The Destruction of Sacred Places in the Middle East and what cultural genocide means for the region’s living stones

Christian Holy Sites and Holy Places In The Middle East

(Extended version of) Remarks in Washington DC on July 18th 2019 by David Alton at a special conference on “Christian Holy Sites and Holy Places in the Middle East,” co-sponsored by the Hudson Institute’s Working Group on Christians and Religious Pluralism in the Middle East.

Prominent Middle Eastern Christian leaders – including the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, were among the other speakers.

When , on his ‘pilgrimage of destruction’ , Tamerlane’s (Timur’s) Mongols invaded 13th Century Baghdad, they had been ordered to destroy thousands of that city’s books.

Michael Harris in his History of Libraries in the Western World says that in those days the River Tigris flowed black from the ink that was spilt, just as more recently rivers and roads have been drenched red from blood as ISIS have sought to go about their own reordering of the region’s minority communities and their cultures.

One thousand years ago the “mad caliph” of Cairo, Hakim, decreed that all churches, including the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the burial site of Jesus, should be torn down, razed to the ground.

And long ago , Nineveh had been laid waste by the Babylonians.
ISIS would simply like to complete what others had all failed to do.
Rivers running black and red. The dust and fires of destruction. Indifference to daily routines of forced marriage , beatings and abuse and rape. Genocidal assaults on a people are so often intertwined with attempts to wear down their confidence and to obliterate the sacred places and collections that embody them:

In Churches and holy sites, in religious cultural artefacts and the beauty of written and printed words memory and the present meet, lived lives and hopes for the future, days of joy and moments of sorrow , immense aesthetic beauty and the genius of great architecture, not to mention the physical ability to bring people together beyond bureaucracy and what many would see as a spiritual skill to provide a joining point between the earth and heaven itself.

These sacred places represent a fundamental part of our identity and psyche. Their obliteration has been part of an attempt by ISIS to eradicate more than history.

UNESCO lists 22 of the world’s 38 endangered cultural-heritage sites as being in the Middle East.

Think of Iraq’s and Syria’s churches and monasteries.
In June 2014, it was reported that ISIL elements had been instructed to destroy all churches in Mosul. The orgy of violence began in July when the Church of the Virgin Mary was destroyed with several improvised devices. Most other churches in the city suffered a similar fate.
In the same year ISIS destroyed the Tomb of Jonah – a site dating from the 8th century BC – and of great importance to Christians and many Muslims – but like the Sufi memorials n many other parts of the world unacceptable to the ISIS ideologues.

Later that year, 2014, Dair Mar Elia, the oldest monastery in Iraq, was demolished sometime between late August and September 2014 – unreported until 2016. St Markourkas Church, a 10th-century Chaldean Catholic church, was destroyed on 9 March 2015,and a nearby cemetery was also bulldozed. Others followed, like the Sa’a Qadima Church in Mosul, blown up in April 2016.

ISIS also blew up or demolished several other churches elsewhere in Iraq or in Syria. They included the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Deir-ez-Zor in Syria – built to memorialise and remember the1.5 million Armenians killed between 1915 and 1923. (The Deir Ez-zor became a yearly destination for pilgrims from around the world and gave the lie to Hitler’s boast “who now remembers the Armenians?”)

Destroyed too was the 7th century Green Church (also known as St Ahoadamah Church) in Tikrit belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East. In 2015 Isis destroyed the Mar Benham Monastery in Khidr Ilyas near Bakhdida in Iraq.

In 2015, on Easter Sunday, – a maliciously favourite day for their depredations and murders – ISIS destroyed the Assyrian Christian church of the Virgin Mary in the Syrian town of Tel Nasri. and then the historic monastery if St.Elian near Al-Qaryatayn in the Homs Governorate.

ISIS has also set fire to, or stolen collections of books and papers, such as those at Mosul’s Library – which they burnt-down and which was home to a Sunni Muslim library. Incinerated too were a 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers, and the Mosul Museum Library. Some destroyed or stolen works date back to 5000 BC and at Palmyra – that classical oasis in the Syrian desert – they detonated and destroyed anything that might recall beliefs other than their own.

This is not just collateral damage from ‘war’. The stated goal is to destroy all non-Islamic books. The UN report that half of the old city of Mosul, in Iraq, and a third of the old city of Aleppo, in Syria, are reduced to rubble. No wonder Michael Danti of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) says “It’s Europe after the second world war’ .

And nor is it over.

As recently as Thursday 11 July, the Syriac Orthodox church of the Virgin Mary in Qamishli, in North East Syria, was targeted in a car bomb attack. Although there are no known fatalities, State media reported that 11 civilians were injured and that the church and nearby properties sustained material damage.

The attack on the church, which is in the predominantly Christian district of al-Wusta, occurred shortly before the end of the daily 5.30pm prayer service. It is assumed that Islamic State is behind the attack.

Qamishli is where, in June 2016, the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch survived an assassination attempt in which three others were killed.
Not in Syria, not in Iraq, not in Egypt – and not in African countries like Nigeria where ISIS affiliates have destroyed hundreds of churches – and not in atheistic Communist States, such as North Korea and China – where bulldozers have been demolishing churches. Not in any of these can be safety be assured.

This is more than a duty for the conservation sector. It is more than a human rights sideline. But how are we raising our voices as this obliteration of the sacred and enforced loss of memory and heritage occur?

The Harbingers We Ignored: Egypt’s Kristallnacht

In November 1938, in an orgy of violence which would become known as Kristallnacht, Jewish synagogues, homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked and pillaged. The sledgehammers and petrol left more than 1,000 synagogues burnt and over 7,000 Jewish shops and businesses in ruins. The streets were covered in shards of smashed glass from broken windows.

A harbinger of the intentions of the Islamic militants became clear in 2013 when we witnessed the burning or bombing of more than 50 of Egypt’s churches schools, and homes.

Compare the charred husk of the Fasanenstrasse Synagogue in Berlin, in 1938, with pictures of the blackened walls of Degla’s ruined Church of the Virgin Mary and you will readily understand why after August 2013 I named it as Egypt’s Kristallnacht.

The comparison could be extended: Benchmark the terror of 1938 with the more recent fear of Copts, who constitute more than half of all Christians in the Middle East, as members of their community were left dead, others assaulted, and their 118th Pope, Tawadros II, put under protection having had death threats made against him.

In 1938 The Times commented that: “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenceless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”

In August 2013, in an almost identical vein, The Times reported how “Dozens of churches, homes and businesses have been set alight and looted in Egypt, forcing millions of Christians into hiding amid the worst bout of sectarian violence in the country’s modern history. Some Coptic Christian communities are being made to pay bribes as local Islamists exploit the turmoil by seeking to revive a seventh-century tax, called jizya, levied on non-Muslims.”

More than 90 churches, monasteries and church buildings were attacked across the country. The Times said there had been incitement, that Imams in the town of Fayoum reportedly urged supporters to go out and attack churches and Christians.

Come to think of it, that failure of religious solidarity could have been 1938 Germany or even 1994 Rwanda and Bosnia in 1995.

Copts: Their Favourite Prey

Just as the Nazis favoured the Jews above all else as their targets so have more recent events put the Copts at greatest risk. The Islamist genocidaires say that Egypt’s Copts are their “favourite prey”.

In Cairo, Franciscan nuns saw the cross over their school gate torn down and replaced by an al-Qaeda flag while the school was burnt down, and three nuns were frog marched through the streets while mobs showered them with abuse. One nun said, “They paraded us like prisoners of war.”

Joe Stork, acting Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch reported that “Dozens of churches are smouldering ruins, and Christians throughout the country are hiding in their homes, afraid for their very lives”

One of those who died during Egypt’s Kristallnacht was a young Christian deacon, Wahid Jacob, who had served the St.John the Baptist Church in Asyut until he was kidnapped. His captors demanded 1.2 million Egyptian pounds ($171,000) – an impossible ransom for his impoverished family. Their inability to pay up led to his execution. The priest who conducted Wahid’s funeral said that the young man’s body, found dumped in a field, was badly tortured.

When it comes to the Christian Copts the perpetrators enjoy impunity and terrorised at leisure. The Economist reported that “nowhere had the police thought to reinforce security, and nowhere did they intervene promptly or with sufficient force.”

The former Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth , himself close to so many survivors of the Holocaust observed that the experience of the Copts was “a tragedy going almost unremarked” and is the “religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing”.

This side of Kristallnacht , Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur we need to ask ourselves and our government what we said and what we did when they burnt the churches, terrorised the people and killed the Copts.

There has been some welcome change in Egypt. But Westerners should understand that what passes for democracy isn’t merely the holding of an election – like the one which ushered in the Third Reich after Kristallnacht. It is not the only test of what makes for a decent society. The rule of law is the first test and the protection of a country’s minorities and women, is the second.

Plurality and Diversity In The Middle East’s Future

Above all, the Middle East’s future will depend on the rule of law. There can be no peace or stability in Egypt or anywhere else in the region if the authorities fail to intervene to prevent the attacks or to bring the perpetrators to justice, or if they ignore the violent rhetoric which whips up hatred.

In a climate of fear and intimidation, coupled with historic and long-standing discrimination, the exodus of Christians from the region is entirely understandable. But if this represents the only future for the Christians of the Middle East it will be a tragedy for Egypt, Syria and Iraq – and for their Muslim neighbours. A Middle East which is unable to accept difference and unwilling to promote tolerance will be an increasingly unbearable place for all its other citizens.

That’s why the Christian Kristallnacht – the destruction of the holy places and sites, the memory and the story of who we are, matters so much. Because as our history is assaulted we need to gather up the prophetic fragments that remain, to help rebuild with ‘the Living Stomes’ who are left to us.

The Living Stones

But let me end by returning to the plight of “the living stones”

We know that up to 1,000 Christians are studying at Mosul University and commute daily from the nearby Nineveh plains, where it is said that that 9,130 families – 46 percent of the 2014 total – are now back. Some travel in from far away Dohuk and that hundreds more are employed to work there.

Father Emanuel Adel Kloo, the only priest in Mosul, said most of the faithful are still too afraid to return to the city whose Christian roots date back 1,800 years or more. Before ISIS laid siege to Mosul in 2014, 15,000 Christians lived there but he has hopes to restore a church complex there that would encourage more Christians to return to the city.

Describing his mission in Mosul as to “serve beneath the Cross”, the priest said that the reconstruction of the Church of the Annunciation – one of the first churches to be repaired since ISIS capitulated– was an important sign for Christians in the city.

The Syriac Catholic priest told Aid to the Church in Need that: “We hope that the church will be open in three months [and] that when it opens a lot of people will come.
“We still need other things to help people come back – we need a school, we need a housing complex for people who are poor and don’t have enough money to rebuild their own houses. I am hopeful that hundreds of people will return.”

He said it was very difficult to encourage people to believe in a future for Christians in Mosul.

And another small but welcome initiative was the launch of CREID The Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development which will be doing a lot of work in Iraq.

Professor Mariz Tadros of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex is its Director and tells me that they will try to build the capacity of young people from all religious minorities attempting to capture to undertake joint initiatives together. With support from the British Council a sister project will assist with the recording of the oral history of their communities, in particular those advanced in years, and how to digitise and preserving and disseminating these accounts for generations to come.

These are living stones, new foundation pieces, that will enable old histories to reignite the resilience of the most ancient of peoples, monuments and cultures.

Holding The Perpetrators To Account

Back on the 23 July 2014, I warned in an opinion piece in the Times:
“The last Christian has been expelled from Mosul … The light of religious freedom, along with the entire Christian presence, has been extinguished in the Bible’s ‘great city of Nineveh’ … This follows the uncompromising ultimatum by the jihadists of Isis to convert or die”.

I said that,
“the world must wake up urgently to the plight of the ancient churches throughout the region who are faced with the threat of mass murder and mass displacement”.

But the world chose not to wake up and for those caught up in these barbaric events, the stakes are utterly existential, catastrophic.

The Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Jean-Clément Jeanbart, asked during a hearing I chaired at the British House of Lords:

“What are the great nations waiting for before they put a halt to these monstrosities? Let me cry with my people, violated and murdered. Allow me to stand by numerous families in Aleppo who are in mourning. Because of this ugly and barbarous war, they have lost so many loved ones, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters and cherished children”.

As I have described ISIS has murdered, plundered, raped and abducted, including whole villages of Assyrian Christians. They have ripped buildings and great art and particular communities from the places in which they belong.

During a visit to a migrant centre in Greece, Pope Francis had the personal horror brought home to him when a Muslim man told him that he saw terrorists slit his wife’s throat when she refused to discard her crucifix.

He said that Christians had been subjected to genocide. The US, Uk and Australian parliaments have agreed.

On behalf of the then White House, Secretary of State, John Kerry, said:

“Naming these crimes is important”, and that Daesh, in targeting these minorities with the purpose of their annihilation, is “genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions”— in what it says, what it believes and, indeed, what it does.

Today’s US Vice President, Mike Pence, has said the same.

But the Great Powers fear the consequences of those words. One can imagine Raphael Lemkin, the man whose often lonely campaign gave us the 1948
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide firing off letters to both Vice Presidents in frustration and fury.

With the Armenian disaster of 1915 , and KristallnachIt of 1938 in his mind Lemkin, recognised that “international co-operation” was needed, “to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge”.

Our failed policy towards Syria, thus far, has been to wish on it the same outcomes that we have seen in Iraq and Libya; failed policies that have been oblivious to the suffering and mayhem that has ensued.

The overall goal must be to enable all who have left, including Christians, to return to their homes, to be safe when they return, and to participate in rebuilding the region’s infrastructure and governance based on social and political equality, with religious freedom and human rights being safeguarded. This means healthcare and social support for people, fresh justice to bring perpetrators locally to account and new investment to restore the communities so aggressively targeted.

The Iraqi Archbishop of Erbil, the Rt. Rev. Basha Warda is right when he points out the British Government – and other donor countries – have been ‘“generous with your taxes when it comes to rebuilding Iraq. Unfortunately, everything they give is sent to the UN or other third-party NGOs”’, but‘“to date, not one single penny of it, and not one single penny from the EU or the USA or any other major donor, has been offered to the schools, university or hospital of my arch-diocese. I cannot say where it goes, but most assuredly it is not seen in any of the projects that have the greatest chance of bringing diverse Iraqi groups together in peace.”’

He asked: ‘“Will a peaceful and innocent people be allowed to be persecuted and eliminated because of their faith? And, for the sake of not wanting to speak the truth to the persecutors, will the world be complicit in our elimination?”’

Our aid programmes have been failing these beleaguered communities. So have our security policies. So has our unwillingness to create mechanisms to hold perpetrators of genocide to account. But one of the greatest failures of all has been the failure to assist in the rebuilding of every church and monastery and the restoration of every sacred site.

Such restoration and restitution will be the best guarantor of diversity and plurality, the best manifestation of Article 18 obligations to Freedom of Religion or Belief and, the best way we can ensure that those who would see the rivers run red with blood and black with ink while the dust and fires of destruction of people and great historical sites dominate the skyline have their own lamentable violence wiped away.

For while Tamurlane and his modern manifestations may have wanted a ‘pilgrimage of destruction’ we now have the task of building a journey of hope from international action globally and the living stones that still remain scattered across the region – and in this room today.

Speech At The Ministerial on Religious Freedom in Washington DC

Speech At The Ministerial on Religious Freedom in Washington DC

In his opening remarks Ambassador Sam Brownback told us that we are launching a global movement for religious freedom, tearing down the iron curtain of religious persecution.

Many here will have been disturbed by what they have heard today and be asking what can they do?

Thanks to Ambassador Brownback and the Potomac Declaration, and Plan of Action, a good beginning has already been made.

That Declaration insists“The freedom to live out one’s faith is a God-given human right that belongs to everyone. The freedom to seek the divine and act accordingly—including the right of an individual to act consistently with his or her conscience—is at the heart of the human experience. Governments cannot justly take it away. Rather, every nation shares the solemn responsibility to defend and protect religious freedom.”

This is the cornerstone of the movement we are building.

The reality is that Governments do routinely take away that freedom and ignore their

responsibility to defend religious freedom.

Just a week ago an Independent Inquiry reported to the British

Foreign Secretary that the persecution of 250 million Christians

comprises the,

“most shocking abuses of human rights in the modern era”.

They are the most persecuted group in the world.

The report specifically highlights the failure to declare as a genocide the murder of Christians Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

Our priority must be to bring perpetrators to justice.

And look at the consequences when we don’t.

