WASHINGTON (December 2, 1998) -- The concerns of Catholic and other minority communities in Pakistan should be included in discussions this week between the Pakistani Prime Minister and senior U.S. officials, according to the Chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee.
In a letter today, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick advises Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that many people are deeply troubled by "several areas of current or proposed Pakistani policy."
Specifically, Archbishop McCarrick of Newark articulates four areas of concern he hopes will be raised with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif:
- the "notorious" blasphemy law. While no Christians have yet been sentenced to death, "some have been murdered before their cases were heard, some have lost property, and none can ever expect to return to a normal life."
- the expressed intention of the Pakistani government to make the Sharia the supreme law of the land. "While we recognize that this proposed institutionalizing of Muslim law is intended not to apply directly to non-Muslims, it will inevitably contribute to the further marginalization of the Christian and other minority communities of Pakistan."
- the separate electorate law, "imposed on all the minority communities, effectively banishes them from the mainstream of national life."
- the return of Church property nationalized under the previous government. In the Punjab, where 80 percent of the nation's Catholics reside, the Church has spent "a considerable
amount of money" for the return of 39 schools, but the Punjab government has yet to fulfill its obligations.
Text of Archbishop McCarrick's letter.