31st August 2022
LAHORE: United Nations experts have expressed concern at the alleged persecution of a Christian pastor and his son who have fled Pakistan in the wake of death threats and vigilante bounties placed on their heads on charges of blasphemy.
In a communication sent to the Pakistani government on June 3, the UN rapporteurs stated that they had received information about the alleged persecution against Pastor Roshan Pervaiz and his son Faraz Pervaiz, and the prosecution on blasphemy charges, continuous threats, including death threats, as well as deliberate incitement to violence to kill him and his son.
The communication was sent on behalf of Mumba Malila, Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, and Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
“The lack of protection afforded by the State to these individuals, in the face of documented death threats and several instances of physical assaults against them and their families, has forced Roshan Pervaiz and his son Faraz Pervaiz and other members of their family to leave Pakistan and seek international protection abroad,” the UN experts said.
The UN rapporteurs expressed alarm at the growing abuse of blasphemy provisions against religious minorities in Pakistan.
“Our concerns in this regard would be heightened by what appears to be a growing trend to misuse legal provisions relating to blasphemy for personal or political reasons, as well as a disproportionate use of such provisions against members of religious minorities.”
The UN experts said that it was a matter of serious concern that the legal and judicial criminalisation of blasphemy might legitimise negative social attitudes towards members of minority religions, and encourage and lead to acts of violence against them by individuals holding extreme religious and political views, as demonstrated by the alleged bounties announced by religious and political leaders calling for the killing of the two Christians.
The UN experts called on Pakistan to redouble efforts to protect all religious minority communities as impunity for religion based violence might continue to foster violations against them.
“We would also like to appeal to your Government to ensure the right to freedom of religion or belief of Pastor Roshan Pervaiz and Faraz Pervaiz in accordance with protections under the ICCPR,” said the UN rapportuers.
The communication also called on the government to provide information on the actions undertaken by the authorities to investigate the threats and physical attacks against Roshan and Faraz Pervaiz and their families.
The UN experts sought information from the government on what steps were being taken to prevent, and investigate religious or political leaders who used their positions of authority or leadership to encourage a climate of intolerance, hatred and violence against religious minorities.
The communication also asked the government to provide information on the steps taken to prevent, investigate and prosecute acts of vigilante violence perpetrated against persons belonging to religious minorities, especially in the context of allegations of “blasphemy”, including the number of persons prosecuted and convicted.