COUNTRY PROFILE

PAKISTAN

Christians are subject to violent persecution and discrimination, much of it directly linked to Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws, which are widely abused. There have been 224 Christian victims of the blasphemy laws since they were passed in 1986. The most notorious case was that of Asia Bibi who, after 10 years in custody including many years on death row, was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court in October 2018. She eventually left Pakistan in May 2019 to start a new life with her family in Canada. With guilty blasphemy verdicts carrying the death penalty and radical Islamists gaining more political power in the region, Christians are living in fear for their lives. Conversions to Christianity from Islam in particular carry tremendous risk. Attacks on churches
have occurred in some places. Christians also suffer from institutionalised discrimination. Jobs considered low, dirty and belittling are often held by Christians – for example, Christian workers make up a very high proportion of the sewerage and street cleaning workforce despite comprising only 1.5 percent of the population.(1) Many Christians are exceptionally poor and some are victims of bonded labour. However, middle class Christians also face marginalisation and persecution. In the Punjab region Christian and Hindu girls continue to be abducted and forced into marriage.

1. “Pakistani Christians angered by ‘sweeper’ comment”, World Watch Monitor, July 24th 2013 https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2013/07/pakistani-christians-angered-by-sweeper-comment/; “Three Christian sewage workers died in Bahawalpur”, Christians in Pakistan, July 14th 2017 https://www.christiansinpakistan.com/three-christian-sewage-workers-died-in-bahawalpur/ ; Two Pakistani Christian sewerage workers die from poisonous gases”, World Watch Monitor, 29th May 2018 https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2018/05/two-pakistani-christian-sewerage-workers-die-from-poisonous-gases/(all sites accessed June 17th 2019).
2. K. K. Shahid, “ISIS targeting Christians in Quetta”, The Nation, April 17 2018, https://nation.com.pk/17-Apr-2018/isis-targeting-christians-in-quetta (accessed June 17th 2019).
3. Meher Ahmad and Salman Masood, “Pakistan Makes Concessions to Protesters in Blasphemy Case”, New York Times, 2nd November 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/02/world/asia/pakistanblasphemy-asia-bibi.html; Sabrina Toppa, “A Pakistan Court Overturned a Christian Woman’s Death
Sentence for Blasphemy. Now, Protests Are Spreading Across the Country”, Time, 2nd November 2018, updated 13th November 2018, https://time.com/5442851/pakistan-blasphemy-asia-bibi-protest/(both sites accessed 25th June 2019).
4. Leah MarieAnn Klett, “15 year old Christian teen abducted, raped by five Muslim men in Pakistan”, The Christian Post, 20th June 2019, https://www.christianpost.com/news/15-y-o-christian-teen-abductedraped-by-five-muslim-men-in-pakistan.html (accessed 24th June 2019).

April 2018

Two Christians were killed and five injured when gunmen shot at worshippers leaving a church in Esa Nagri, Quetta. This was the third attack on the community attributed
to Daesh (ISIS) and the second within a fortnight, after a Christian family was shot dead on Easter Monday on Shahzaman Road. In the earlier Daesh attack, at least nine members of Bethel Memorial Methodist Church were killed in a suicide bombing a week before Christmas 2017.(2)

October -November 2018

Violent protests paralysed towns across Pakistan after the Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi. Protesters blocked major roadways, forcing the closure of businesses and schools. Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, which organised the mass demonstration, said both Asia Bibi and the judges who heard the case should be killed. The government reached an agreement with protest leaders allowing an appeal in the Supreme Court and for legal proceedings to be initiated to stop Asia Bibi travelling abroad. The appeal was rejected in January 2019 and Asia Bibi left the country four months later.(3)

June 2019

On Sunday 9th, 15-year-old Christian girl Maria was abducted from her home in Sheikhupura by five Muslim men and raped.4 Authorities refused to investigate the crime. The child’s father, Jalal Masih, filed a police report, accusing a local businessman and four others. Several witnesses saw the girl abducted at gunpoint. Mr Masih said: “We made contact the next day and [the
kidnapper] threatened to return her dead body if we informed the police.”(4)

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