In Selected Opinion

Question in the House of Lords on India and the Caste System: Asia Bibi case raised along with aid to Pakistan
November 6th 2018
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, notwithstanding the 2013 Indian legislation, the caste system and untouchability predate partition. Scavenging and degrading labour have persisted right across the Indian subcontinent, including in Pakistan. Is the Minister aware that, only last week, a 13 year-old was excluded from a classroom because he had touched the water supply in that classroom? He was beaten and his mother was told he had no place in that school because he was only fit for menial and degrading jobs. Is not this issue of untouchability also to be seen in the case of Asia Bibi, who has spent nine years in prison having touched the communal water supply in her village? She has been exonerated by the courts in Pakistan, yet is still held in custody and not allowed to leave that country. We have spent £2.8 billion over the past 20 years on overseas aid to Pakistan—that is £383,000 every single working day. What difference is that money making to the treatment of minorities and the abolition of things such as caste?

Lord Bates

It is making a big difference. I am certainly aware of these cases, because the noble Lord has made me aware of them, and I am grateful to him for that. We are looking at them and following up. The reality is that both Pakistan and India are signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That has some very specific language in Article 18, which talks about recognising that all people are equal and that discrimination is against the law. It is also against their constitutions. We need to work with the Governments of these countries to ensure that they uphold the very laws they have—and we will continue to do that.

Over the past 20 years the U.K. has given Pakistan an average of £383,000 per day – each and every single day – in overseas aid- a total of £2.8 billion (see below).

Last week, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death – and who has been incarcerated in a jail for 9 years – was acquitted by the Supreme Court.

Immediately, a frenzy of hate was whipped up with demands made for her execution and calls were made for the death of the courageous judges.

The same killers had murdered the courageous Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, and Punjab’s Governor Salmaan Taseer, after they spoke out against Asia Bib’s unjust imprisonment.

Now, Pakistan’s Government has promised the lynch mob that the Supreme Court can be overruled, and Asia Bibi prohibited from leaving the country.

It is a disgrace that a Commonwealth country, which is the biggest recipient of U.K. aid, should have such a disregard for justice and the rule of law – and trample on the rights of its minorities in this way.

The U.K. needs to consider sending its daily subvention of £383,000 to a more worthy recipient.

The Life Of Asia Bibi – An Innocent Woman – Hangs In The Balance As Pakistan Faces the Lynch Mob

After nine years in prison, Pakistan’s Supreme Court courageously found Asia Bibi to be innocent of Blasphemy charges that carried a death sentence.

Now, lynch mobs, defying the rule of law, have demanded her execution and have persuaded the Pakistan Government that she should be banned from leaving the country.

The Pakistan Government have also said that attempts can be made to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.

This makes a mockery of the rule of law and, meanwhile, Asia Bibi – an innocent woman, a mother denied her freedom for nine years, continues to be held in custody.

Now her lawyer has had to flee the country – saying he fears for his life.

Dr.Taj Hargey, a Muslim Imam based in Oxford, was so right when he wrote in The Telegraph, yesterday that Asia Bibi should be granted asylum in the UK and spoke of “the deafening silence” from British people of Pakistani origin and of “our collective shame in not preventing her cruel incarceration.”

Dr.Taj Hargey, Imam, Oxford Islamic Congregation, Letter to the Telegraph

On whose side do we stand – the side of an innocent woman and the rule of law or on the side of the lynch mob?

See this report by BBC World:

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