In 1915 a slow-burn genocide, still unrecognised by the UK, took the lives of 1.5 million Armenian

Christians – a horror story captured in Franz Werfel’s novel, 40 Days

on Musa Dagh, among the books suppressed and burnt by the Nazis.

Hans Morgenthau Sr the US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, called it ‘race murder’.

Hitler took the world’s indifference and unwillingness to insist on justice as a signal that he could butcher Jews, disabled people, gypsies, homosexuals, Roma and non-compliant religious minorities, famously saying,

“Who now remembers the Armenians?”

The Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, 49 of whose relatives were

murdered in the Holocaust, was a student of those events. He coined

the word genocide, developing the Genocide Convention which

requires us to prevent, protect and punish.

Genocide begins when we ignore the“canary in the mine” and when we forget our duty to uphold justice.

Ignore it and it emboldens perpetrators who believe we are too weak or too disinterested to ever hold them to account.

In Armenia, in 1915, the wider World War was used as a reason not to act. During the Holocaust, claims that things could not be so bad,

triggered silence until it was very late. In Srebrenica, appeals for help were ignored, even by the commanders of European soldiers stationed nearby.

I visited Darfur during a Genocide that took 300,000 lives and displaced 1 million. I have visited the harrowing genocide sites in Rwanda, where we ignored the warning signs, too.

Toother their targets Rwanda’s genocidaires called their victims ‘cockroaches’ .

At the beginning of 2014 we saw a new “othering” and a wave of

mass beheadings: this time of“infidels”.

People were thrown from high buildings, prisoners burned in metal cages, women raped, and homes looted – atrocities against Yazidis Christians, and others, intensifying in number and scope .

The British House of Commons, the US Congress, the European

Parliament, and many others. declared these horrors to be a genocide.

But, even now, many Governments, including my own, refuse to name these crimes as genocide, saying it is a matter for the legal authorities, knowing that no judicial process exists to give this effect.

In 2017, the Security Council’s Resolution 2379, has led to the

collection of evidence of these appalling crimes. But, through fear of veto by Russia, no mechanism was established to bring those responsible to justice.

There is little point collecting evidence if we do nothing about it.

Demonstrating their belief in the rule of law, like-minded nations,

signatories to the Genocide Convention, should establishad hoc tribunals and legal mechanisms of their own.

If we are launching a global movement for religious freedom fundamental to this must be a new deterioration to uphold justice.

The alternative is to allow mass murderers to grow old, unpunished and to believe they can continue their depredations with impunity, never facing their

Nuremburg Moment.

Let me give another example.

I co-chair the British Parliamentary Group on North Korea, which I

have visited on four occasions.

An edict from Kim Il-sung once declared that,“religious people

should die to cure their habit”. And for 70 years that is exactly what has happened.

In 2014 a United Nations Commission of Inquiry, concluded that it is,

“a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world;

that Christians have been singled out for especially brutal treatment in

“the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century”.

The Inquiry found“an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,”;and that “Severe punishments are inflicted on…people caught practising Christianity”.

It catalogues crimes against humanity,
including“extermination,
murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions”, enforced disappearances, and starvation, detailing“unspeakable atrocities” faced by 120,000 incarcerated in the prison camps .

During Hearings in Parliament we heard from two Christian women escapees from those camps. Jeon Young-Ok said: “They tortured the Christians the most.”Hea Woo said:”The guards told us that we are not human beings …the dignity of human life counted for nothing.”

Mr. JusticeKirby, who chaired the Inquiry said evidence adduced”was very similar to the testimony one sees on visiting a Holocaust Museum by those who were the victims of Nazi oppression”

Hogan Lovells, an international law firm, concluded that North Korea’s targeting and extermination of religious groups could constitute genocide.

But the UN Inquiry said no official or institution is held accountable, because“impunity reigns”.

So what have we done?

Despite urging a referral to the International Criminal Court, through fear of a Chinese veto, five years later, nothing has happened.

Not only this, but through their forcible repatriation of escaping Christians, China is in total breach of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which it ratified in 1988. It prohibits the return of persons to States “where there are substantial grounds for believing” that they would be”subjected to torture.”

But this is unsurprising as Communist China has retreated from the welcome transformative reforms of Deng Xiaoping, into a new and brutal Cultural Revolution. Ambassador Brownback has said that the Chinese regime is“at war with faith.”

Show trials, executions, and the torture of prisoners are among its
hallmarks. Believers and their lawyers have disappeared. Churches and shrines destroyed. I have been in Western China and Tibet. I think of at least 1 million Muslim Uighurs detained without charge in Siberian-style re-education camps. What a disgrace that we sell face reconstruction and other surveillance equipment to a regime that has incarcerated its own people.

Or think of the treatment of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong – which the European Parliament has called a “a new low point”.

After investigating forced organ harvesting from prisoners of
conscience, the independent China Tribunal recently found that crimes against humanity, as defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute, have been committed.

Little wonder that millions of protestors in Hong Kong, fearful of losing their right to religious freedom and political freedoms have taken to the streets singing as their anthem,Hallelujah to the Lord. I salute the courage of the people of Hong Kong.

When you ignore the canary in the mine it leads to the incarceration of Uighurs in China, the unfolding Jihad in Nigeria, the burning alive of
Christians in Pakistan, the displacement of Muslim Rohingya and Christian Kachin in Burma – and to genocide. Genocide unchecked; Genocide unchallenged; Genocide unpunished.

After Raphael Lemkin died, in 1959, the world went silent regarding the Genocide Convention.

From 1953 to 1967 not a single US Senate voice was raised calling for the US to ratify it – 14 years of silence.

Then in 1957 William Proxmire, was elected to the Senate, in
Wisconsin. A friend introduced him to Lemkin’s legacy .

Ten years later he rose in and told the Senate that lack of ratification was a national disgrace.

He did the same on 3211 occasions, speaking every day the Senate was in Session – finally getting ratification in 1986. Often caricatured as an irritating gadfly – but there’s a lot to be said for the awkward squad in politics.

Proxmire’s successors need to return to rise up in legislative fury and with an urgent sense of social and political righteousness.

This is not onlyright but also hard headed and sensible

Consider how religious persecution from Eritrea to Pakistan, North Korea to Sudan, adds vast numbers to the flow of refugees and how persecution correlates to the hobbled economies of the countries from
which they flee.

Societies that have religious freedom are the most prosperous and the least dependant on foreign aid and military assistance.

But to enable more countries to take this as their lose star we need to do the heavy lifting designing and advancing new legal routes to justice for the persecuted.

And we need to shape our aid programmes – which are too often religion blind – and promote international policies to reflect this priority: and do it because it is the right and the wise thing to do.

The suffering and the pain which we have heard about today requires those of us with the privilege of political freedom to demand justice and human dignity for those who do not enjoy these freedoms.

We cannot afford the luxury of silence.

The Protestant theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis famously said,“not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act”.

In contesting the persecution of millions, including 250 million
Christians, truly described as,“the most shocking abuses of human rights in the modern era”,future generations will judge us on how we responded.

And rightfully so.

The test for each of us will now be: how will we speak, how will we act.

What are we going todo about it? Now, not later

To see the session go to

Parliamentary Debate on Religious Freedom following the publication of the Report of the Independent Inquiry into Persecution of Christians which concluded that the persecution of 250 million Christians comprises the, “most shocking abuses of human rights in the modern era”. And four Ministerial Replies concerning the situation in Nigeria, Eritrea, Burma, and the plight of North Korean refugees repatriated from China.


https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/e4c8e594-c6d2-4880-952b-9ac5a01c15fe#player-tabs

3.10 pm July 11th 2019
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has provided the House with this perfectly timed debate, coming as it does in the week in which the independent report to the Foreign Secretary concluded that the persecution of 250 million Christians comprises the,
“most shocking abuses of human rights in the modern era”.

Many others, believers and non-believers, suffer too. Jeremy Hunt is to be congratulated for commissioning the report, and Bishop Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro, and his admirable team on producing such robust, evidence-based findings.

I was particularly struck that the Truro report highlights the failure to declare as a genocide the murder of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, and it goes on to forensically analyse, country by country, the UK’s response.
Departmental institutional weaknesses notwith-standing, like the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, I place on record my admiration for the work of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, in tirelessly championing Article 18 commitments to freedom of religion or belief and the new United Nations day on religious freedom, which is being commemorated in your Lordships’ House on 23 July.

In recommendations 15 to 19 and 21, the report spells out why all government departments need to collaborate in prioritising this issue, and they should note that both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson have said that they will act on the report’s recommendations. However, the report has sent half an unfinished message on one fundamental issue: genocide.

Over the last 19 years, on 300 separate occasions I have referred to genocide prevention and prosecution, beginning in 2000, after seeing first hand what the Burmese military had done in Karen state. In 2000, it was the Christian Karen.

Today it is the Muslim Rohingya and Christian Kachin. From Burma to North Korea and Darfur, from China’s Uighur Muslims to Nigeria’s beleaguered Christians, from Pakistan’s Hindu, Christian, Ahmadi and Kalash minorities to Syria and Iraq’s Yazidis and Christians, the story is the same. Ignore discrimination and tolerate persecution and crimes against humanity, and genocide is never very far behind.

In 1915 a slow-burn genocide, still unrecognised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for political reasons, took the lives of 1.5 million Armenian Christians. Hitler took the world’s indifference to the slaughter of the Armenians as a signal that he could butcher Jews, disabled people, gypsies, homosexuals, Roma and non- compliant religious minorities, famously saying,
“Who now remembers the Armenians?”.

As the Truro report notes, just over a century ago, Christians constituted 20% of the Middle East’s population. Today it is below 5%. It began with the Armenians but it did not end there. A student of those events, the Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, 49 of whose relatives were murdered in the Holocaust, coined the word genocide, and the United Kingdom signed up to the genocide convention which he helped develop, and which requires us to prevent, protect and punish.

As the Truro report reminds us, the killing begins when we ignore the “canary in the mine”; it emboldens the perpetrators into believing that we are too weak or too disinterested to ever hold them to account. It is a green light to the world’s tyrants, lawless militias, totalitarian regimes and hate-filled ideologues, who despise difference and believe that minorities are a curse, not a blessing.

The beginning of 2014 saw the commencement of a new wave of mass beheadings of “infidels”. People were thrown from high buildings, prisoners burned in metal cages, women raped and homes looted. These atrocities then intensified in their number and scope. On 3 August 2014, ISIS attacked Sinjar, killing thousands of Yazidis, abducting thousands of women and girls, and forcing the rest to flee.

This attack on the Yazidis was followed by subsequent mass atrocities in the Nineveh Plains, where Christians were forced to flee or die. ISIS was responsible for murder, enslavement, deportation, the forcible transfer of populations, exploitation, abuse, abductions of women and children, forced marriage and enforced disappearances. Christian homes and shops were looted after being daubed in Arabic with the letter N, for Nazarene. Churches were destroyed.

In every sense, these atrocities perpetrated against religious minorities are crimes against humanity and genocide, but to date, the UK Government have still failed to name these crimes for what they are. The Truro report notes that although the House of Commons, the United States Administration, the European Parliament and many other parliaments have said that these events,
“constitute a genocide according to the established UN criteria, this has not been recognized by the UK Government”.

None the less, says the Truro report,
“the evidence from Syria certainly suggests that the UK government should examine its historic unwillingness to deal with the issue of genocide determination and be prepared to make a prima facie assessment as to whether genocide has been committed, whilst still safeguarding its long-held principle that the ultimate determination must be legal not political”.

This is a fundamental question.

It is why I have argued that there needs to be a judicial mechanism free of political interference. The FCO should act at least on the recommendation to examine this “historic unwillingness”. I hope that the Minister, whom I questioned about this during Oral Questions yesterday, will give us some assurance that that will happen. After all, this is the crime above all crimes, and the FCO should separate itself from genocide determination and put in place independent legal mechanisms that work.

In 2017, through Resolution 2379, the UK successfully persuaded the Security Council to collect evidence of these appalling crimes and of the mass graves. The FCO deserves credit for that. But the Security Council has failed to establish a mechanism to create ad hoc tribunals to try those responsible. We should now work with our allies—if necessary outside the Security Council—to create such a mechanism. What is the point of collecting evidence if we do not do anything about it? The alternative is to allow mass murderers to grow old, unpunished.

I will give one other example from the Truro report. I co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group for North Korea. The report says that the DPRK,
“has consistently registered for the past 18 years as the most dangerous country in the world for Christians”.

This echoes the 2014 United Nations Commission of Inquiry, which concluded that Christians have been singled out for especially brutal treatment and that this is,
“a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.

It says that the regime,
“considers the spread of Christianity a particularly severe threat”,
and that what is happening resembles,
“the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century”.

It concludes that no official or institution is held accountable, because “impunity reigns”.

That UN report said that there should be a referral to the International Criminal Court. Five years later, through fear of vetoes, nothing has happened. Those North Koreans are among the suffering people highlighted in the Truro report. If the persecution of 250 million people can be truly described as,
“the most shocking abuses of human rights in the modern era”,
the test for us will now be: what are we going to do about it?

Some Ministerial Replies concerning the situation in Nigeria, Eritrea, Burma, and North Korean refugees repatriated from China.

Chin. jpg
North KoreaEritrea
Nigeria 1Nigeria 2

Why Westminster Politicians Are Wrong To Ignore Devolution In Northern Ireland And To Impose Abortion. Listen To Northern Ireland -where 64% of people are opposed to Westminster intervening to change its law, rising to 66% of women and 72% of 18 to 32 year-olds. Recall that 100,000 would not be alive in Northern Ireland today if Great Britain’s abortion law had been imposed there.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2019-07-10/debates/1DCF7041-4659-49A5-81E3-F7A1013661CB/NorthernIreland(ExecutiveFormation)Bill

6.30 pm: Wednesday July 10th 2019

The unborn child at 18 weeks gestation. 600 babies are aborted daily in the UK - some, up to and even during birth, with the full force of British law. 7 million have been aborted since abortion was made legal and some have had up to 8 legal abortions.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has reminded us of his own deep commitment to devolution, and it is one that I share. In his remarks responding to the Minister earlier, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, talked about the democratic deficit in Northern Ireland. I do not think it is either supportive of devolution or a way to fill that deficit to introduce measures that trample on those deeply held sensitivities that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, just described.
In fact, it will have the opposite result.

If we are being sensitive, one might at least ask why amendments were tabled in another place yesterday that do not even do the job they set out to do. The Minister told us at the outset that they will now have to be recast to be incorporated in a way that would be competent to do the things that the movers of those amendments sought to do.

For me, this points towards the stampeding through Parliament of measures that are ill thought through and have not been constructed to achieve their purpose. So we should tread cautiously and carefully on every single ground. I cannot believe that any of these things, which are outside the original scope of this Bill, should have been included.

The stated purpose of the Bill, as introduced in another place, was to put back the date by which an election must take place and to require the Secretary of State to report on progress made in establishing a Northern Ireland Executive. With this in mind, and having visited Stormont, I will begin by saying that I believe the Northern Ireland Assembly, when it was functioning, really enriched our politics. Indeed, I do not believe the functioning Assembly was always given the credit it was due. In this respect, I strongly support what my noble friend Lord Bew said earlier.

Consider, for example, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015. That piece of legislation was Northern Ireland’s equivalent to England and Wales’s Modern Slavery Act, but it gained Royal Assent before the Modern Slavery Bill completed its passage through Parliament. Indeed, some of the precedents it set informed our own debate on the Modern Slavery Bill.

I also observe that some academic studies that have compared and contrasted the two pieces of legislation have concluded that the Northern Ireland legislation is, in some respects, rather better.

In saying all this, I am of course aware that the person who introduced this Bill and steered it all the way through the Assembly, as a private Member, is a Member of your Lordships’ House: the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, from whom we heard earlier. That was no mean feat. Of course, it did not become law just because of DUP votes; he worked with parties across the Assembly and gained support for the Bill.

I think I am right in saying that Sinn Féin supported it, too. I hope that the Minister recognises that important accomplishments have been made by the Assembly—the fruit of something that enjoyed cross-party, cross-community support. We want more of that, and we can do that only by treading with great care.

I mention this to underline what a huge tragedy it is that the Assembly is suspended. As someone who does not live in Northern Ireland, I wonder whether things might be in a better place today if we had spent more time affirming the Assembly’s considerable accomplishments and less time criticising its politicians.

Let me add, I cannot understand why a mediator with stature—perhaps someone of the stature of Senator George Mitchell—has not been asked to spend time in Northern Ireland until they are able to find what the parameters of a new agreement might be. This is not an original idea; it has been canvassed in your Lordships’ House from all parts of the Chamber on a number of occasions, and it is about time that we did it.

