Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra (center) has been vocal about issues faced by minority prisoners. (Photo courtesy of Masiha Millat Party)
A prominent Pakistani Christian political leader has written a letter to Punjab authorities seeking permission for the construction of a church and baptism pool for minority inmates in the central prison.
In his letter written on March 4, Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra, chairman of the Massiha Millat Party, drew the attention of the minority affairs minister to the number of non-Muslim prisoners serving their term in Central Jail Lahore.
“I have come to know that there are about 3,500 prisoners in Central Jail Lahore, of which 300 to 400 are non-Muslim. Among the non-Muslim prisoners, the number of Christian prisoners is 200. Moreover, the number of Hindu prisoners is 40 to 50,” wrote Sahotra, who was recently released from the same jail after paying blood money in a 2015 case.
Dozens of Christians arrested for the murder of two Muslims wrongly suspected of carrying out church bombings in Lahore in 2015 were acquitted on Jan. 29 after a deal to pay blood money to the victims’ families.
Sahotra was among the 29 acquitted. Since his release, he has been very vocal about issues faced by minority prisoners.
“The jail authorities want to make prisoners of all denominations aware of the teachings of their respective holy books such as the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran, with a view to reforming them once they are released. There is a commendable arrangement for Muslim teachers to visit the jail to give Muslim prisoners religious instruction, supported by the government. There is one imambargah [congregation hall] and more than 13 mosques in the jail, in which hundreds of prisoners offer their prayers,” he wrote in his letter.
“However, there is only one church for Christian prisoners, the main hall of which measures 19 feet by 16 feet. Only 20 to 25 people can barely offer their prayers together, hence it is impossible for the 200 Christian prisoners to pray together. Furthermore, Christian prisoners also face many problems every Sunday prayer service.
“Given the above-mentioned lack of space for Christian worshipers in the jail, it is humbly requested that the Home Secretary Department be directed to build a new church building measuring 20 feet by 50 feet and a baptism pool measuring 6 feet by 6 feet opposite block-6/7 in Central Jail Lahore.
“Christians throughout the nation would be grateful to you and the jail management.”