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.