I, along with many others, have supported and worked for the achievements of the Assembly, and the principles of devolution, for over four decades, during which some 3,600 people died and 48,000 people were injured. The noble Lord, Lord Murphy, achieved more than many of us, and the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, who spoke earlier on, has been properly lauded in many places, not least as a Nobel laureate, for his work in the Northern Ireland peace process and its accomplishments. We must not risk all of those achievements, and we need to consider the ways in which those achievements have been undermined, in some ways, as a result of the way the Bill was changed during the debate in the other place yesterday.

Conversely, while there have been a huge number of challenges facing Northern Ireland, and the noble Lord, Lord Empey, referred to some of those priorities earlier on, conversely, we have a Bill onto which two controversial issues have been placed. Amendments were selected which change the law on matters that were not in the scope of the Bill.

If the other place dispenses with the rule about scope, its procedures will become less rules based and more power based, and our politics will be impoverished as a result. Going forward, there seems to be no reason to bother with rules about scope, with any amendment being able to be tabled, regardless of the scope of the Bill.

That impoverishes the integrity of this Bill, but it also creates a real headache for the Government in the future, as they must now be ready to contemplate out-of-scope amendments to any Bill that comes forward.
One of the amendments selected yesterday, even though it changes the law in Northern Ireland, was new Clause 10, which requires the creation of regulations to implement the recommendation of a United Nations committee which proposes the decriminalisation of abortion.

Regardless of what one thinks about abortion, there is no human right to abortion. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has 30 articles, none of which suggests that there is a human right to abortion. This is a highly contested question which I will explore in a moment.

We have always treated Northern Ireland not as having to be in uniformity but as being different and having different cultural values. The law on abortion in Northern Ireland, with its distinct traditions and identity, is something about which many people in Northern Ireland hold a very different view from the views of the English metropolitan classes.

This was recognised in the 1967 Act by excluding Northern Ireland from its provisions, and Westminster has not sought to legislate in this area since the formation of Northern Ireland in 1921. As recently as 2016, moreover, the democratically elected Northern Ireland Assembly voted not to change its abortion law in any way.

This law is as important to the people of Northern Ireland now as it has been in the past. Last year, after speaking in Belfast and Lisbon, I was privileged to meet a cross-community delegation of women from Northern Ireland, who came to Westminster with a simple message: “Don’t meddle with our law”.

In making their case, they highlighted the seminal Both Lives Matter report, which found that 100,000 people are alive in Northern Ireland today who would not have been had they embraced the 1967 Act with the rest of us—an Act which has led, incidentally, to the ending of 9 million lives in Great Britain. That is one every three minutes, 600 every working day. To describe that law as progressive, as has been done from some quarters of your Lordships’ House today, is at the very minimum a contested question. Is it progressive to take the lives of 600 unborn babies every day?

When that report was published, complaints were made about the 100,000 figure, including to the Advertising Standards Authority. To be clear: after a five-month investigation involving health economists, the ASA ruled that 100,000 was a reasonable claim. In that context, we should not wonder that people in Northern Ireland hold their law in high regard, prizing it as a progressive, life-affirming statute of which many of them are proud.

Those women who came to Westminster highlighted the ComRes poll that the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, referred to earlier, which shows that 64% of people in Northern Ireland are opposed to Westminster intervening to change its law, rising to 66% of women and 72% of 18 to 32 year-olds. We should tread with care.

One might have assumed that anyone wishing to adjust the law would begin, as a matter of due process, with a public consultation with the people of Northern Ireland. No such consultation has taken place. I note in particular that there is no provision in the Bill to consult each of the individual Members of the Assembly, all duly elected, to establish whether they would be in a majority for changing the law on abortion.

Indeed, the first that anyone in Northern Ireland or anywhere else knew about new Clause 10 was last Thursday morning, when it was published on the Parliament website. Given the rules-based nature of our politics, it was expected not to be selected because it changes the law in relation to a matter that falls outside the scope of the Bill.

When Members in another place sought advice from the clerks, they were told that it was out of scope. Thus, despite the knowledge that the democratically elected Northern Ireland Assembly voted in 2016 by a clear majority not to change its law on abortion in any way—a fact that means that of all the UK jurisdictions Northern Ireland abortion law enjoys the most recent democratic sanction within the UK—and despite the fact that there was no public consultation and no warning, yesterday the other place voted to change the law.

To make matters even worse, 100% of those voting to change its laws represented constituencies from outside Northern Ireland and 100% of Northern Ireland Members of Parliament who were present voted against it. How can the British Parliament treat part of the United Kingdom with such utter contempt?

The unseemly haste with which this is being driven through both Houses—this pell-mell rush—feels more appropriate to the sort of emergency powers legislation that blighted Northern Ireland for so long. I was simply amazed to hear it suggested in the Commons that this is being done in the name of unionism.

To me, it feels more like ideology-driven colonialism of the worst kind. It is about uniformity, not unionism. I find it hard to conceive of any actions less likely to uphold the union. Since yesterday, I have been contacted by people in Northern Ireland who are resolutely appalled by the way they feel they have been treated.

Yesterday, the House of Commons abandoned something very important by deciding to proceed into this contested territory. This should be a matter for the people of Northern Ireland. It is in all our interests to see the devolved structures restored there; it is not in any of our interests to interfere in the way that we are being invited to do in this Bill as it currently stands.

Lord Alton of Liverpool
Before the Minister leaves that point, can I return to the point I made in my remarks? If legislation of this kind is being produced in Parliament, surely due process requires that there should be adequate scrutiny before amendments are made before the House of Commons or the House of Lords to be incorporated into legislation? Also, if these amendments, which were known about only as recently as last Thursday, are defective, why is it now the Government’s job to sort that out, when these were not government proposals in the first place?
Lord Duncan of Springbank
The thing to note is that these have now been voted on by the other place in a significant number. The majority is there. They will move forward in this way. We in this House cannot look to the other place and seek to undermine or strip out these particular parts; that would be a mistake of some significance.

Northern Ireland abortion statistics

British and Pakistan Governments and the Commonwealth Challenged In The British Parliament To Champion the Persecuted Minorities Of Pakistan; to uphold the ideals of Muhammad Ali Jinnah; and for Prince William to meet the minorities during his forthcoming visit.

House Magazine July 2nd 2019
Parliamentlive.tv – Download Available

https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/jKPzCvlGAfM2KxJSQ2c7y?domain=parliamentlive.tv – Download Available

Pakistan: Aid Programmes and Human Rights

02 July 2019 Volume 798
Question for Short Debate

6.30 pm

Asked by

Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the relationship between their aid programmes and human rights and the treatment of minorities in Pakistan, and in particular the case of Asia Bibi.


Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, Pakistan’s illustrious and enlightened founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, crafted a constitution which promised to uphold plurality, famously saying:

“You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State”

and that:

“Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life and their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste and creed”.

Tragically, 70 years later, Pakistan’s Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus and minorities, such as the last 4,000 remaining Kalash clinging to a precarious existence in three remote valleys, all face shocking persecution and discrimination.

Last week in Brussels, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, claimed that “individual incidents” of persecution were being whipped up by what he called “western interests”. He said they were comparable to knife crime in London. Try telling that to the two children forced to watch a lynch mob of 1,200 burn their parents alive. Pakistan fails the Jinnah test, not western interests, when no one is brought to justice for the murder of the Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti. It fails the Jinnah test when 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls are forcibly married and converted. It fails when, in Punjab, Sadaf Masih, a 13 year-old girl, is kidnapped, forcibly converted and married and when, in Sindh, the same thing happened to two Hindu girls. It fails when it ignores the National Action Plan’s requirement to stop anti-Ahmadi sectarian hate propaganda. It fails the Jinnah test when children from minorities are forced to work in brick kilns, workshops, and factories. It fails when Iqbal Masih, an incredibly brave 12 year-old Christian boy, is shot dead for rebelling against enslavement. It fails those minorities who are ghettoised into squalid colonies and forced to clean latrines and sweep streets and, notwithstanding Mr Qureshi’s assertion that “there is no truth” in stories of girls from minorities being sold in faith-led trafficking to Chinese gangs, saying that Pakistan “would never tolerate that”, we have evidence to the contrary.

I co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan Minorities and last autumn, with the co-chair, Jim Shannon MP, and Marie Rimmer MP, we heard horrific accounts of abductions, child marriages, rape and forced conversions and saw first-hand the appalling conditions in the apartheid-style “colonies” where many from the minorities are forced to live. We saw families living in hovels with dirt floors, in shacks without running water or electricity, with little education or health provision and in squalid and primitive conditions, all completely off the DfID radar. Thousands upon thousands of people are condemned to lives of destitution and misery. This left-over from the caste system is graphically illustrated by the case of a boy beaten and excluded from school for touching a water tap. Untouchability remains a curse.

As I asked on Saturday in a letter to the Foreign Secretary, if Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are to visit Pakistan, will they be visiting one of these colonies and meeting the minorities? Perhaps the Minister can tell us.

There is an old Punjabi saying that he who has not visited Lahore has not lived but, despite its Mogul glories, this is where, in 2016, 75 people, mainly women and children, were killed and more than 340 were injured while celebrating Easter in Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park.

Beyond the killings, everything is stacked against the minorities. Take the case of Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian woman who was incarcerated for nine years, sentenced to death for so-called blasphemy. In Islamabad, members of the Supreme Court promised our group that Asia Bibi’s case would finally go to appeal, and to their great credit they bravely defied rioters and lynch mobs. She was finally allowed to travel to Canada, although sadly the UK failed to take her. Do not underestimate the bravery of those judges. When Shahbaz Bhatti and his friend Salman Taseer, the Muslim governor of the Punjab, spoke up for Asia Bibi and called for reforms to the blasphemy laws, both men were murdered. Conversely, Mumtaz Qadri, who murdered Taseer, has been lionised and idolised as a hero.

Asia’s case is only one of many. Asia’s cell in the prison at Multan is already occupied by Shagufta Kauser, another illiterate Christian woman. She and her disabled husband, both unable to read or write, face execution for allegedly sending blasphemous texts in English. By some estimates, more than 70 people are currently on death row for alleged blasphemy crimes. What recent representations have we made about Shagufta Kauser and the need to reform laws that frequently target minorities?

In 2016, after seeing fleeing Christians and Ahmadis caged like animals in detention centres, which my noble friend Lady Cox has also visited, I chaired an inquiry on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, who is here today. Our report catalogued systematic persecution and the failure of Home Office country guidance to recognise the nature of this persecution. We concluded that,

“we need to dispense with the fiction that the … minorities are treated fairly and justly. There is outright persecution and we should not hesitate in saying so”.

Following the Sri Lanka Easter bombings, some of those escapees now face even greater danger. In 2016 we recommended that Home Office interviewers, caseworkers and presenting officers needed better training in understanding that persecution. The report also urged DfID to ensure that overseas aid is provided in Pakistan only to recipients able to demonstrate their commitment to upholding Pakistan’s international human rights obligations, not least Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to believe, not to believe, or to change your belief.

Over the past decade, £2.6 billion of British aid has poured into Pakistan—on average, that is £383,000 every single day—but failure to differentiate how and where we spend that money leads DfID to say that it has no idea how much of the aid reaches these destitute, desperate minorities. Disturbingly, last week the National Audit Office, after highlighting an example from Pakistan, said that,

“overall government is not in a position to be confident that the portfolio in its totality is securing value for money”.

I welcome the decision last week of the International Development Committee of the House of Commons to conduct an inquiry into British aid to Pakistan. It should also look at the work of Professor Brian Grim on 173 countries, which found that where minorities are respected and religious freedom upheld, that,

“contributes to better economic and business outcomes”,

and to,

“successful and sustainable enterprises that benefit societies and individuals”.

I hope that new Ministers in the department will reassess how DfID spends UK money, why it does not target beleaguered minorities and why it is not made conditional on the removal of hate material from school textbooks and discriminatory adverts reserving menial jobs for minorities. I hope they will insist that the provision of an affirmative action programme, endorsed by the constitution, is implemented.

Pakistan must challenge forced conversions, forced marriage and the prevailing culture of impunity. I took evidence from a man who had escaped from Pakistan who had seen another man and his family burned alive. That man went to the police, who in turn informed the assailants, having told him that he would be next. He and his young family fled the country.

Our all-party group has also been told of widespread and systematic police brutality and torture. We were told about the beatings of victims who were hung by their arms or feet for hours on end, forced to witness the torture of others and, in some cases, stripped naked and paraded in public. Such brutal treatment needs to be investigated by an independent, autonomous national commission for minorities such as that proposed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in 2014 and established in accordance with the Paris principles.

When the Minister replies to our welcome debate, I hope that we will hear how our Government will work to make these things happen and to create the kind of society envisaged by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, where Pakistan’s beleaguered minorities are at last treated with respect as equals and fellow citizens. I thank all noble Lords who are participating in today’s short but welcome debate.

6.39 pm

Lord McInnes of Kilwinning (Con)
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for bringing this important debate before us today and for his dedication to bringing injustices across the world before your Lordships’ House.

At the heart of all we do as part of our important role as an international aid superpower must be constant self-evaluation to ensure that our aid programmes are achieving results in the context of each state that we help. At the same time, we must be aware of the important soft power that international aid allows us in improving lives for everyone in any state we help, including minorities. How to ensure that aid is concentrated on those who really need it in any state is a significant debate within the international aid community. This applies especially to minorities, who are often among the most marginalised in any society.

I do not want to repeat in this short contribution the powerful evidence that we have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and, as has been identified by the Foreign Office, that Pakistan is currently woeful in its treatment of minorities. From state-sponsored blasphemy laws to the death penalty, we see how a state creates an easy mechanism for the persecution of religious minorities, especially Christians and Hindus.

In Pakistan, most of these minorities are among the third of the population who live in poverty and who should be the very people benefiting from our aid programmes. At the same time, Pakistan is of course an important strategic partner for the UK and a state that receives significant support in aid—more than £300 million in 2019-20. The reassurances that I seek from the Minister are around the direction of that aid.

I applaud the focusing of UK international development on education, especially for girls in Pakistan, to ensure they have as many opportunities as possible. I hope that an educated population would by its nature become more pluralistic and less susceptible to the persecution of minorities in these difficult times. I want to ask the Minister about three specific issues.

First, is my noble friend confident that aid in Pakistan is reaching those minorities within the bottom third who live in poverty? It is essential that any aid be focused on need and not on ethnicity or religion. Secondly, can she reassure me that educational programmes that the UK supports in Pakistan are assessed to ensure that they do not allow bigotry or sectarianism to be taught in any UK-funded educational programme? Thirdly, will she impress on her colleagues in the Foreign Office the need to ensure that we make all possible representations against the misuse of blasphemy laws and the retention of the death penalty?

6.43 pm

The Lord Bishop of Coventry
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Alton, to whom I pay great tribute for securing this debate, I believe that there was a strong case for Asia Bibi and her household to have been offered asylum by Her Majesty’s Government. In my contact with the family spokesperson, he was clear that the UK was their preferred destination.

I am troubled by how parliamentarians can hold the Government to account in cases such as this when we are told that live cases are not open to discussion. That sense of dis-ease is reinforced by the absence of evidence of diplomatic activity in the Asia Bibi case before it became an international news story.

Last week, I was speaking to a bishop from south Punjab, who said, “There are many Asia Bibis here”. There are many, too, in interior Sindh who suffer similar plights but do so hidden from the world’s media and Governments, their cases not reported. He described the spectre of blasphemy charges hanging over Hindu and Christian families who speak out against injustice or crime. He spoke of Christian girls being abducted into sexual slavery—in a way which we have already heard about—and then forced to convert, their families powerless to defend them because of the threat of the abuse of blasphemy laws.

The bishop’s deepest concerns—and it is an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord McInnes—were about the effective denial of education for many children from religious minorities, causing them to descend deeper into permanent spirals of poverty and depression. His account was a graphic illustration of the findings of the 2018 CSW report, which tells of bias, discrimination and abuse undermining the constitutional commitments of the Pakistani Government regardless of religion or caste.

DfID is doing much good work in supporting the general aspirations of the Pakistani Government, but I am not yet persuaded that mechanisms are in place to ensure that our aid is addressing the concerns of the bishop and his people and the noble Lord, Lord McInnes, and the needs of other minority people in south Punjab. The ePact evaluation of phase 2 of the Punjab education sector programme deems:

“Inequities in educational access and attainment are persisting”.

It recommends both that equity of access, including socioeconomic status, disability and gender, are mainstreamed and that systems are devised for assessing the success in doing so. Will this advice be applied to future DfID programmes? Does the Minister agree that that task cannot be done without building in some element of minority community criteria? Is the current programme hitting the spot?

