An open letter to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf By Catholic Bishops Conference.


Your Excellency Mr. President / Prime Minister, First, I would like to convey my appreciation on behalf of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference for government's position about making Pakistan a liberal and welfare state based on the principles of social justice and peaceful co existence. I have a strong hope that with this vision Pakistan shall move to the direction which the founders of Pakistan had dreamt of and the initiative is bound to have a positive effect on Pakistan's image outside as well as improving situation at home. However given the mighty challenges I feel obliged as a citizen of Pakistan and as a community leader to draw your attention to some very crucial issues concerning human rights: a) The abolition of separate electorate for general elections was welcomed by the people. Using the same principle of parity among citizens, the religious apartheid of separate electorate should be removed from local bodies system also without any delay. b) Through a piece of legislation the parliament brought the honour killing in the ambit of the offense of murder apparently to address the menace of Karo - Kari. In the meantime, the offences of affecting human \body including murder remains a compromisable between the parties according to the Pakistan Penal Code (Sections 302 to 324 and section 334 to 337-K, 337-M to 338-C). The compoundablity character added to the penal justice system in 1990 renders the new legislation technically impractical. It is pity that in recent abovementioned legislation in October 2004 the parliament and the Ministry of law did not consider the recommendations of the Commission on Status of Women (1997) and National Commission on Status of Women (2003) about repeal of; Hadood Ordinances, Qisas and Diyat Ordinance and the changes made in the Law of Evidence in 1984. I feel sad when I imagine the amount of energy and time that must have been invested in monitoring the situation, research and preparation of recommendations by the Commissions under the leadership of senior members of Judiciary. Therefore their work should not go in vain. These laws manifestly reduce the status of women as a legal entity and thus are directly responsible for enhanced violence against women in domestic and social life. The stringency of laws has created enormous difficulties for religious minorities as well. Therefore, I strongly request a kind consideration about repeal of these laws. c) I just briefly reiterate our demand for repeal of blasphemy laws. There is an ample proof of their ill effects on society and I can assure you that a large number of citizens shall support removing blasphemy laws from the statute book. d) The informed circle appreciated very much that the government when created a fund for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labour in the country in 2000. However no activity has been reported since regarding the implementation of this idea. Although there are other dimensions to this issue yet we would appreciate that the concerned Ministry should present some concrete plan and action for elimination of bonded labor in our beloved country. Mr. President, the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church, in conjunction with the civil society organizations has struggled in past 19 years for repeal of laws that grossly violate the rights of deprived sections, especially women and religious minorities. We hope that your government shall make the year 2005 the year of change and repeal of these discriminatory laws. Assuring you of our active cooperation and payers in this important step in nation building task, Yours sincerely, (Signed) Bishop Lawrence John Saldanha President of Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference Archbishop of Lahore, Chairperson National Commission for Justice and Peace

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