A Pakistani Christian man took the oath of office as a high court judge on Saturday, beating the odds as an oppressed minority to ascend to the highest judiciary level in the country.
Jamshaid Rehmatullah is among Lahore High Court’s 16 newly appointed judges, one of whom is a woman, according to Pakistan’s Daily Times. The Christian lawyer and judge of the Lahore High Court has thanked All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) founder and head Shahbaz Bhatti for helping with his appointment.
“I could not imagine becoming a judge without Federal Minister Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti’s concrete efforts,” said Rehmatullah, according to APMA.
Bhatti has been a long-time and outspoken advocate for minorities' rights in Pakistan. He was appointed last year as a parliament member and holds the position of Pakistani Minister for the Defense of Minorities.
“[The] appointment of Mr. Jamshaid Rehmatullah as a High Court Judge is no less than a miracle,” said Bhatti, in a statement. “The historic development will beyond any doubt spread a message of hope among religious minorities of Pakistan.”
He added, “I thank Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani for appointing Mr. Jamshaid Rehmatullah as High Court Judge.”
The minorities right leader highlighted that the appointment of a Christian man to the High Court reflects an “enlightened and democratic stance” from newly-elected Pakistan Peoples’ Party. The previous chief of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) did not appoint a Christian as a judge, Bhatti noted.
“I decided to become a parliamentarian to effectively advocate the cause of the marginalized and down-trodden minorities of Pakistan,” said the Federal Minister.
“I will continue serving ailing humanity until the last drop of my blood,” Bhatti said. “I have devoted my life for uplift and empowerment of religious minorities and I will not rest until this becomes a reality.”
The rights activist has also been demanding more reserved seats for minorities in national and provincial assemblies.
Religious minorities in Pakistan have experienced severe persecution in social, economic and legal spheres of life. An infamous blasphemy law in Pakistan has frequently been manipulated to accuse and punish Christians for allegedly insulting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
In most cases, there is no evidence or made up evidence on the part of the Muslim accuser that Christians have insulted their revered prophet. Christians are falsely accused of blasphemy as punishment when they have a dispute over land or other non-religious related arguments.
Pakistan’s population is over 90 percent Muslim, with less than five percent of the population being Christian.