6.46 pm

Lord Hussain (LD)
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this debate. Pakistan is a big country with a population of 200 million people. Minorities, including Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and others constitute about 3.5% of the total population of the country. There are several hundred places of worship across Pakistan that belong to various religious minorities. Various articles in the constitution of Pakistan, such as Articles 20, 21, 22, 26, 27 and 28, accord rights to minorities as equal citizens of the country, free to profess their religions and visit their places of worship.

Minorities have visible representation in the parliamentary set-up of Pakistan. There are special reserved seats for minorities in all houses of representatives: four seats in the Pakistan Senate, 10 in the National Assembly, and eight in the Punjab, nine in the Sindh and three each in the Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies. On top of that, minorities are free to stand in any elections as citizens of Pakistan, and they do get elected.

It is important to mention here that there is a 5% jobs quota in the public sector in Pakistan allocated to the minority communities, which constitute only 3.5% of the total population of the country. Furthermore, 11 August is observed as Minorities Day. There is a special ministry at the federal level, called the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony, which looks after minorities’ rights in the country.

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan. It arouses sentiments among the general populace that have led to death and destruction in Pakistan, sadly. Many in Pakistan believe that their country’s blasphemy law is misunderstood, as if it protects only Muslims. In reality, however, it protects all Pakistanis equally. According to the official figures, the majority, 95%, of those accused under the blasphemy law are Muslims. The maximum penalty under the blasphemy law is death but, as I understand, no one has ever been executed by a court of law under this section. I stand to be corrected.

While I very much appreciate DfID’s support in education, reducing poverty, building resilience and many other important sectors in the poorest areas of Pakistan, will the Minister say what Her Majesty’s Government can do to help the democratic Government in Pakistan and support their endeavours to make the country more peaceful, tolerant and prosperous?

6.49 pm

Baroness Cox (CB)
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for securing this important debate. As he emphasised, the brutal application of sharia law, in conjunction with the failure of the authorities to ensure due legal process, has resulted in horrendous violence. Blasphemy laws have been used by extremists as a pretext for murder. Young girls have been abducted and forced to change their religion or have been forced into marriage. Others are in prison or have been sentenced to death for apostasy.

Countless families have been forced to leave their homeland. For example, as my noble friend said, thousands of Christians have sought asylum in Thailand. They arrive in Bangkok on cheap tourist visas, but as soon as their visa expires they are technically classified as illegal aliens and are subject to arrest and detention in horrendous conditions. Given the plight of Pakistani refugees in Thailand, have Her Majesty’s Government raised concerns with UNHCR about the failure to resettle them in safe countries?

I had the painful privilege of meeting some of the families who had escaped to Bangkok. I sat and wept with those who have endured horrendous suffering. One man, called Cale, was accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. He described how he was arrested by the police and taken to a remote location where he was tortured, hanged upside down, shackled and beaten for seven days. After a month in prison he was cleared of the charges, yet the local mob wanted to kill him. He told me, “They want to punish me with a very painful death such as no one has ever seen before. They want to kill me in a way that the Christian community will always remember”.

I also met a courageous man called Hosea. He was kidnapped by a mob in Pakistan for being an apostate. The mob shackled him with metal chains and attempted to amputate his leg. He eventually escaped with his wife to Thailand, but his relatives in Pakistan are still in danger. He told me, weeping: “Even last week my brother and my 16 month-old nephew were taken captive. They grabbed the baby, repeatedly smashed him into a wall and demanded to know my whereabouts”.

These testimonies are indicative of the wider context of Pakistan’s serious violations of human rights, yet our abject refusal to insist that minorities are prioritised only reinforces Pakistan’s culture of impunity because it gives the impression that the UK does not care when victims are subjected to unspeakable violence. Where is British aid money being spent? Will Her Majesty’s Government specifically tackle the plight of minorities? That includes support for adherents of different religious faiths who suffer at the hands of extremists, including Shia and Ahmadi Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists as well as Christians.

On a related point, which was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, did Her Majesty’s Government refuse asylum to Asia Bibi because of fear that that would prompt unrest in the UK and attacks on embassies? If that is so, does the Minister agree that such an appeasement of militant extremism indicates a serious threat to our democracy and a betrayal of the fundamental principle of providing asylum for refugees under threat of death?

6.52 pm

Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB)
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton on securing this important debate, and pay tribute to the wonderful work that he does in the field of human rights.

When India was partitioned in 1947, as we have heard, the founding father of the new state of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, then terminally ill, said that it would be a country that respected all its minorities. He did not live to see his hope tragically ignored. A rigid and intolerant form of Islam, Wahhabism, funded by Saudi dollars, now pervades the country.

Strict blasphemy laws are used to prevent open discussion of religion, and the death penalty can apply to Muslims who try to convert to a different faith. As we have heard, a convert to Christianity, Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, spent nine years on death row before eventually being allowed to flee to Canada. Others have not been so fortunate. In one case, children were made to watch as their parents were burnt alive in a brick kiln. Minorities are frequently allocated menial tasks such as the cleaning of public latrines. Homes of minorities are frequently attacked and women and girls kidnapped and converted or sold into slavery.

I have at times questioned the appropriateness of Pakistan, with its ill treatment of minorities, still being a member of the Commonwealth, a club of countries with historic ties to Britain. Members are required to abide by the Commonwealth charter, with core values of opposition to,

“all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds”.

By any measure, there is a clear case for expelling Pakistan from the Commonwealth, but this will not help its suffering minorities and could make their plight worse. The way forward is to look beyond charters and lofty declarations to clear targets and measures of performance for all erring members—Pakistan is by no means the only one—to nudge them to respect human rights. We must also target aid to specific projects geared to fight religious bigotry and prejudice.

Pakistan is a country revered by every Sikh as the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith. He taught reconciliation and respect between different faiths. In this, the 550th year of the Guru’s birth, the Prime Minister Imran Khan, in welcoming Sikhs to visit the birthplace of their founder, stated his desire to move in this direction, and we owe it to Pakistan’s minorities to redouble our efforts to help him and nudge him to do so.

6.55 pm

Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
My Lords, I was talking recently to a distinguished Pakistan citizen, with businesses around the world. I asked him what life was like in Pakistan at the moment. “Just like here”, he said. “Really” I said, “what about the blasphemy law, and the people suffering under it”? “Oh”, he said, with a rather dismissive wave of the hand, “It’s the uneducated people in the villages”. I am afraid it is all too easy for the elites, whether in Pakistan or this country, to live in an environment divorced from the reality of life for so many. The fact is that the blasphemy law in Pakistan is blighting the lives of countless people, causing apprehension, anxiety and in some cases imprisonment and death. Too many, like the government Minister mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, live in a cocooned world of their own and have shut their eyes to what is happening in the countryside.

As we know, Pakistan is a country with a number of minority groups. Between 0.22 and 2.2 percent of the population are Ahmadiyya Muslims, although they are actually forbidden by law from even describing themselves as Muslims. Some 2.6 percent of the population are Christian, about 2.5 million in all.

Between 1987 and 2017, 1,500 people or more were charged with blasphemy: 730 were Muslims, 501 were Ahmadis, 205 were Christians and 26 were Hindus. Although, as the noble Lord, Lord Hussain, said, no judicial executions have yet taken place, at least 75 people involved in accusations of blasphemy were murdered before their trials were over, and as we have heard, prominent figures who opposed the blasphemy law have been assassinated. It is this mob violence, so vividly brought home by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, which is so frightening. It affects not just the accused and their family but anyone who stands up for them, especially any lawyer or judge.

We rejoice that Asia Bidi is now safe and in Canada with her family, but we cannot forget the suffering that she had in the years before. We cannot forget that the Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, who spoke against the blasphemy law, was assassinated as a result. We know that the blasphemy law is being used to settle grievances and vendettas in villages. We look to the elite in Pakistan to open their eyes to what is happening. It is quite wrong for successive Governments to refuse to stand up to religious extremism and intimidation. In negotiations about aid, we look to the British Government to make it quite clear that this law causes untold suffering and is totally unacceptable. I hope that the Minister will take from this debate a clear message that aid needs to be directed towards minorities.

6.59 pm

Lord Sheikh (Con)
My Lords, I accept and respect everyone, irrespective of race, colour, creed or caste; I have been brought up in a multiracial community. I have been concerned about the persecution of Christians and other minority groups in different parts of the world, including Pakistan. I have met Muslim and non-Muslim leaders and spoken on this issue at several meetings. I am looking forward to the Bishop of Truro’s final report. I am in touch with the Pakistani high commissioner, who has taken numerous initiatives towards promoting interfaith harmony.

The rights of minorities are protected under the constitution of Pakistan. Articles 33, 36 and 37 provide legal protection to minorities. The Pakistani Government have established legislative measures that promote and protect minorities’ rights. There is political will on the part of Pakistan’s Government to improve the position regarding the rights of minorities. As far as Christians are concerned, Islam considers them as people of the Book, and the Books of Allah include the Holy Koran, the Torah, the Gospel of Jesus and the Psalms of David. It would therefore be wrong to subject Christians to any discrimination.

The problem unfortunately is with certain religious and community leaders who are insular and have their own agenda. It is necessary therefore to change the culture and attitude of these people, and we need to support Pakistan in this regard. I met Dr Shoaib Suddle in the House of Lords following his appointment as the chair of a commission for minority religious equalities. He personally reached out and briefed me and other partners in the UK, earning our support for his proposed activities. He has a long-term programme of work, which will include implementing reforms for the freedom and protection of minorities in Pakistan. This will be consistent with words spoken by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his speech on 11 August 1947:

“You are free. You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan … We are all … equal citizens”,

as a nation in the state of Pakistan. I very much hope that this vision is now achieved.

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7.01 pm

Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating this debate. Pakistan has the opportunity to be a great country, but presently its development is limited by an overpowerful military interfering in democracy and a lack of respect for the rule of law and human rights. This is most obvious in its treatment of minorities. As we have heard, 95% of the people are Muslim, and Pakistan has recently created a sense of exclusionary nationalism focused on a definition of Muslimness which has had a dire effect on the status of minority groups, as declared by Minority Rights Group International in 2018.

We have heard that Pakistan was founded on religious tolerance, but recent years have seen the problems of extremism and of minorities being persecuted increase significantly. On human trafficking, the Government said recently:

“The UK Government’s approach to tackling modern slavery … in Pakistan is to reduce the permissive environment through community-based activities and to strengthen legislative and policy frameworks for more effective”,

protection of those affected.

A reasonable question for the Minister is: against a background of worsening religious persecution, what confidence do the Government have that their anti-trafficking programmes can deliver value for money when the structures of the state seem to be undermining them? The Government insist that their aid programmes are blind to religion and are determined by need and need alone. This is for entirely understandable reasons, not least wishing to avoid giving preferential treatment to people of a particular religion, which could easily be viewed as discrimination, but the “need not creed” approach is failing Pakistani minorities. The most marginalised and persecuted groups are most commonly defined by their religion. In Pakistan, blindness to religion is hindering our ability to help. Consider the case of the more than 1,000 Pakistani Christian girls trafficked to China since 2018. The traffickers are specifically targeting Christians, even waiting outside churches with signs promising Chinese Christian husbands. This an example of faith-targeted human trafficking. The UK’s anti-trafficking programme is well established in Pakistan, but if it remains blind to religion it will be less effective as a result. I serve as a trustee of an anti-human trafficking charity, the Arise Foundation. It summarised the problem, that,

“prevention work is most effective when it addresses why people are at-risk. If our aid programmes remain blind to the fact that the faith of these girls is putting them at risk, how can they possibly be effective?”

So I put that question to the Minister today: what steps are being taken to incorporate religion as an indicator of vulnerability in Pakistan? No one wants our aid programme to discriminate unjustly, but if a misplaced sense of political correctness is preventing us from reaching these girls and others like them, I would argue that we need to change our mentality, fast.

I wonder about the apparent blind eye that is being turned. The Pakistan Foreign Minister said last week that there was no truth to the reports that I have just outlined, but I have had a report from a senior official in Pakistan who told me directly that the reports were credible and that 65 Chinese and 16 Pakistani nationals have been arrested already within the ongoing investigations. Can the UK confirm whether it believes the reports or finds that there is evidence for them? I think there is good evidence, as has been said, that we need to target our aid wisely and reset the dial for the strategy of suspending it.

7.05 pm

Baroness Sheehan (LD)
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this debate. According to DfID’s development tracker, almost one-third of Pakistan’s population, about 60 million people, live in poverty, 22.6 million children do not go to school and half the population cannot read or write. Moreover, Pakistan carries a high risk of natural disasters—2010 saw the worst floods in its history, killing thousands and affecting 23 million people—and it is a little-known fact that the country copes with the second highest number of refugees in the world.

Given its obvious need and our joint history, there can be little argument about the legitimacy of the aid that Pakistan receives, so long as it is properly audited and adheres to the overarching principle of the UN sustainable development goals that no one is left behind, and that includes vulnerable minorities. I hope the Minister will address the issues raised today.

There is one point about the treatment of minorities that I do not think has been mentioned yet: the prevalence of the problem on a regional level. India’s record is worsening year on year, such that in the world watch list by Open Doors it now ranks in 10th place and the BJP-led Government promote the message that to be Indian one must be Hindu. Myanmar is another case in point, where national Buddhists see any non-Buddhists as unwelcome outsiders, and that includes Muslims, Christians and Hindus. Add to that list Nepal, Bhutan and Turkey, all of whose leaders have found that appealing to national religious identity is a way to boost their power, especially in rural regions. What work are our Government doing on a regional level to promote interfaith understanding and tolerance, particularly in rural areas?

I want to be absolutely clear: I abhor the use of the death penalty wherever it is employed, and utterly condemn the misuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. But is there hope that change is coming? As ever, to enact change, leadership is essential, and the courage of the judges in upholding the acquittal of Asia Bibi is commendable. That took real courage, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has pointed out, given the fate of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, two brave politicians who spoke up on Asia Bibi’s behalf and were consequently murdered. Does the Minister believe that the new Government in Pakistan are indicating that they want to change the direction of travel and move away from extremism? If so, that is the vision of Pakistan that we must help to promulgate. It is a geopolitical necessity for us.

7.08 pm

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating this debate. He set out clear evidence of discrimination and human rights abuses in Pakistan.

As we have heard, humanitarian and development support for its people is evident. One-third of them live in poverty, half the population cannot read or write and one in 11 children die before their fifth birthday. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, reminded us, Pakistan is the largest recipient of direct UK aid. Part of that ODA is channelled through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund CAPRI project, the stated aim of which is to increase Pakistan’s capacity to “investigate, detain and prosecute” suspected terrorists. In her letter to me of 13 June regarding my questions on this subject, the Minister wrote that all such projects have robust measures in place to protect human rights and that she was confident that the CAPRI programme has been delivered in a way that is consistent with the UK’s opposition to the death penalty. What are those robust measures? Will the noble Baroness explain exactly what they are tonight?

Last month, the annual review summary for the UK-funded rule of law programme in Pakistan revealed that the full report, which remains undisclosed, accepts that “human rights risks” are,

“a concern which we continue to stress”.

The Government have consistently said that they want UK aid to be more transparent. Will they demonstrate their commitment to this by publishing the full report for scrutiny by Parliament?

I conclude by repeating some of the remarks made by other noble Lords, particularly about the Asia Bibi case. We are all pleased that she has now safely relocated with her family to Canada but, as we have been reminded, there are 70 other cases that do not get the same publicity. What representations have we made to the Government of Pakistan in respect of each of those cases?

7.11 pm

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Sugg) (Con)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for tabling this debate, and join the tributes made to him for his work on Pakistan and human rights more widely. I also thank all noble Lords for contributing to this short debate. There has been lots to say and not very long to say it in. I share the concerns that all have expressed about minorities in Pakistan. Nobody should face discrimination because of their religion, let alone the examples we have heard tonight of trafficking, forced marriage, forced conversion or threatened or actual violence. Freedom of religious belief is a high priority for the Government’s work in Pakistan. We raise it regularly at the highest levels of government and support grassroots campaigning with our programmes. We continue to urge the Government of Pakistan to guarantee the rights of all people in Pakistan, particularly the most vulnerable, as laid down in the constitution, highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in his opening speech.

We have heard much distressing testimony and evidence tonight, but there is some hope. The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, asked about the new Government and whether they wanted to change direction. Prime Minister Khan has stated his desire for a more tolerant and pluralistic Pakistan. We welcome his commitments to improve transparency and inclusion. Some progress has been made to date on the passing of a new Child Marriage Restraint Act and the issuing of 3,000 visas to allow Indian Sikhs to make pilgrimage to Pakistan, but there is clearly more to be done, and we continue to support the Government to implement other commitments, including the creation of a commission on minorities, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the Christian divorce bill.

The noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord McInnes, the noble and right reverend Lord Harries and many other noble Lords raised the blasphemy laws. We remain deeply concerned by the misuse of those laws, and that religious minorities, including Christians, are disproportionately affected. The harsh penalties for blasphemy, including the death sentence, add to these concerns. The long-term objective is to overturn these draconian laws, which are used not just against minority communities but against Muslims, as the noble Lord, Lord Hussain, highlighted. My noble friend Lord Ahmad raised our concerns about freedom of religion or belief, the blasphemy laws and the protection of minority religious communities with Pakistan’s Human Rights Commissioner in February 2019. The Foreign Secretary raised those concerns with Foreign Minister Qureshi during his recent visit. We will continue to urge Pakistan to strengthen the protection of minorities, to explain the steps being taken to tackle the abuse of the blasphemy laws and to honour in practice its human rights obligations.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and others asked where in Pakistan aid, DfID money, is being spent and whether we are specifically targeting minorities of all faiths. We have a number of programmes which directly target and benefit minorities. Our new AAWAZ II programme will address a range of modern slavery issues, including child labour and forced or early marriage. Our first AAWAZ programme saw great success, holding community forums and peace festivals and supporting a national anti-hate speech campaign. That programme developed early response mechanisms to try to pre-empt some of the violent conflict we have seen and really work on interfaith and intrafaith conflicts and community dialogue.

In the first AAWAZ programme, we specifically developed and disseminated key messages on non-violence and tolerance in communities. We have also funded a survey on women’s well-being in Punjab, including Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, and trained nearly 6,000 people from minority groups through the Punjab Skills Development Fund. As I said, the new AAWAZ II programme is currently under development, and we will ensure that it definitely reaches the people who need it.

Several noble Lords raised the issue of data collection. It is the case that for our bilateral programmes we do not currently have a breakdown by religion. That is not because we do not see the issue of treatment of minorities as important; it is due to the sensitive nature of collecting data. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, highlighted this. There are a number of reasons for this lack of reliable data—sadly, people are reluctant to declare—but we are working proactively to improve this. We recently had some success in collecting more and better-quality data on people with disabilities in Pakistan. We learned from that and will build on it to focus our energy on collecting data from other vulnerable and minority groups. It will be challenging, but we have learned lessons which can be applied to other groups.

We are working very closely with a number of NGOs to help to target minorities, and I agree with the right reverend Prelate that we must do more to focus our programming on minorities. I talked about our AWAAZ programme. That funded four NGOs that work specifically with religious minorities: the South Asia Partnership, Aurat Foundation, the Sarhad Rural Support Programme, and Strengthening Participatory Organization. This made a vital contribution to the programme’s work to raise the voice of poor and excluded people in Pakistan, increase their choices and give them control. As I said, as we develop our successive programme, AWAAZ II, we are looking to identify NGO delivery partners to continue this vital work on inclusion.

I reassure my noble friend Lord McInnes that our development assistance really targets the poor, regardless of race, religion, social background or nationality. We know that those affected by discrimination are likely to be among the poorest. We know, and our NGO partners have confirmed, that our focus on the poorest and most marginalised ensures that we benefit minority groups.

We should not forget, as many noble Lords have said, that being in the religious majority does not prevent many millions of Pakistanis from suffering poverty and its consequences. As has been highlighted, almost a third of Pakistan’s population live in poverty. It is therefore right, and indeed in keeping with Christian values, that we should provide support to people in need, whatever their religious background.

The noble Lord, Lord Hussain, asked about the result of our aid. Since 2011, we have seen real success. UK aid has supported primary education for 10 million children, skills training for almost 250,000 people and microfinance loans for 6.6 million people. We cast a wide net, and justifiably so, but within that net we ensure that minorities receive our help.

My noble friend Lord McInnes asked about education. We have a strong programme of work on education within Pakistan. We have helped provincial governments to review primary curricula and textbooks in English, Urdu, mathematics and science. This has included a reduction in religious content, removal of discriminatory content and the inclusion of new content to promote knowledge, understanding and respect. We have also helped governments to set and implement systems and standards to help remove that discriminatory content. We have trained nearly 100,000 teachers in equity and inclusion and worked with civil society organisations to champion issues of inclusion, but that is a work in progress, and we will continue on that project.

The right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, asked about the asylum offer for Asia Bibi. The UK Government’s primary concern has always been the safety and well-being of Asia Bibi. We were in close and extensive contact with a range of international partners to ensure a positive outcome, and of course her acquittal and release were good news for all those who campaigned on her behalf.

The noble Lords, Lord Hussain and Lord Sheikh, asked what we are doing specifically to support the Government of Pakistan in this area. We are working with that Government to support projects to tackle child abuse and modern slavery by empowering communities to realise their rights, helping to increase citizens’ awareness of their fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution and lobbying to reduce the scope and scale of the death penalty. We also supported a national human rights conference in October 2018 to commemorate the late human rights activist Asma Jahangir. That is on top of the wider profile of HMG programmes that seek to counter violent extremism, strengthen the rule of law, improve government services, reduce poverty and deliver education.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, raised the issue of refugees in Thailand. We have raised our concerns with the Government of Thailand about the detention of foreign nationals seeking refugee status, including of course the nationals of Pakistan. We have repeatedly urged Thailand to sign the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and have closely followed the detention of around 100 people, mainly from Pakistan, in October last year. We do not believe that those actions were aimed at a specific group or groups but apply to anyone deemed an illegal visa overstayer. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is working very closely with the Royal Thai Government on asylum and resettlement issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Singh, raised the issue of the importance of the Commonwealth. That is an organisation where we have a strong voice, and we should continue to take action on freedom of religion and belief. DfID works closely with the FCO to raise concerns on freedom of religion or belief with partner Commonwealth Governments. Heads of the Commonwealth have recognised that freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of religion or belief are cornerstones of democratic societies and are fundamental to achieving the sustainable development goals. The UK funds the Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy, which is promoting freedom of religion and belief in the Commonwealth during our Chair-in-Office period.

The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, asked about trafficking and modern slavery. We are deeply concerned about the reports of trafficking, and we continue to urge Pakistani authorities to investigate and take action as needed. As the noble Lord highlighted, our approach is to reduce the permissive environment through community-based activities, but we are also providing support to the Government of Pakistan to tackle modern slavery, including trafficking, more effectively. We recently provided support and advice to enable the recent passage of the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2018 and the Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act 2018, which provide a stronger legislative framework for the effective prevention of trafficking. The AAWAZ II programme that I mentioned earlier will address a range of modern slavery issues, including child labour and forced and early marriage. As the noble Lord highlights, there is some deeply concerning evidence that we have seen on that. We will continue to work with the Government of Pakistan on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, highlighted the report by the Bishop of Truro that was commissioned by the Foreign Secretary, and we look forward to its publication. We have seen the interim report, and I think it is going to be a really important piece of work that looks at how we as a Government target our activity on freedom of religion or belief. We very much look forward to that report, which will be released shortly.

There is also the International Development Committee’s inquiry on aid to Pakistan. We look forward to the hard questions that it is going to ask. That will be welcome scrutiny. We work hard to ensure that our aid is targeted properly, but the more conversations such as this and the more scrutiny that we can have, the better, because that will help us to improve.

We actively make the case whenever we can that the most stable societies are those that uphold the right of freedom of religious belief. Our substantial aid programme has helped us to position ourselves as a partner of choice for the Government of Pakistan. That allows us the access to raise these issues at the highest level and to provide advice and assistance to support the implementation of reforms. We have promoted, and will continue to promote, the rights of all Pakistanis as part of our effort to make the best use of every penny of aid to work towards a prosperous, stable and inclusive Pakistan. We should also welcome the royal visit to Pakistan, which will highlight the relationship between our two countries. I am afraid that I do not yet have details of the programme but I know the Foreign Secretary will respond to the noble Lord’s letter in due course.

I understand the frustration that we are not doing more and that we are not moving more quickly; the message tonight has been clear. However, through our programmes, our partnerships and our diplomatic relationships, we target minorities where we can and continue to build the data picture so that we can do so more effectively. I agree with my noble friend Lord McInnes that we must keep our programmes under constant review, and we do so.

I think we are making progress with DfID in Pakistan. We are seeing some positive outcomes. I speak to the team there on a regular basis, and their commitment and diligence on this is clear. We are working hard to identify and reach those most in need in what is a very complex and challenging environment, from both a data and an operating perspective. I know there is more to do on that, but I hope the Committee will recognise the work of the DfID team in Pakistan as we continue to make progress. As I say, it is slow going, but the commitment will continue from both DfID staff and myself to ensure that our aid programmes in Pakistan and indeed elsewhere really reach the people who are in desperate need of our help.

I think I am out of time. I hope I have answered the majority of the questions.

Lord Collins of Highbury
Not mine

Baroness Sugg

Not yours; I apologise. The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, raised the issue of the regional picture and what we are doing in rural areas. I will probably follow that up in writing, if that is okay. On the noble Lord’s question, we work to assess and analyse before we start programmes. I will see if I have anything further to add to the letter that I wrote to provide him with more reassurance, but I will have to do that in writing as well, I am afraid.

Again, I thank noble Lords. There has been a lot of interest in this debate as it is an incredibly important issue. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who provides the very helpful service of keeping me updated on the deeply concerning evidence and testimonies on this issue. I hope I have provided some assurance of the work that we are doing and will continue to do. I will continue to work very closely with my noble friend Lord Ahmad, who is the PM’s special envoy on this issue, the Foreign Office and the DfID teams in Pakistan to ensure that with all our programming we help the one-third of Pakistanis who need our help, but also ensure that it gets to the minorities who need it.

Committee adjourned at 7.27 pm.

Forthcoming July 2nd Parliamentary Debate about the plight of Pakistan’s Minorities and the UK’s £2 billion aid to Pakistan – and the treatment of Asia Bibi. Forthcoming article from Parliament’s House Magazine. Some of the Questions and Interventions on behalf of persecuted Pakistanis.

House of Lords Business: Tuesday July 2nd 2019
Debates
Question for Short Debate

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the relationship between their aid programmes and human rights and the treatment of minorities in Pakistan, and in particular the case of Asia Bibi. (1 hour)

Article for The House magazine

David Alton

Next Tuesday the Lords will have a short debate on the plight of Pakistan’s minorities, whose shocking treatment came into sharp focus through the case of Asia Bibi – wrongly condemned to death and incarcerated for nine years under Pakistan’s Blasphemy laws. Pakistan’s Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and other minorities, like the last remaining 4,000 Kalash, clinging to a precarious existence in three remote valleys of Pakistan, all face shocking persecution. and discrimination.

Last autumn, during a visit to Islamabad and Lahore, with two members of the Commons, Marie Rimmer and Jim Shannon, our group saw first-hand, the appalling conditions in the apartheid-style “colonies” in which many from the minorities are forced to live.

We saw families living in hovels with dirt floors, in shacks without running water or electricity; little education or health provision; squalid and primitive conditions – all completely off the DFID radar. Thousands upon thousands of people are condemned to lives of destitution and misery.

We heard first hand testimonies – including horrific accounts of abductions, child marriages, rape and forced conversions – met politicians, religious leaders, and activists from civil society.

We were able to meet members of the Supreme Court and were given a promise that Asia Bibi’s case would finally go to appeal.

It is to the great credit of Pakistan’s most senior Judges that they defied rioters and lynch mobs and that Asia, and her children were finally allowed to travel to Canada – although, sadly, the UK refused to take her.

Don’t under-estimate the bravery of the decision of those Judges.

When the Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, and his friend, Salman Taseer, the Muslim Governor of the Punjab, spoke up for Asia Bibi, and called for reforms to the Blasphemy Laws, both, men were murdered.

And Asia’s case is only one of many.

By some estimates, more than 70 people are currently on death-row for alleged blasphemy crimes. Asia’s cell in the prison at Multan is already occupied by another illiterate Christian woman. She, and her disabled husband – both unable to read or write – face execution for allegedly sending blasphemous texts in English.

Over several years I have raised Asia Bibi’s case and called for reforms to protect minorities – in line with the founding principles of Pakistan – set out in Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s commendable Constitution.

But those principles have proved worthless to the two children forced to watch a lynch mob of 1,200 burn alive their parents; worthless, when no one is brought to justice for the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti; worthless, when 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls are forcibly married and converted; worthless to Sadaf Masih, a 13-year old girl who was kidnapped, forcibly converted and married earlier this year in Punjab and to two Hindu girls, kidnapped, forcibly converted, and married within hours in Sindh; worthless to the children from minorities working in brick kilns, workshops,

factories or as domestic servants; worthless to Iqbal Masih, an incredibly brave 12-year-old Christian boy, shot dead for rebelling

against enslavement; worthless to girls from minorities now being sold in faith-led trafficking to Chinese gangs; and worthless to minorities who are ghettoised into squalid colonies and forced to clean latrines and sweep streets.

Over the past decade, £2.6 billion of British aid has poured into Pakistan – on average, that is £383,000 every single day. But failure to differentiate how and where we spend this money leads DFID to say that it has no idea how much of the aid reaches these destitute, desperate minorities.
Disturbingly, last week, the National Audit Office, after highlighting an example from Pakistan, says “overall government is not in a position to be confident that the portfolio in its totality is securing value for money.”
Note too, the findings of Professor Grim who examined economic growth in 173 countries and found that where minorities are shown respect and their religious freedom upheld he found that it “contributes to better economic and business outcomes” and to “successful and sustainable enterprises that benefit societies and individuals.”

The British Government must reassess the basis on which it spends UK money; why it doesn’t reach beleaguered minorities; insist on the removal of hate material from text books in schools and colleges; protest against discriminatory adverts reserving menial jobs for the minorities; ask why the provision of an affirmative action programme, endorsed by the Constitution is not implemented; and ask what we have done to help those who have fled.

And Pakistan only needs to re-examine its own foundation principles to see that they are failing their minorities who face shocking discrimination and outright persecution. How a country treats its minorities is always a crucial litmus test.

David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool) is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Pakistan Minorities.

jinnah

https://www.thefridaytimes.com/christians-required-only-as-sweepers/

ALSO SEE:
https://davidalton.net/2019/06/06/11203/Faith Targeted Human Trafficking in Pakistan
Read this important post from the Arise Foundation
https://www.arise.foundation/news/faith-targeted-human-trafficking-highlights-need-for-better-foreign-aid-policy

Where is Jinnah’s Pakistan?:
https://davidalton.net/2016/03/28/carnage-in-lahore-pakistan-and-uk-governments-failure-to-challenge-persecution-or-the-culture-of-impunity-links-to-previous-posts-about-pakistans-christians-shahbaz-bhatti-asia-bibbi-and-the/”>

https://davidalton.net/2019/04/03/three-speeches-in-parliament-this-week-war-in-the-yemen-and-the-sale-of-arms-to-saudi-arabia-corruption-and-aid-programmes-to-countries-like-pakistan-and-the-lack-of-legal-mechanisms-to-hold-to-ac/

https://davidalton.net/2019/01/29/pakistans-supreme-court-upholds-their-decision-to-free-asia-bibi/

https://davidalton.net/2018/11/05/pakistan-receives-an-average-of-383000-in-british-taxpayers-money-each-and-every-single-day-2-8-billion-over-20-years-yet-as-asia-bibis-case-demonstrates-they-trample-on-the-rights-of/

https://davidalton.net/2018/04/30/freedom-of-religion-or-belief-in-commonwealth-countries-raised-in-parliament-and-discussed-with-leading-judge-from-pakistan-commonwealth-heads-of-government-meeting-2018-debate-in-the-house-of-lord/

Chris Rogers’ Disturbing Report for the BBC on the conditions of Pakistani Christians held in detention centres:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35654804

For background also see:

https://davidalton.net/2015/11/18/dr-paul-bhatti-addresses-members-of-both-houses-of-parliament-as-persecution-of-christians-and-other-minorities-continues-to-be-raised-in-the-british-parliament-parliamentarians-paid-ribute-to-the-me/

https://davidalton.net/2016/02/23/report-launched-at-westmintser-on-the-persecution-of-religious-minorities-in-pakistan/



Some of the 200 Questions David Alton has raised with the British Government about Pakistan. For full text and answers go to:

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/search/?q=pakistan+&pid=13103

1–20 of 200 for pakistan speaker:Lord Alton of Liverpool

Upcoming Business – Lords: Grand Committee (2 Jul 2019)
Relationship between aid programmes and human rights and the treatment of minorities in Pakistan – Lord Alton of Liverpool. Short debate

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Indigenous Peoples (27 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when representatives of the UK High Commission in Islamabad last visited members of the Kalash community in Pakistan.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Textbooks (19 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to (1) ensure that schools in Pakistan, supported by the Department for International Development, do not use textbooks with content that stigmatises religious minorities, and (2) encourage provincial governments in Pakistanto work with religious minority groups to remove such content.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Minority Groups (19 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what training they provide to (1) Pakistani minority groups, and (2) non-governmental organisations, on how to organise, campaign, and lobby for minority groups; and what steps they are taking in response to the restrictions of civil society space in Pakistan.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (19 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …taking to ensure that modules which promote freedom of religion or belief and religious tolerance are included in all future Department for International Development capacity building programmes in Pakistan.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Schools (19 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support they will provide to the government of Pakistan to help incentivise parents from marginalised religious minorities to send their children to school, following reports that many such parents view school as a waste of time owing to the lack of opportunities in higher education.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Slavery (18 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the criteria used to determine which communities in Pakistan are “marginalised” and therefore vulnerable to human trafficking and modern slavery for the purposes of their foreign aid programmes.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Islamic State: Nuclear Weapons (17 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that ISIS is seeking to secure access to a nuclear weapons capability from Pakistan.

