Prayer warriors continue honouring Shahzad and Shama despite intimidation.
Campaign group British Pakistani Christian Association led a small candlelight vigil outside the Pakistan Embassy last night (Saturday 15th November). A group of three children and three adults who had all been praying for justice for Shahzad and Shama, met outside the Pakistani High Commission, Lowndes Square, to pay their respects to slain Christian couple Shahzad and Shama and to submit a petition to the consulate.
The group lit a number of tea-light candles in the shape of a cross before a picture of the brutally murdered couple and began to pray for the intolerant country of Pakistan, which is one of only 28 nations regarded as a 'Country of Concern' by the UK Foreign Office.
Hilda Orr, who traveled from Ireland to be at the event said:
"The life of minorities living in Pakistan has reached it's lowest ebb. Something has to be done to protect these innocents."
The groups prayers were interrupted by two officers from within the High Commission, who tried to move the grieving Christians away from the High Commission building, despite remonstrations that the peaceful event was meant to bring new hope into a dire situation. However eventually it was agreed that the group could continue when Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA, explained that peaceful protest is a legal right to all citizens of Britain on Public streets and that the vigil was not in breach of any UK laws.
Mr Chowdhry said;
"When I explained that we only wanted to honour the lives of extra-judicial killing victims Shazad and Shama, the two officers seemed oblivious to whom we were referring. This hurt and caused great resentment. I was shocked that the officer knew nothing of one of the most brutal killings in the history of humanity."
"The two officers blocked our way until we started taking pictures, despite the obviously
peaceful nature of our vigil. Their behaviour was both inappropriate and very intimidating. It was very disconcerting for me, as only 3 years ago I was dragged into the Pakistani High Commission and beaten when applying for a visa. The High Commission initially claimed I had attacked a diplomatic officer, however they soon dropped charges when I urged the Police to seek video evidence from the High Commission's CCTV equipment." (Click here)
Mr Chowdhry told us how he missed his mother-in-law's funeral and the marriage of his closest cousin, after a ban on entry to Pakistan was imposed on him. In a private meeting with the then Chancery of the UK Pakistan High Commission, Nafees Zecharia, Wilson was advised that the reason for his refusal was his stance on the blasphemy law and his protestations, which they had deemed anti-Pakistani. They later refused to make any comment to any media on the subject, which in itself is not an admission of guilt, but serves to support Mr Chowdhry's version of the incident. Mr Chowdhry is now hoping that the appointment of a new High Commissioner may open the doors for him to travel to the land of his fore-fathers once again. His aging aunt is in poor health, and Wilson hopes that a more compassionate High Commissioner will make a just decision.
Hannah Chowdhry (1o yrs), daughter of Wilson Chowdhry, said;
"I have been praying for Pakistan since I was very young. I believe one day when i am older the country will be safer for everybody. I feel scared when I am there, as I know they do not like Christians. I came today because I feel very sad about the young children who have lost their mummy and daddy."
Mr Chowdhry has alleged that whilst these officers thought they were out of earshot, they referred to the event as one being led by kaffirs, a derogatory term meaning infidels. Use of the same ignominious word by a politician in Imran Khan's political party, was justifiably berated by Pakistani media. However the use of the term at last night's peaceful prayer vigil, simply continues to illustrate that years of poor governance and conditioning have created an intolerant generation.
The BPCA launched a petition seven days ago calling for a number of reforms in Pakistan. Since going on-line the petition has collected in excess of 4000 signatures. It is hoped a figure close to 100,000 signatures can be collected to spur the UK government to review existing diplomatic terms with Pakistan. In particular the group is pushing for any aid budget to Pakistan to be used to lever an improvement
in the poor human rights record of Pakistan, otherwise for the aid to be terminated.
The BPCA are urging people to sign their petition (click here)
The BPCA are also holding a protest and memorial service to honour the couple at 10 Downing Street on the 22nd November 2014, from 11am. They are calling people of good conscience of all faiths, or no faith and no faith to join them.