Brussels, November 10th, 2023 – The European Pakistani Christian Action Committee organized a notable protest outside the European Parliament, drawing attention to the serious issues of forced faith conversion, child marriages of Hindu and Christian girls, and the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
The coalition, which included lawyers, activists, church leaders, and journalists, emphasized the need for affirmative action to protect minority rights in Pakistan. They called for reforms in the justice system to address forced conversions and amendments to the Child Marriage Restraint Act. The protesters also urged the European Parliament to scrutinize Pakistan's Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status and expressed concerns about extrajudicial killings and attacks on minorities based on blasphemy accusations.
MEP Charlie Weimer strongly condemned forced conversions and child marriages, highlighting the direct threat of Islamism and blasphemy laws to safety and freedom of religion. He called for the unconditional release of those unjustly imprisoned on blasphemy charges. Among those mentioned were Anwar Kenneth, Shagufta Kiran, Zafar Bhatti, Ishtiaq Saleem, Imran Rehman, Professor Natan Lal, Junaid Hafeez, and others.
Joseph Jansen from the Jubilee Campaign Netherlands Advocacy stressed the EU's responsibility to assess Pakistan's progress under the GSP+ mechanism. He called for a constructive dialogue between the Pakistani government and the EU to uphold religious freedom and human rights obligations.
Various speakers, including Arif Sardar, Pastor Ghazala Shafique, Pastor Justin Bhatti, Asif Mall, Ansar Farooq, Bishop John Samuel, and Chaudhary Khalid, highlighted the need for legislative changes, the protection of religious minorities, and amendments to blasphemy laws.
The European Pakistani Christian Action Committee also petitioned the European External Action Service for an urgent review and amendment of Pakistan's GSP+ status, emphasizing the critical need for Pakistan to fulfil its GSP+ obligations. The committee urges immediate action to prohibit the advocacy of hatred, discourage discrimination, hostility, and violence, the abuse of blasphemy laws, and forced conversions.
The demonstration also cited international calls, including from the UN Human Rights Committee and a 2021 European Parliament resolution, urging Pakistan to amend blasphemy laws. Despite these calls, no significant progress has been made.
The protest, marked by speeches, placards, and chants, called for comprehensive reforms in Pakistan's legal system. Advocates demanded amendments to blasphemy laws, effective safeguards, and criminalization of coerced faith conversions of minority girls and women.