Pakistan: Aid for Persecuted Minorities – Question (6 Jun 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much United Kingdom aid has been given to Pakistan in the last ten years; and what assessment they have made of the extent to which this was used to support persecuted minorities in that country.

Pakistan: Aid for Persecuted Minorities – Question (6 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: I thank the Minister for that reply and welcome her to her new responsibilities. Is she able to intervene on behalf of Shagufta Kauser, an illiterate woman from one of Pakistan’s beleaguered minorities, who now occupies Asia Bibi’s cell in Multan and who, like her, has been sentenced to death for allegedly sending blasphemous texts in English? When two children are forced to watch a lynch…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Shizam Riasat (4 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the human rights and freedom of religion or belief implications of the case of the 16 year old Pakistani Christian girl Sheeza Riasat who was abducted from her parents’ home near Gujranwala, Pakistan on 12 February and forcibly converted and married; and what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Shizam Riasat (4 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan about kidnappings and forced conversions of under-age girls who are members of a religious minority; and what were the outcomes of any such representations.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (4 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of Pakistani girls, who are members of a religious minority, being removed from schools by their parents as a result of the number of abductions and forced conversions on the literacy rate of girls in Pakistan; and what steps they intend to take to help resolve this problem.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (4 Jun 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by Members of the European Parliament Religious Minorities in Pakistan, published on 13 May, which states that the situation of Pakistan’s minorities is worsening; and whether they intend to raise the contents of that report with the government of Pakistan.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Human Trafficking (29 May 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to their assessment in the Department for International Development’s Pakistan Report 2018 that there is a “significant modern slavery problem amongst the poor, minorities, women and children” in Pakistan and their policy to provide assistance to “target the poorest and most vulnerable”, what steps they are taking to provide direct support to Christian…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Higher Education (28 May 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …College, Peshawar, and his family and the attempts to intervene in the administration of the College by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor on religious minorities and educational opportunities in Pakistan.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Blasphemy(22 May 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the case of the Pakistani Christian woman, Shagufta Kauser, who, with her disabled husband, Shafqat Emmanuel, was sentenced to death in 2014, for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages, including reports that the couple are illiterate and that the messages were in English; and what representations they have made to the…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Marriage (21 May 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they welcome the decision of the Pakistan Senate to pass a bill to amend the Child Marriage Restraint Bill 1929 to set the minimum marriage age at 18 years in Pakistan; and whether they will consider ways in which UK aid to Pakistancould be used to facilitate the effective enforcement of that legislation.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Minority Groups (17 May 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the letter sent by 50 members of the European Parliament to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on 30 April warning that continued violation of the UN Treaty on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in respect of the treatment of Pakistan’s minorities may compel…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Minority Groups (16 May 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to assist Pakistani Ahmadi and Christian refugees, fleeing persecution in Pakistan and awaiting determination of their asylum cases in Sri Lanka, who are seeking refuge in police stations and elsewhere due to fear of targeted attacks on minorities.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Asia Bibi (16 May 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 2 May (HL15272), what was the most recent response they received from the government of Pakistan about the right of Asia Bibi to join her family in Canada; and when they anticipate that this will take place.

Sri Lanka: UNHCR Refugees – Statement (9 May 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …in helping to secure the release of Asia Bibi and her ability to travel to be reunited yesterday with her family in Canada. The persecution of that Christian woman and the Ahmadi community in Pakistan should motivate us all in promoting freedom of religion and belief, and particularly Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Can I take the Minister to Written Questions…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Asia Bibi (2 May 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the remarks of the Prime Minister of Pakistan on 10 April that Asia Bibi would be leaving Pakistan very soon but that there was a complication, what clarification they have sought from the government of Pakistan about (1) what is complicating her departure from Pakistan, and (2) measures to expedite her departure.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Shanty Towns (16 Apr 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when their officials working in Pakistan last visited the shanty towns on the periphery of Islamabad to report on the conditions in which the residents live; and whether they are collecting data on the percentage of people from Pakistan’s minorities living in such areas.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Minority Groups (16 Apr 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to reconsider their policy of disregarding the status of Pakistan’s minorities in determining and allocating development aid.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Public Sector (25 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Pakistan Annual Statistical Bulletin of Federal Government Employees 2017–18, published by the government of Pakistan on 26 February, what assessment they have made of (1) the number of people employed from that country’s religious minorities, (2) the nature of the occupations open to them, and (3) the numbers working in either menial jobs…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Abdul Shakoor (21 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they last raised the case of Abdul Shakoor with the government of Pakistan.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Sadaf Khan (18 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the kidnapping of Sadaf Khan in Bahawalpur district, Pakistan, on 6 February 2018.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Sadaf Khan (18 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they intend to make to the government of Pakistan about the case of Sadaf Khan, in particular about ensuring that (1) the due process of law is followed, (2) her forced conversion and marriage is declared null and void, and (3) she is returned to her family.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (11 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much aid they provided to Pakistan over the past year; and what proportion of this aid was used to support efforts to end child abduction, forced conversion and illegal marriages.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (11 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to divert aid given to Pakistan to training law enforcement officers in the emotional needs of the parents of kidnapped children, and in providing families with practical assistance.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Human Rights (7 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan on the importance of preventing the provincial government of Sindh from establishing operational control of the Sindh Human Rights Commission; and what assessment they have made of whether this would compromise its independence.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Asia Bibi (5 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have requested from the government of Pakistan about the health and well-being of Asia Bibi.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Human Rights (5 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …rights, including the provisions which require such institutions to maintain their independence from the national governments; and if so, what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan about the National Commission for Human Rights of Pakistan maintaining its independence from the Federal Ministry of Human Rights of Pakistan.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Human Rights (5 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Pakistan about ensuring that the Federal Ministry of Human Rights of Pakistan does not curtail the independence of the National Commission for Human Rights of Pakistan by controlling its financial resources.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Human Rights (5 Mar 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made any assessment of whether (1) the National Commission for Human Rights of Pakistan is free to submit independent reports to UN bodies, as required by the UN Paris Principles; and (2) the Chairman and members of the National Commission for Human Rights of Pakistan are free to travel to participate in committees of the UN.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Asia Bibi (28 Feb 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they last made representations to the government of Pakistan to secure the safe passage of Asia Bibi from that country.

Written Answers — Home Office: Asia Bibi (13 Feb 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …have made, if any, of the comments of Hafiz Entisha Ahmed published in the Guardian on 30 January that Asia Bibi “deserves to be murdered”; and, following the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to uphold her acquittal following nine years’ incarceration on death row, why she has not immediately been offered asylum in the UK.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (12 Feb 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Pakistan about employment discrimination, with particular regard to advertisements published by that government which reserve low level jobs, such as street sweeping, for religious minorities; whether UK aid supports employment opportunities in the public sector closed to religious minorities; and whether…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pervaiz Masih (7 Feb 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the case of Pervais Masih, accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, the treatment of his family and the death of his daughter; and whether they have discussed this case with the government of Pakistan.

Overseas Aid – Private Notice Question (30 Jan 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …he agree that people expect their money to be spent well? I draw his attention to a Question that I asked him on the Order Paper today concerning discrimination and persecution in countries such as Pakistan, which is the biggest recipient of British aid—£383,000 each and every single day. Will he ensure that where British money is being spent, it will tackle the plight of minorities,…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Ahmadiyya(23 Jan 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan about the exclusion of Ahmadi Muslims from the right to vote in Pakistan’s elections.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Christianity (21 Jan 2019)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what financial assistance they have provided to Christian groups in Pakistan in each year since 2009.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (17 Dec 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 27 November (HL11515), what the AAWAZ Voice and Accountability Programme has achieved in Pakistan; how much that programme has cost; what assessment they have made of whether discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan is decreasing.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Minority Groups (17 Dec 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 27 November (HL11514), whether they intend to collect disaggregated population data on minority groups in Pakistan to establish whether UK aid reaches those groups; when they last raised the issue of inclusion of minorities with the government of Pakistan; and what response, if any, they received.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (17 Dec 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 27 November (HL11513), how they (1) monitor, and (2) evaluate the success of programmes they fund in Pakistan; and what methods they use to check that aid provided is used for its intended purpose.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Chevening Scholarships Programme (10 Dec 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many Chevening Scholarships have been awarded to citizens of Pakistan in each of the last five years; and of those recipients, how many came from minority groups.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Education (27 Nov 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by Lord Bates on 14 November (HL Deb, col 1882), how much of the development funding spent in Pakistan has been spent each year on education of young girls in the last 20 years; which agencies have been supported to further the education of young girls in Pakistan; and in which (1) states, and (2) schools in Pakistan the money has been spent.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Education (27 Nov 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply of Lord Bates on 14 November (HL Deb, col 1882), how much of the development funding to support the education of young girls in Pakistan has been spent on girls from minority communities in the last 20 years.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (27 Nov 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply of Lord Bates on 14 November (HL Deb, col 1882), what assessment they have made of the (1) discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan, and (2) case for prioritising development funding for such religious minorities.
Kindertransport Commemoration – Question for Short Debate (26 Nov 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …are places of torture and abuse of children. Perhaps when the Minister comes to reply he can respond to what Safe Passage says about that. Elsewhere, children of Christians and Ahmadis fleeing from Pakistan are kept like caged animals in detention centres. In 2015, I visited one of those detention centres, and in 2016, I wrote a report about it. Recently, many of your Lordships have raised…
Asia Bibi – Question (20 Nov 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …was the Minister for Minorities, and Salmaan Taseer, who was the Muslim governor of Punjab, were murdered for insisting on the innocence of Asia Bibi, does the Minister share my huge admiration for Pakistan’s Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, both of whom I met recently in Islamabad, who courageously and with great integrity acquitted and exonerated Asia…
Development Co-operation: European Union – Question (14 Nov 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …Brian Grim says that those countries which respect those things become the most prosperous. How, therefore, do we justify spending £2.8 billion over the past 20 years in a country such as Pakistan which, as the case of Asia Bibi has shown, has no regard for minorities or the rule of law?
India: Scavenging – Question (6 Nov 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …Lords, notwithstanding the 2013 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…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Minority Groups (5 Nov 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how British (1) foreign policy, and (2) aid programmes support persecuted minorities in Pakistan
Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (5 Nov 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 22 October (HL10527), whether they take into account the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistanwhen deciding on the prioritisation of UK overseas development aid; and whether they intend to instruct Department for International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials to visit minority…

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Children (5 Nov 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made, if any, of (1) the level of child labour in Pakistan; (2) the number of children of school age believed to work in brick kilns, workshops, factories or as domestic servants; and (3) the percentage of children from religious minorities falling into these categories.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Education (5 Nov 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of (1) the number of children believed to be illiterate in Pakistan, (2) the number of children not in formal education, and (3) the proportion of children from religious minorities in Pakistan who are illiterate or not in formal education compared with the population as a whole.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Schools (5 Nov 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of the case of a Christian school boy in Pakistan who was excluded from class and beaten for being accused of tainting the school’s water by touching the tap; and whether they will establish whether UK aid is used to support schools such as this.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (29 Oct 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of Pakistan to ensure that Pakistan’s quota system for jobs is not used to place workers from religious minorities in menial occupations.

Written Answers — Home Office: Asylum: Pakistan (29 Oct 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …Government, further to the reply by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 15 October (HL Deb, cols 282–3), whether the Home Office will now reclassify the systematic attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan as persecution rather than discrimination.

Written Answers — Home Office: Asylum: Pakistan (29 Oct 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many claims for asylum in the UK were successful in respect of religious minorities from Pakistan over the past five years.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (26 Oct 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much UK aid has been received by Pakistan in the past 12 months and in total over the past 20 years; whether any other country receives more bilateral aid than Pakistan; and what indicators are used to establish the effectiveness of this aid in reaching the country’s religious minorities.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Minority Groups (26 Oct 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what training programmes in Pakistan they support to help illiterate and impoverished members of minority communities to qualify for jobs.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Refugees (24 Oct 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that (1) Pakistani refugees have recently been rounded up by Thai police and taken to detention centres, and (2) Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has issued an instruction to the Immigration Bureau to detain all foreigners without visas, stating that they will be deported within a month; and whether they have…

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (22 Oct 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what percentage of the UK’s bilateral aid programme is directed towards the rebuilding of Pakistan’s colony shanty towns in which families from the country’s minorities live; what assessment they have made of the number of people, in total, living in those colonies and their access to running water, electricity or education; and when officials from the…

Asylum Applications – Question (15 Oct 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, having visited Pakistan earlier this month and seen first-hand the abject, festering conditions in which many of the country’s religious minorities live, and having heard accounts of abduction, rape, the forced marriage of a nine year-old, forced conversion, death sentences for so-called blasphemy—the Minister may have heard the interview on the “Today” programme on Saturday…

Written Answers — Home Office: Deportation: Pakistan (18 Jul 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether it is safe to deport families, including children, to Pakistan when there is evidence that they have received death threats due to their religious beliefs; when they last considered whether there is persecution of particular minorities in Pakistan; and what conclusions they reached.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (4 Jul 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 18 June (HL8400), whether, in the course of working with marginalised communities in Pakistan, they conduct any monitoring of madrassas known to promote hatred of minorities.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (4 Jul 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 18 June (HL8402), how they have monitored the use of UK aid given to Pakistan in the last ten years; and what plans, if any, they have to link the provision of aid more closely to the protection of minority rights in the recipient country.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (20 Jun 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report Forced Conversions & Forced Marriages in Sindh, Pakistan, published by the Commonwealth Institute for Freedom of Religion and Belief and the University of Birmingham.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (20 Jun 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to reflect the recommendations and conclusions from the report Forced Conversions & Forced Marriages in Sindh, Pakistan, published by the Commonwealth Institute for Freedom of Religion and Belief and the University of Birmingham in their development and foreign affairs policies; and if so, how.

Forced Marriage – Question (24 May 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …, Lady Berridge, that there was not compelling evidence, will he undertake at least to look at the Aurat Foundation’s evidence of 1,000 forced conversions every year and other evidence from Pakistan that suggests that between 20 and 30 women from Hindu backgrounds are forcibly converted every single month? In citing, as he has done, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will he…
Commonwealth: Discriminatory Legislation – Question (21 May 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …looking at outdated laws in the Commonwealth, will he reflect on the meeting that he kindly attended last week that considered blasphemy laws, particularly those that operate in countries such as Pakistan, and also the Pakistan penal code, which specifically requires the country’s significant Ahmadi minority, some 5 million people, to register as non-Muslims in order to be able to…

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018 – Motion to Take Note (22 Mar 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …I am also conscious of the great progress we have made in respecting the dignity of difference and in learning to live together. Elsewhere the challenge remains—for instance, the assassination of Pakistan’s brave Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, the death sentence imposed on Asia Bibbi, the use of section 295(A) of India’s penal code to attack minorities, and the hunting…

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Textbooks (22 Mar 2018)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in work with the provincial governments in Pakistan to eliminate bias and discrimination against religious minorities from school textbooks; and what plans they have for continuing those efforts.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Blasphemy(14 Nov 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made representations to the government of Pakistan following the lynching in April of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, for allegedly publishing blasphemous content online and expressing liberal and secular views; if so, what response they have received; and whether they have made other representations to the…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (27 Sep 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they last raised with the government of Pakistan (1) the anti-Ahmadiyya laws set out in Penal Code Article 298, and (2) that government’s obligations to protect freedom of religion or belief; and whether they intend to encourage the government of Pakistan to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to make a country…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Taimoor Raza (25 Sep 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have about the case of Taimoor Raza who has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for allegedly breaking the blasphemy laws on social media; and what representations, if any, they have made on his behalf.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Minority Groups (21 Sep 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have about proposals in Pakistan to establish (1) a National Council for Minorities’ Rights, and (2) a dedicated police unit to protect religious minorities; and whether they have encouraged such developments.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Marriage (21 Sep 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have encouraged the government of Pakistan to enact laws recognising the legality of Christian marriages.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Schools (21 Sep 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …and Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne with the Minister of State at the Department for International Development, Rory Stewart MP, about the role of school textbooks and the school curriculum in Pakistan in describing non-Muslims, what progress has been made in promoting inclusive educational approaches in that country.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (21 Sep 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much overseas aid they have given to Pakistan in each of the past five years; and of that, how much has specifically been committed to the promotion of (1) the protection of minorities, and (2) freedom of religion or belief.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: *No heading* (11 Jul 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: Her Majesty’s Government whether they will seek to place the persecution of religious minorities in countries like Pakistan and Nigeria onto the agenda for the next meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government; and whether they will prioritise in discussions the promotion of freedom of religion and belief.

