By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries and the ASSIST News Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS — June 19, 2015) – The Lahore High Court (LHC) in Pakistan, has ordered the country’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) not to create hindrances for two Christian siblings who wanted to visit Sri Lanka.
Rana Tanveer, writing The Express Tribune, said that FIA submitted a letter before the court saying that according to Sri Lankan Immigration authorities, more than 1,400 Pakistani asylum seekers, mainly Ahmedis, Christians and Shias, have registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sri Lanka.
An FIA deputy director said that on June 24, 2014, Pakistan’s high commission in Colombo had written a letter to FIA headquarters stating that the Sri Lankan government had initiated action against Pakistani asylum seekers on June 9, 2014.
The letter said that 143 male asylum seekers had been detained for questioning at Boossa and Mirihana detention facilities in Sri Lanka.
Authorities there said in the letter that they had been acting against the asylum seekers involved in “criminal activities”.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that any action leading to deportation will be a violation of international humanitarian laws. “The matter is between the UNHCR and the Sri Lankan government… but immigration authorities might consider putting in place some measures to check the movement of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka,” the letter said.
In her story, Rana Tanveer went on to say, “The court ordered the FIA to remain within the four corners of law and stop harassing the Christian siblings.”
Petitioners Irfan Masih and his sister Maria Batool, residents of Kasur, had accused the FIA of offloading them twice from Sri Lanka-bound flights. They said they had been invited to visit Sri Lanka by a family friend, KA Nalika Damayanthi, a Sri Lankan national.”
Their counsel, Advocate Mushtaq Gill, said the petitioners had obtained visas and sponsor letters after due process. He said they had purchased tickets of Mihin Lanka (PVT) Ltd, a Sri Lankan airline, for departure on May 12 from Lahore to Colombo. However, at Allama Iqbal International Airport, FIA officials had stopped them and asked them if they had certain documents on them. He said that they showed them the documents but the officials did not allow them to board the plane.
A few days later, he said, they had bought new tickets and tried to board a flight to Colombo on June 1 from Allama Iqbal International Airport. They received their boarding cards but were once again stopped from boarding the flight.
Advocate Mushtaq Gill had previously said that citizens whose passports mentioned Christian as the religion were often asked to provide assurance that they were not travelling abroad to seek asylum. Gill said when he was travelling to Italy in December 2014, he had been approached by FIA officials at the airport who claimed that he was intending to seek asylum in Italy. “I was finally allowed to travel after I asked some officers to intervene,” he said.
Gill added that, as citizens of Pakistan, Christians were entitled to fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. He said his clients’ right to freedom of movement had been violated because of their faith. He said his clients had no intention to seek asylum.
“The fact that so many Christians are seeking asylum abroad, speaks volumes of the persecution they face in this country. Christians here face discrimination; mob violence; misuse of blasphemy laws; inequality before law; threats and harassment; and unequal job opportunities.”
He said that if that was not the case, then his clients, being equal citizens of Pakistan, had every right to visit any country in the world. He asked the court to direct the Lahore FIA director not to stop them from flying abroad.
Photo captions: 1) Arrivals lounge at Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore. 2) Advocate Gill. 3) Dan Wooding doing a TV report.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is “Mary: My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary,” which you can read at: http://marythebook.com/.
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