
Affairs that forced conversion of girls is taking place "across the
country on a daily basis", and (2) about reports of humiliation, torture
and false imprisonment of girls from Christian backgrounds by police
officers.” 

_ _

And I asked about the honour killing of women, the exclusion of
minority communities from full citizenship, and hate material in school
text books – an issue I subsequently pursued at meetings with
Ministers from the Foreign Office and Department for International
Development.

In 2017 I asked the Home Office about the admission to the UK of hate
preachers – one of whom celebrated the murder of Salmaan Taseer –
and asked about the role of the Commonwealth; the case of Taimoor Raza
who had been sentenced to death after postings on social media; and the
lynching of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University in
Mardan, for allegedly publishing blasphemous content online and
expressing liberal and secular views

Earlier this year I asked about the evidence published by the Aurat
Foundation of 1,000 forced conversions every year; about forced
marriages in Sindh; the monitoring of madrassas known to promote hatred
of minorities.

On April 18th, Lord Ahmad, the Government’s Envoy for Religious
Freedom, wrote to me about the beating to death of a Christian, Sunil
Saleem and said the Government didn’t “tend to raise specific
cases”.

Well why not?

I also asked the Home Office Minister, Baroness Williams, whether she
believed “it is safe to deport families, including children, to
Pakistan when there is evidence that they have received death threats
due to their religious beliefs; when they last considered whether there
is persecution of particular minorities in Pakistan; and what
conclusions they reached.”

_ _

She replied that

“Claims are considered against any relevant caselaw and the
background of the latest available country information”…
“Crucially, decision makers must still consider the individual facts
and merits of a particular case to determine whether or not that person
qualifies for asylum.”

In an oral exchange on October 15th I said that having “seen
first-hand the abject, festering conditions in which many of the
country’s religious minorities live, and having heard accounts of
abduction, rape, the forced marriage of a nine year-old, forced
conversion, death sentences for so-called blasphemy” and I referred
to the case of Asia Bibi and children being forced to watch as their
parents were burned alive - I asked the Minister: “how can the Home
Office, in all those circumstances, continue to say that what is
happening in Pakistan to religious believers and humanists is merely
discrimination, not persecution?”

In reply she said that “each application to our asylum system should
be dealt with in terms of the persecution that people might face.”

But, that is the whole problem – notwithstanding everything I have
just described, her own Department refuse to accept that there is
persecution – and that is why asylum claims from these persecuted
minorities are rarely allowed.

I therefore went on to ask specifically how many claims for asylum in
the UK were successful in respect of religious minorities from Pakistan
over the past five years.

The Minister said that 2,982 grants of asylum had been made but could
not say how many came from religious minorities and that “the data
required to answer the question is not recorded in a way that can be
reported on accurately. …This data could only be obtained at
disproportionate cost.”

_ _

This borders on the absurd. This question should be asked; the
information recorded and available to Parliament.

Cases such as Asia Bibi’s reveal a serious problem in the UK’s
Asylum Policy when it comes to Christians fleeing genuine persecution.

In hiding behind the pretext that it “doesn’t discriminate” it
ends up doing exactly that and reneging on its promises and commitments
to support and protect the most vulnerable. By way of example, in 2017,
of the 7,060 Syrian refugees the United Nations High Commission for
Refugees recommended to the UK a mere 25 were Christians (0.35 percent).
And, of these, the Home Office only accepted eleven - meaning
Christians made up only 0.23 percent of Syrian refugees resettled in the
UK last year. So how many Pakistani Christians are among the 2982 given
asylum in the UK last year?

And what of our craven refusal to offer asylum to Asia Bibi?

Recalling that Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer were both murdered for
insisting on the innocence of Asia Bibi, I can feel nothing but huge
admiration for Pakistan’s Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, and Justice
Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, both of whom I met in Islamabad last month and
who, courageously, and with great integrity, acquitted and exonerated
Asia Bibi - wrongfully sentenced to death and incarcerated for nine
years

Their refusal to be dictated to by lynch mobs, by failing to offer
asylum because of what Tom Tugendhat MP, the Chairman of the Commons
Foreign Affairs Committee says is a fear of reprisals, makes a mockery
of British values of justice, human rights, rule of law, and religious
freedom.

The bravery of Pakistan’s Chief Justice and Supreme Court Judges who
exonerated and cleared the name of Asia Bibi is in marked contrast to
those, in Pakistan and here, who have been cowed by lynch mobs and
threats of violence – including, sadly, our own Government.

And what signal does this response send about our concern, or lack of
it, for the plight of the other forty people said to be on death row in
Pakistan for alleged Blasphemy?

While the Government of Pakistan has capitulated to the extremists in
Tehreek-e-Labbaik and tried to set aside the verdict of the Supreme
Court – our duty is to stand with the Judges and the rule of law.

Weren’t Tom Tugendhat MP, Rehman Chishti MP – former Vice Chairman
of the Conservative Party and Government Trade Envoy to Pakistan - who
has resigned over the issue - and Lady Warsi - all correct in
condemning this capitulation to lynch mobs?

Shouldn’t the Government have taken their cue from Dr. Taj Hargey,
Imam of Oxford Islamic Congregation, that Asia Bibi should be granted
asylum in the UK and who spoke of “the deafening silence” from
British people of Pakistani origin and of “our collective shame in
not preventing her cruel incarceration.”

The Government needs to say how it responds to Dr. Hargey; to key
figures from their own Party; and how it intends to respond to the 200
parliamentarians and the 130,000 petitioners who have asked the
Government to think again.

The letter from parliamentarians states: _“We urge in the strongest
possible terms the Government of Pakistan to guarantee safe passage for
Asia, her family, and any of those under threat due to their part in the
decision to acquit her, to any country that accepts them.”

The Times, in an editorial says that the silence of the British
Government is “shameful” while a Daily Mail editorial says“_This
country has a proud tradition of taking in those who suffer religious
persecution. Shunning Mrs. Bibi would make a mockery of that
tradition.”

On whose side do we stand – the side of an innocent woman and the rule
of law or on the side of the lynch mob?

On the side of those who whip up a frenzy of hate with demands made for
executions and calls for the death of the courageous judges?

Or on the side of those who are unjustly persecuted?

Asia Bibi’s appeal for asylum is the litmus test. Are we willing to
stand up to those who persecute or not?

DAVID ALTON

PROFESSOR THE LORD ALTON OF LIVERPOOL,

INDEPENDENT CROSSBENCH MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS.








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