Queen’s Speech – Debate (2nd Day) (Continued) (22 Jun 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …in suffering. Ahmadis themselves have experienced hateful persecution: recall Mr Shah, the Ahmadi shopkeeper murdered in Glasgow; recall the Ahmadis and Christians fleeing appalling persecution in Pakistan, who make up more than half of the 7,500 refugees and asylum seekers in Bangkok. Many are incarcerated in detention centres, which I and my noble friend Lady Cox have visited, and where…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (6 Feb 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the forthcoming periodic review of human rights in Pakistan, whether they intend to ask the government of Pakistan to affirm its commitment to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the freedom to change one’s belief or not have any kind of religious belief.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (24 Jan 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much UK aid was given to Pakistan over the past decade; and how much has been earmarked for the Benazir Income Support Programme between 2012 and 2020.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Education (23 Jan 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …; what meetings taken place between DfID officers and officials from the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; and whether DfID is planning to extend similar support to other provincial governments in Pakistan.

Written Answers — Home Office: Syed Muzaffar Shah Qadri (12 Jan 2017)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government why Syed Muzaffar Shah Qadri has been given permission to enter the United Kingdom; and what assessment they have made of the reported decision by the government of Pakistan to ban him from preaching in Pakistan.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (23 Dec 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan following reports of a raid on the Ahmadi community headquarters in Rabwah.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (23 Dec 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the attack on 12 December on the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Dolmial, in the district of Chakwai, Pakistan; and what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan about the treatment of Ahmadiyyas.
Prevent Strategy – Question (20 Dec 2016)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …Prevent strategy, while at the weekend it was reported that Syed Qadri is to be allowed to come into the United Kingdom? He is a radical Islamist hate preacher who has been banned from preaching in Pakistan. He spoke out in favour of those who assassinated Salmaan Taseer and is said to have been one of the influences on the murderer of the Ahmadi shopkeeper in Glasgow. Why is he being…

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (5 Dec 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Bates on 17 November (HL2963, 2965, 2966, 3010 and 3077) concerning religious freedom and education in Pakistan, what assessment they have made of the policies implemented in the Khyber Province in this regard.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Minority Groups (21 Nov 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have discussed with the government of Pakistan the incidence of children from minority backgrounds failing to complete their education and leaving without qualifications as a consequence of discrimination and negative attitudes towards minorities and its impact on poverty in Pakistan.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (17 Nov 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have raised with the government of Pakistan their duties under Articles 22 (1) and 25 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan concerning freedom of religion in schools and equality, and whether British aid to Pakistan is being used to strengthen these legal protections for minorities.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (17 Nov 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Pakistan is a signatory to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; whether they consider that the government of Pakistan is fulfilling its duties under Article 18 of that Declaration; what role British aid to Pakistan plays in promoting respect for diversity and difference; and whether they will reconsider their policy of making none of the…

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (17 Nov 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what Department for International Development funds are currently being provided to improve educational standards in Pakistan, including the Punjab Education Support Programme; and whether the support given to the Punjab Curriculum Text Board to ensure positive gender portrayal can be expanded to include positive portrayal of Pakistan’s minorities.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (17 Nov 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they last discussed with the government of Pakistan the inclusion of religious hate material in Pakistani text books.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (17 Nov 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …’s Government what assessment they have made of the decision of the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board of Lahore to include positive affirmations of the role of minorities in the creation of Pakistan and the 1947 speech of the founder of Pakistan, and of the extent to which affirmation of the rights and equality of minorities is being replicated in other provinces across Pakistan.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (17 Nov 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what mechanisms and safeguards the Department for International Development has in place to ensure that British aid distributed in Pakistanis not used by provinces or schools to purchase textbooks which contain material indoctrinating against minorities.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (17 Nov 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 16 September (HL1729), whether the Department for International Development is planning to fund any programmes that directly promote freedom of religion or belief in Pakistan.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Radicalism(16 Nov 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have discussed with the government of Pakistan point 5 of Pakistan’s National Action Plan of 24 December 2014, and the steps taken to implement this provision.

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (16 Sep 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the comments of Baroness Goldie on 8 September (HL Deb, col GC173), how much UK aid has been given in total to Pakistan over the past five years, and what percentage of that has been used (1) to assist and protect minorities, and (2) to promote Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Human Rights (1 Aug 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they last raised with the government of Pakistan the issues of (1) the honour killing of women, (2) the exclusion of minority communities from full citizenship, and (3) the imprisonment of citizens under the blasphemy laws; and what response they received.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (12 Jul 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan (1) following the statement of the Chairman of the Pakistan Senate’s Standing Committee on Religious Affairs that forced conversion of girls is taking place “across the country on a daily basis”, and (2) about reports of humiliation, torture and false imprisonment of girls from Christian…

Modern Slavery (Transparency in Supply Chains) Bill [HL] – Second Reading (8 Jul 2016)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …in Mauritania, and Syrian children used as child labour in Lebanon. In addition, 90% of North Korean escapees are trafficked in China, women and children are exploited in bonded labour in India and Pakistan, and all over the world women and girls are trafficked into brothels. Your Lordships could recall, too, the fatal consequences of the collapsed garment factory in Rana Plaza in…

Written Answers — Department for International Development: Pakistan: Overseas Aid (20 Jun 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much UK aid has been given to Pakistanover the last five years; and how much of that has been used to promote human rights, the rule of law and the protection of minorities.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Khurram Zaki (16 Jun 2016)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have raised the recent murder of Khurram Zaki, and his campaign work, with the government of Pakistan.

Immigration Bill — Committee (3rd Day) (Continued) (1 Feb 2016)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …consequences. He will know that his noble friend Lord Bates was good enough to meet me to discuss the situation of detainees held in detention centres in the Far East—people who had escaped from Pakistan. These included people from the Ahmadiyya community, Shia Muslims, Hindus, Christians—they came from many backgrounds but all had faced what seemed to be absolute examples of…
International Development Policies — Question for Short Debate (19 Nov 2015)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …, barbaric executions, and attempts to destroy history and culture that is not its own. I ask your Lordships to think of some of the countries that receive UK aid. The biggest recipient is Pakistan. This year it will receive £405 million, making £1.17 billion since 2011. How do we ensure that funding for education is spent on the right things? Here the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, and I…

Written Answers — Home Office: Pakistan: Christianity (5 Oct 2015)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the findings of the report commissioned by the British Pakistan Christian Association, entitled Education, Human Rights Violations in Pakistan and the Scandal Involving UNHRC and Asylum Seekers in Thailand; and whether, in the light of this report, they plan to review the risk of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan and…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: *No heading* (29 Sep 2015)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they have been able to provide for refugees fleeing persecution in Pakistan in resolving their applications for asylum; and what is their estimate of the average time likely to elapse between an applicant lodging a claim for asylum in Bangkok and being resettled.

Written Answers — Home Office: Immigration Controls: Pakistan (22 Sep 2015)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by the Minister of State for International Development, Desmond Swayne, on 11 September (HC8462), which states that the government of Pakistan has publicly recognised “the problems facing minorities, and the need to bring an end to religious persecutions”, why the current Home Office guidance Pakistan: Christians and Christian…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Pakistan: Religious Freedom (24 Jul 2015)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support they are providing to the authorities in Pakistan to ensure the protection of religious minorities across Pakistan; whether they plan to make representations to the government of Pakistan urging them to reform the blasphemy laws and to provide effective safeguards against their abuse; and whether they plan to call for the immediate and…
Freedom of Religion and Belief — Motion to Take Note (16 Jul 2015)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …do no better than look at the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Fifty years later there are other role models. I was very struck by the remarks of Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban tried to murder in Pakistan because she insisted on a girl’s right to an education, rightly insisting: “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”. Malala’s challenge and the fate of the…
Freedom of Religion and Belief — Motion to Take Note (16 Jul 2015)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …to reflect on the suffering of those denied this foundational freedom. Although Christians are persecuted in every country where there are violations of Article 18—from Syria and Iraq, to Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea and many other countries—Muslims, and others, suffer too, especially in the religious wars raging between Sunnis and Shias, so reminiscent…

Queen’s Speech — Debate (2nd Day) (Continued) (28 May 2015)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …led to the deaths of 147 students and staff in Kenya’s Garissa University College, with Christian students specifically singled out; to the burning alive in a kiln of a Christian couple in Pakistan by a mob of 1,300 people while their young children were forced to watch; to the abduction of young girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram; to the beheading in Libya of 21 Egyptian Copts who were…

Soft Power and the UK’s Influence (Select Committee Report) — Motion to Take Note (10 Mar 2015)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …and Blue Nile, where the Sudanese regime has dropped more than 2,500 bombs on its civilian population; to Boko Haram’s abduction of girls in Nigeria; to the burning alive of Christians in Pakistan; to the recent beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya; and to the continuing incarceration of 200,000 people in the prison camps of North Korea. The need to deploy smart power is self-evident….

Modern Slavery Bill: Report (1st Day) (Continued) (23 Feb 2015)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …in forced labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton mills, hundreds of women and girls trafficked into Thailand’s brothels and thousands of men, women and children exploited in bonded labour in India and Pakistan. The scope and scale have been rehearsed often enough during debates on the Bill and I will not repeat them all again here. Suffice it to say that far more people are affected today than…

Modern Slavery Bill — Committee (4th Day) (10 Dec 2014)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …gap between industry codes and the real situation on the ground. My noble friend Lord Hylton reminded your Lordships of other examples, such as kiln workers making bricks in inhuman conditions in Pakistan and children manufacturing matches in India. There is a growing public expectation that businesses should act ethically and take action to ensure that forced labour does not occur in…

Modern Slavery Bill — Second Reading (Continued) (17 Nov 2014)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …by the abuses and exploitation of workers in cotton mills in places such as Tamil Nadu in India or, for that matter, the situation of children of brick kiln workers in places such as India and Pakistan. The report, Flawed Fabrics, published in October, detailed forced labour abuses, including shocking “prison-like conditions”. The report makes several recommendations on brands,…

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (17 Nov 2014)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the President of Pakistan and the Pakistan High Commissioner in London about the burning to death in Kot Radha Kishan of a Christian couple following allegations of blasphemy.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (3 Nov 2014)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the authorities in Pakistan arising from the decision of the Lahore High Court to reject the appeal of Asia Bibi, and to order her execution, following charges of alleged blasphemy.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights — Motion to Take Note (24 Jul 2014)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …its work. I have focused extensively on the Middle East and Africa, but across Asia, Article 18 faces serious threats as well. We will hear from the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about the situation in Pakistan. Think of the bombing last September of the Anglican church in Peshawar, killing 127 and injuring 250, of the attacks on Shias and Ahmadis or of the imprisonment of and death sentences…

BBC World Service and British Council — Motion to Take Note (10 Jul 2014)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …fragile peace and seedling democracies, from the China Sea to the Ukraine, are at daily risk. That is to say nothing of global violation of human rights, from North Korea to Sudan, from Nigeria to Pakistan. More than 30 years ago as a young Member of the House of Commons travelling behind the iron curtain, and in 1981 to India, Nepal and China, I first began to fully understand the…

Queen’s Speech — Debate (5th Day) (Continued) (11 Jun 2014)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …impunity. How very different the situation is in Sudan, which incarcerates a woman and sentences her to death on trumped-up charges of adultery and apostasy. How very different the situation is in Pakistan, where a brave and courageous schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, was shot for defying the Taliban’s opposition to education for girls; a country disfigured by honour killings, blasphemy…

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (13 May 2014)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage the government of Pakistan to ensure a fair and just trial in the cases of Savan Masih, Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, sentenced to death for blasphemy in Lahore in early April.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (28 Jan 2014)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the implications of the decision on 4 December 2013 of the Federal Sharia Court in Pakistan to require the death sentence for anyone convicted under that country’s blasphemy laws; and what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan about the matter.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (28 Jan 2014)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Pakistan has made to the government of Pakistan about the imprisonment of the British national Mr Masud Ahmad; and what response they have received.

Human Rights — Motion to Take Note (21 Nov 2013)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …on the treatment of minorities and tolerance towards other faiths. She said that in large parts of the world Christians “face extinction” and that senior politicians in countries like Pakistan have a “duty” to denounce persecution and to set a standard for tolerance. The noble Baroness is right and she is to be commended for leading by her own formidable example. There are growing…

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (10 Jul 2013)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government (1) what information they have, and (2) what representations they will make to the government of Pakistan, about a reported attack on 3 June in a village near Pattoki in which three Christian women were publicly beaten and humiliated.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (4 Jun 2013)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will hold discussions with the incoming Government of Pakistan about the action being taken to investigate the murder of Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (21 May 2013)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will hold discussions with the incoming Government of Pakistan about that country’s blasphemy law.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (20 May 2013)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will hold discussions with the incoming Government of Pakistan regarding that country’s stance on religious freedom.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Overseas Aid (11 Jun 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much British aid has been allocated to Pakistan in each of the past five years, and which countries received more British aid than Pakistan in this period.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (11 Jun 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have received about the killing in Pakistan on the night of 22 May of Shugufta Baber, a teacher at the Convent High School in Okara, her two sons and her sister Samina Bibi.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (11 Jun 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have held with the Government of Pakistan about violence directed at the Christian minority in Pakistan.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (11 Jun 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proportion of British aid to Pakistan is directed towards minorities; what proportion is used to combat sectarian violence against the country’s minorities; and upon what considerations does the provision of British aid depend.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan: Women (11 Jun 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have received concerning abuses of the rights of women from religious minorities in Pakistan.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan: Women (11 Jun 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to help protect the rights of women from religious minorities in Pakistan.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan: Women (11 Jun 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made an assessment of the extent of discrimination and violence directed against Christian women in Pakistan on account of their gender and their religion; when they last raised this issue with the Government of Pakistan; and what relationship this issue has to the provision of British aid to Pakistan.

Written Answers — House of Lords: India and Pakistan (12 Mar 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to mark the tenth anniversary of the Gujarat violence in India, and the first anniversary of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti in Pakistan; if so, how; and whether they will press the Governments of India and Pakistan to ensure that all people responsible for those crimes are brought to justice.

Pakistan — Question (19 Jan 2012)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I particularly welcome the way in which the Minister reached out during her visit to Pakistan to people from minorities, especially religious minorities. Has she noted that this month is the first anniversary of the assassination of Salman Taseer, the former governor of the Punjab, who was murdered along with Shahbaz Bhatti, the former Minister for Minorities in Pakistan? Can she…

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (5 Dec 2011)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking to monitor the use of aid given to Pakistan to enhance education, to ensure that it is not diverted to the teaching of radical fundamentalism or intolerance, and that such aid assists in the promotion of mutual respect, freedom of speech and religion, and tolerance of minorities.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (5 Dec 2011)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assurances they have had from partners in Pakistan, and what independent monitoring ensures, that aid provided for educational purposes is being used cost-effectively and for educational goals and not to fund any madrassas promoting intolerance or fanaticism.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Overseas Aid (19 Jul 2011)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what financial support they provided to (a) Population Health Services India for each year since 1999, (b) Marie Stopes International Pakistan for each year since 1990, and (c) Marie Stopes International India since 2008.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Overseas Aid (19 Jul 2011)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government which of the 90 family planning clinics run by Marie Stopes International Pakistan and of the 12 clinics run by Population Health Services India, including mobile services, are beneficiaries of United Kingdom aid.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (7 Jul 2011)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent reports they have received regarding the freedom of each religious community in Pakistan to (a) exercise their faith, (b) observe their holidays and weekly day of rest, and (c) administer their internal affairs; what recent representations they have made to the Government of Pakistan on these issues; and with what results.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (5 Jul 2011)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Pakistan about the 2002 executive order which denied 4 million Ahmadiyya Muslims the right to vote, unless they are willing to sign a declaration denouncing their own community.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (5 Jul 2011)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Pakistan about violence against the Ahmadiyya Muslims; and what assessment they have made of the threats and intimidation against that community in the United Kingdom.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (5 Jul 2011)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the likelihood of the Government of Pakistan ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and signing both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (28 Jun 2011)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what safeguards are in place to ensure that British aid to minority groups in Pakistan reaches the intended recipients, and that those channelling British aid within Pakistan are not responsible for discriminatory practices against those groups.

