ASIA/PAKISTAN - Punjab Province: Catholic lawyer is human rights minister

Wednesday, 17 April 2024 human rights   religious minorities  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Catholic lawyer Khalil Tahir Sindhu is Minister of Human Rights in the government of Pakistan's Punjab province, an area that is the economic, social and cultural heart of the nation and where the majority of Pakistan's Christians live. Together with him, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, representative of the Sikh religion and thus the first representative of this religious community to hold such an office, also works as Minister for Minorities in the provincial government led by Prime Minister Maryam Nawaz. The Catholic lawyer from Sindhu, who has been combining his legal practice with active political engagement for years, was the Christian representative on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lists and candidate for the minority seat in the parliamentary elections on February 8th Punjab Senate. In the Senate vote, he received 253 votes, five more than the sum of the votes of the members of the governing coalition. As a culturally, morally and spiritually high personality, he is held in high regard by all parties in parliament, including the Islamic groups. In the last term he was Minister for Parliamentary Affairs in the Punjab Parliament and maintained good relations with members of the current opposition. He was previously a member of the Punjab provincial government as provincial minister for human rights and minorities and as health minister in 2013. 57-year-old Sindhu, originally from Faisalabad, is a lawyer who is deeply committed to the rights of Christian minorities and has successfully defended numerous blasphemy cases. In one recent case, Sindhu was a member of the defense committee that led the appeal process for Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel, the Christian couple accused of blasphemy in July 2013. After being sentenced to death in the first instance, they were acquitted by the Lahore Court of Appeal in 2021. Sindhu was also involved in the infamous trial that led to the release of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman sentenced to death in 2010 and later acquitted in a third instance, by the Supreme Court in 2018. He has been politically active since 2008. "I work for a victory of justice and for the freedom and dignity of all people. I pursue this mission in the name of Christ. I always believe in God's help in every activity, even in politics or in a court case," he says. He is known in the Christian community as a believer and person of goodwill who, in his youth, was a fellow student of Catholic minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was murdered by terrorists in 2011. As Fides reports, in recent months another Catholic politician, Anthony Naveed, was elected vice-president of the assembly of Sindh, a province in southern Pakistan. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 17/4/2024)