Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Department of Foreign Affairs
Human Rights Issues
Question 210: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if there has been a change in policy towards the Pakistani Ahmadiyya community; if this policy will be reviewed in view of the persecution and massacre of followers this year in Lahore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45812/10]
As I stated in response to previous Parliamentary Questions regarding the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan, most recently on 6 July last, promoting religious tolerance is a key objective of Ireland and the EU in relations with Pakistan. Bilaterally, and through the EU, we have urged the government of Pakistan to make every effort to promote effectively the rights of minorities and to improve their current conditions. In our bilateral contacts with Pakistan, we have emphasized the importance of maintaining adequate protection for minorities in Pakistan. Minority and human rights issues were discussed at formal political consultations held between Ireland and Pakistan at Political Director level in Islamabad on 10 February last. My Department follows up with the Pakistan authorities on these matters on a regular basis.
I condemn all attacks on the Ahmadiyya community, a particularly vulnerable minority in Pakistan. The attack which took place in Lahore on 28 May was especially heinous. A group of seven Islamic militants attacked two Mosques with machine guns, grenades and suicide bombs, resulting in the deaths of ninety four innocent people with many more left maimed and wounded. A subsequent attack was made on 31 May on the hospital in Lahore where victims and one of the alleged attackers were under treatment. This led to a shoot-out in which at least a further 12 people, mostly police officers and hospital staff, were killed.
Ireland is active at European Union level to ensure that human rights, which include the promotion of religious tolerance, are on the agenda for our discussions with Pakistan. Human rights were discussed during the most recent European Union-Pakistan Summit, held in Brussels in June.
For its part, the Pakistani Government has given clear commitments to protect religious minorities and to promote religious tolerance. In this regard, the setting up of a Ministry for Human Rights, a Ministry for Minorities and the introduction of an independent national Human Rights Commission are welcome initiatives.
Ireland will continue to be active at bilateral, European Union and multilateral level to seek respect for the human rights of all minorities in Pakistan, including the vulnerable Ahmadiyya community.