November 17, 2011. (Romereports.com)
After the general audience, Pope Benedict XVI was greeted by Pakistan's Minister of State for Harmony, Akram Gill. Minister Gill spoke with the pope about his work of promoting interfaith dialogue and the political situation of minorities in Pakistan. Something that he says has dramatically improved in the past few years. Akram Gill
Minister of State for Harmony (Pakistan)“Between 2007 and 2011, minorities used to have separate electorates. One of the major contributions of last government was they introduced a system for a joint electorate. This has been a significant step forward.”
Pakistan has received much criticism and international pressure to end the country's blasphemy law which carries a death sentence for anyone who insults Islam.
Akram Gill is a practicing Catholic and is heading the Ministry for Harmony after his predecessor, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated in name of the blasphemy law.
Given the recent violence, he says it may be too soon for any drastic changes. Akram Gill
Minister of State for Harmony (Pakistan)“It's probably not a good time to express opinions on the law because it could be misinterpreted. Results can be expected soon enough, but it can't be said exactly when.”
A study released by the Pakistani Ministry of Interior says that the Blasphemy law does not unfairly target religious minorities. This is a message Minister Gill has been trying to spread through the media. Akram Gill
Minister of State for Harmony (Pakistan)“I would like to dispel the notion that discriminatory action has been especially taken against Christians. Since 1986 to 2011 there are 1058 cases under the blasphemy law. And it's interesting that only 132 cases are registered against Christians.”
Pakistan is 95% Muslim, with the other 5% being Christians, Hindus, and those who practice other religions.
Minister Gill is appealing to the international community for more economic empowerment to Pakistan's minorities. He says this will ultimately result in bringing more peace to the society.