Pakistan: Religious Minorities — Question (22 Jun 2011)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what advocacy the Foreign Office is undertaking on behalf of persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan.

Pakistan: Religious Minorities — Question (22 Jun 2011)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, what does the abject failure of the authorities in Pakistan to bring to justice those who were responsible for the brutal murder of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, and of Shahbaz Bhatti, the courageous Minister for Minorities, say about their commitment to uphold the rule of law and to protect minorities? Is not impunity for…

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (16 Jun 2011)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment was made of the position of Pakistan’s minorities by the Foreign Office Minister, Mr Alistair Burt, during his recent visit to Pakistan.

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (15 Mar 2011)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Pakistan about the assassination of Mr Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minority Affairs and Human Rights.
Re-Export Controls Bill [HL]: Second Reading (3 Dec 2010)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …exports. In the last period for which licensing decisions have been published-April to June 2010-the UK refused licences for exports to, for example, Bangladesh, Chad, Indonesia, Israel, Nepal and Pakistan, none of which is under embargo. Indeed, licences were refused for exports to 41 different countries, of which only five are subject to either EU or UN embargo. Surely if we accept the…

Human Rights — Debate (2 Dec 2010)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …more than 200 million Christians in over 60 countries face some degree of restriction, discrimination or persecution while Baha’is in Iran, Rohingya Muslims in Burma, the Ahmadi Muslim community in Pakistan, Sufi Muslims from the Sunni tradition in Somalia and Tibetan Buddhists, among many others, all face serious violations of human rights. The commission recommends, and I endorse this…

Written Answers — House of Lords: Pakistan (22 Mar 2010)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the human rights situation in Balochistan; and what discussions they have had with the Government of Pakistan about holding a plebiscite in Balochistan on the issue of self-determination.

India — Debate (18 Dec 2008)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …. It can be seen in their hatred of all things Indian, the “idea of India”, that led to the indiscriminate and wholesale massacre of innocent Indian lives. Some have pointed the finger of blame at Pakistan, for persisting, perhaps, with its battles over the status of Kashmir, or secretly aiding and abetting extremists schooled by al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Taliban and their affiliates…

Slavery (19 Dec 2006)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …who are subjected to forced labour are frequently from minority or marginalised groups. For example, slavery in Sudan affects different ethnic or religious groups. Bonded labour in India, Nepal and Pakistan disproportionately affects dalits and those who are considered to be of “low” caste, adivasis, indigenous people, or other minority groups, including religious minorities. Clearly, many…

Racial and Religious Hatred Bill (11 Oct 2005)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …of tolerance and respect towards those of other origins and other beliefs. I learnt that you do not have to hate one country because you love another, be it Britain or Ireland, Britain or Pakistan. I also had to learn to negotiate and how to defend my beliefs, and not to be intimidated into disowning them simply for expedient reasons. Men and women are diminished when they are forced to…

North Korea: Nuclear Weapons (21 Mar 2005)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …the threat posed to North Korea’s neighbours is probably equal only to the threat posed to the rest of the world when North Korea acts as quartermaster? North Korea sold uranium hexafluoride to Pakistan that, in turn, was sold on to Libya, and, by such deeds, it endangers the security of the rest of the world by sourcing material to failed states and to terrorist organisations. Does the…
Religion and Global Terrorism (9 Apr 2003)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: …largely Christian minorities include those in East Timor, southern Sudan—to which the noble Baroness just referred and which I visited last September—where close on 2 million people have died, Pakistan and northern Nigeria, among others. If there is state oppression, individuals often strike back in the name of their religion. The discontent motivating fundamentalist Islamic militarism…

Pakistan (5 Nov 2002)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …does the Minister agree that a good test of the democratic credentials of any government is the way they treat their minorities and uphold human rights? Is she aware that over the past 12 months in Pakistan there have been 39 deaths, 100 injuries and nine attacks on churches, church buildings, hospitals and schools? Does she recognise that one of the continuing sources of persecution…

Indonesia (26 Mar 2002)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …in Indonesia. The Laskar Jihad is comprised of Islamic extremists from different parts of Indonesia. Some come from outside that country, from some other Muslim states such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. In May 2000, just as sectarian violence in the Moluccas appeared to be starting to wane—many of us hoped that it might be abating at last—the Laskar Jihad invaded the islands with about…

Pakistan (19 Jan 2000)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, from debates in your Lordships’ House and in another place, it is strikingly obvious just how many friends Pakistan has right across the political spectrum. For many years, one of the most consistent and reliable of those friends has been my noble friend Lord Weatherill. Anyone who has an interest in the affairs of Pakistan would do well to read his speech and attach proper weight…

jinnah

The anthems of protesters from Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement to James Russell Lowell Once to Every Time and Nation – composed to contest slavery and sung against the then military junta in South Korea – and the Hallelujah chorus of Hong Kong’s brave citizens contesting attempts to subvert their autonomy and the rule of law.

The protesters in Hong Kong have taken to singing Hallelujah as their unofficial anthem:- https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-48715224
https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/asia/100000006569070/hong-kong-extradition-protests-christians-video.html

This is reminiscent of the protesters in Seoul who, with great courage, ended the rule of the military junta in South Korea .
During their protests they sung the great nineteenth century hymn composed by the Harvard Law School graduate James Russell Lowell published, a New England poet and campaigner against slavery. It first appeared as a poem in the Boston Courier entitled “Verses Suggested by the Present Crisis”.

The poem was quoted by Martin Luther King in his “We Shall Overcome” speech in 1966 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=130J-FdZDtY) (sung here by Joan Baez: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkNsEH1GD7Q) and appears in both Catholic and Protestant hymnals. It includes these stanzas:

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses
While the coward stands aside,

May this anthem encourage brave protesters from Hong Kong to Khartoum who are risking their lives defying those who seek to tyrannise them and who remind us never to take our own freedoms for granted.

You can listen to the London Philharmonic Choir singing this great anthem here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U21b6h8g7PM

Seoul’s protesters who ended the military dictatorship of South Korea.

When a British Court orders a woman to have an abortion, it turns justice on its head, is a gross violation of human rights, and represents the tyrannical suppression of the rights of a family. It also makes a mockery of the so-called “right to choose.”

The unborn child at 18 weeks gestation. 600 babies are aborted daily in the UK - some, up to and even during birth, with the full force of British law. 7 million have been aborted since abortion was made legal and some have had up to 8 legal abortions.

https://catholicherald.co.uk/magazine/the-week-forced-abortion-nearly-arrived-in-britain/
When a British Court orders a woman to have an abortion, it turns justice on its head, is a gross violation of human rights, and represents the tyrannical suppression of the rights of a family. It also makes a mockery of the so-called “right to choose.”

The baby’s grandmother, a midwife, says she is willing to bring up her grandchild. It is a way forward supported by the girl’s social worker. And the mother, herself, says she wants her child to be born.

A traumatic late term abortion can hardly be construed as more “in the interests of the mother” than a well-managed child birth. Does the Judge actually know what happens in a late abortion?

The Court says that “best interests” means that the family have no rights and that a viable baby of 22 weeks gestation must lose its life.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that we all have the right to life – but the Court had nothing to say about this or the best interests of that baby. This is a tragic decision for all involved.

https://news.sky.com/story/woman-with-mental-age-of-child-to-have-abortion-court-rules-11746576

This picture is of a baby in the womb at 18 weeks gestation:

The unborn child at 18 weeks gestation. 600 babies are aborted daily in the UK - some, up to and even during birth, with the full force of British law. 7 million have been aborted since abortion was made legal and some have had up to 8 legal abortions.

Why we must stand in solidarity with Sudan’s brave protestors

Sudan: “This time it’s different”

An article for New Statesman

https://www.newstatesman.com/world/africa/2019/06/sudan-time-it-s-different

SUDAN: THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT

By David Alton

You could be forgiven for thinking that the latest violence in the streets of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, is just the latest miserable episode in a familiar and depressing cycle in the region: peaceful protesters, yearning for freedom, being savagely beaten and killed by ruthless militia. After all, there were 14 coups between Sudanese independence in 1956 and the one that brought the unlamented Field Marshall Omar Bashir to power in 1989.
You might also expect the 50,000 people of Sudanese origin living in the UK to be downcast about events in Khartoum. They have watched as thousands of unarmed civilians have been attacked by soldiers who have invaded hospitals, raped women, looted private homes and businesses, and dumped bodies in the Nile.
Yet, they know that this time it is different. For a start, thanks to the internet and social media, young people in Sudan have a greater awareness of the outside world than their more isolated parents’ generation. The masses calling for democracy, pluralism and an end to corruption have also learned the lessons from recent failed uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. They grasp the importance of having unity and a clear message. Moreover, unlike some of the older generation of opposition politicians, they will not be bought off by the disingenuous promises of the men in uniform.
Today’s protesters understand their place in a changing society, where Sudan’s women and minorities – religious and ethnic – deserve a voice. Their leaders have proposed a coherent and responsible approach to moving from military to civilian power over the next three years. Their concerns cannot be stuffed back in the bottle, even after the savagery unleashed on them by the Transitional Military Council which ousted Bashir in April. Nor will they be manipulated by the Jekyll-and-Hyde leader of the Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemeti. Having initially mingled with the crowds in April, Hemeti then led his forces on an unprovoked killing spree on June 3rd, murdering more than one hundred civilians. His militia continue to patrol the streets, preying on unarmed citizens.
When I visited Darfur in 2004, at the height of the killing, I saw Hemeti’s handiwork for myself. Back then, Hemeti commanded the murderous Janjaweed militia, since rebranded as the Rapid Support Forces and absorbed into the repressive Sudanese security apparatus. Together with the Sudanese armed forces, the Janjaweed systematically destroyed Darfur’s villages inhabited by non-Arab tribes, killing more than 300,000 men and boys and raping thousands of women and girls.
I met people whom the Janjaweed had literally branded as slaves because they were ethnically black African rather than Arab. Since then, as a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sudan and South Sudan, I have seen evidence from reputable groups like Human Rights Watch, cataloguing Hemeti’s legacy of terror, and the ethnic cleansing in Darfur which continues to this day, although it rarely makes headlines.
The Sudanese authorities have announced that former President Bashir has been charged with corruption. But there will be no peace for millions of Sudanese without justice.
Ten years ago, Bashir was indicted for genocide in Darfur by the International Criminal Court. I have met Sadiq al-Mahdi, the head of the opposition National Umma Party, and he is clear Bashir must be handed over to The Hague. There will be no credible new beginnings in Sudan while the stink of impunity hangs in the air.
Sudanese society has changed, but has the international community also evolved? Will we offer empty, appeasing words urging “all sides” to desist from using violence, thereby ignoring the fact that only one side has weapons? Will we work with our allies to use our collective leverage to apply sustained pressure on the Transitional Military Council and its foreign backers in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt? Or will we continue to cling to better-the-devil-we-know diplomacy, in the name of short-term regional stability?
The Sudan emerging from the bloodshed offers the international community a chance to turn over a new leaf in its troubled relationship with the Middle East and North Africa, marred as it is by our sanctimonious lectures about human rights which are so at odds with our actions. We now have an opportunity to be less beholden to the tyrants who buy our weapons and launder their money through our financial systems. The bravery of Sudan’s protesters should be matched by a new honesty and boldness on our behalf. They deserve nothing less.

David Alton is an Independent Member of the House of Lords and is an officer and former chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sudan

Why we should support Jeremy Hunt’s call for a strong response to Iran and not lose sight of how this theocratic regime subjugates it’s own people.

https://www.euronews.com/2019/06/20/iranians-are-urging-eu-to-adopt-a-tough-iran-policy-is-brussels-listening-view

Iranians are urging EU to adopt a tough Iran policy. Is Brussels listening? Why we should support Jeremy Hunt’s call for a strong response to the Iranian regime and not lose sight of how this theocratic regime subjugates it’s own people.

By Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool

On June 15, thousands of Iranians marched in the streets of Brussels in support of anti-regime protests in Iran and the popular call for regime change in the country. And yet this was only the first of several marches that will take place in different parts of the world in coming weeks.

The next one will be in Washington DC on June 21, followed by others in Berlin, Stockholm and London.

The Iranians conveyed a clear message giving voice to the demand of the heavily oppressed and widely impoverished people of Iran, who are protesting for genuine change and increased rights and freedoms since the beginning of 2018. They declared that Iranians deserve a much better future and competent government – an alternative that is best represented by the country’s democratic Resistance movement and its leader, Maryam Rajavi.

The marchers also rejected the Iranian regime’s regional meddling, hostility and warmongering. Like millions of their countrymen in Iran, they made it clear that they want Iran’s national assets to be spent on the welfare of the people and not on exporting terrorism, supporting the dictator Bashar Assad in Syria, or financing terrorist groups like Hezbullah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.

Make no mistake neither the activists in Brussels nor the Iranian people want Europe, the US or anybody else to bring them democracy.

They see this mission as their own duty and they claim that they are capable of making it happen with the strong leadership of Maryam Rajavi.

They only expect the EU to stop their appeasement policy because it is tilting the balance of power inside the country to the regime’s favour, resulting in its repressive security forces having greater leeway to continue to assault the Iranian people’s basic rights and dignity. They expect European discussions of Iran’s future to consider the legitimate uprising of the Iranian people and their desire for regime change and quest for a free and democratic Iran.

The regime in Tehran has failed to engage in a fair dialogue with its own people for the past 40 years. It has responded to legitimate popular demands of increased rights with oppression, torture, massacre, arbitrary mass arrests and killings. How can the European Union expect such a regime to engage in logical and honest dialogue with foreign policymakers?

Fortunately, some EU member states have seemingly begun to ask that question on their own. President Emanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel have both stated that they find the regime’s ballistic missile programmes, its meddling in the region, and its human rights violations absolutely unacceptable. And the British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt has called for a strong response to the regime’s malign activities, especially in the wake of recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. In this sense, the EU does not appear to represent its individual member states. Far from echoing their statements of condemnation, the international body maintains a soft approach and merely calls for restraint from all parties.

In Brussels on Saturday, thousands of Iranians and their political supporters from Europe demanded that the European Union External Action Office explain why it did not condemn Tehran after four of its terrorists were arrested for planning to bomb the grand gathering of Iranians in Paris last year. The EU should have taken a strong position on the theocratic regime’s terrorist activity after several of its member states, including France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Austria and Denmark, were either targeted by its operatives or helped to disrupt their plots. In absence of a strong statement on this or on the tanker attacks, the EU cannot be said to be protecting and representing its member states.

The message of Iranians to the EU and all those who are trying to appease the vicious regime is: Wake up! Stop the appeasement policy. Close down Iranian embassies. Expel all their terrorists from European soil. As Mrs. Rajavi said in her video message to the rally in Brussels, “the IRGC and Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) should be blacklisted throughout Europe to make it clear that the mullahs’ malign activities will not be tolerated”.

Today, the Iranian people’s demand for freedom converges with the interest of UK and EU in the region. Thus, we in the UK and the EU must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the brave people of Iran and their Resistance as it struggles to bring freedom, democracy and justice to their homeland and to get rid of this tyrannical, theocratic regime.

It is time for the UK and the EU to open their eyes to what the Iranians want for their country before it is too late, as they are the ones who will change and shape Iran’s future. They are clearly telling us that they do not want the theocratic regime and they will get rid of it.

And if the UK and the EU abandon the people of Iran now in their difficult quest for freedom now, how will they answer to the Iranians when this regime is gone?

Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool, is an independent cross-bench member of the House of Lords and member of the British Committee for Iran Freedom,www.iran-freedom.org.He also writes on https://davidalton.net/