HRS International

Another one set free

Naeem Chaudhry, the wealthy and influential lawyer on trial in Pakistan for the murder of a 12-year-old Christian girl, Shazia Masih, who had been a servant in his house, was set free in February after paying bail amounting to a mere 100,000 rupees (about USD 1200).

By Rooshanie Ejaz, HRS Lahore

The bail was set by the presiding judge after he had listened to what lawyers for both parties had to say. Within weeks after the girl’s death, medical reports were issued by a panel of nine doctors, all of which contrasted sharply with the initial postmortem report, made available to Rights by Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan.

In the light of the recent rape and setting on fire of Martha Bibi and her husband, Arshad Masih, the latter of whom suffered burns on 80% of his body and died in the ICU, one wonders why the Pakistani Government is turning a blind eye to these cases. Can it have something to do with the fact that Naeem Chaudhry is the former president of the Lahore Bar Association? Martha Bibi was raped by the police of Rawalpindi and her husband was burned alive by wealthy employers who were angered by the couple’s refusal to convert to Islam. Though some Pakistani Muslims have paid lip service to the cause of justice in these cases, no nationwide protests are being organized. Surely there is no dearth of potential protesters in a country of 166 million people, nor is there a lack of organizational skill. That much was made clear by the Long March in Pakistan last year, when supporters of the lawyers’ movement to restore the deposed judiciary marched to the Parliament in the hundreds of thousands and – lo and behold – were granted what they demanded.

It must be noted that cases of severe, cruel, and violent persecution of religious minority groups in Pakistan have been increasing in number as the degree of militancy in the country has intensified. This is a clear example of the fact that even if fundamentalism isn’t state- sanctioned, its mere existence fuels bigotry and violence towards many groups, especially religious minorities.

Recently on Facebook I read something shocking. A Chinese restaurant in Islamabad had refused admission to some locals and its owners had posted a sign saying “No Pakistanis Allowed” on the door. Their reasoning: they serve alcohol, and since it is illegal for them to serve it to Muslim citizens, they do not want to risk committing a crime by admitting Muslims at all. A Facebook community was formed protesting this act, and that’s fine: everyone has a right to his or her opinion, and people who feel they’ve been discriminated against have the right to say so. Yet that Facebook group’s wall was quickly crowded with postings by young students, mostly boys, all from high-end private schools, threatening to burn down the restaurant and to kill and even rape the owners. Even if one chooses to take a tolerant view of the volatile nature of youth, it is difficult to dismiss such comments as mere manifestations of ”teenage angst”.

The bottom line here is this: Pakistani society is definitely growing more polarized, and fundamentalism is an obvious factor in this development. There is a manifest lesson in this grim state of affairs for the rest of the world, Norway included. Given that ethnic Norwegians will, at some point in the future, become a minority in their country, it is fair to postulate that a polarization of the sort that is underway in Pakistan will someday occur in Norway, too. At that point, Muslims may be the majority, and that fact will certainly shape the country’s laws and regulations. The only way to avert such a fate is to take serious measures now to integrate immigrant populations and to curb immigration in accordance with the social pressure being caused by the increase in numbers of immigrants. The alternative is a future Norway in which the rich and powerfully placed Muslim murderers of Christian children need only pay the cost of an expensive suit to be set free.