Councillor on human rights mission meets the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who was assassinated just days later

A SAFFRON Walden town councillor is this week back in the UK after carrying out a human rights campaign that led him to travel more than half way around the world and risk his life.

The high risks involved in Cllr Raza Anjum’s trip was laid bare when the liberal Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated last week by his extremist bodyguard who opposed his criticism of the country’s blasphemy laws.

Cllr Anjum held an official meeting with him only days before he was killed.

Cllr Anjum said: “Salman Taseer was a strong supporter of the rights of women and Christian minorities. He was aware that his life was endanger from extremists and fundamentalists.

“He said to me that one has to be brave when fighting extremism and advised me to take all security measures in my ‘heroic activities’.”

Cllr Anjum had travelled to Pakistan at the end of December in order to campaign for the release of Christian mother-of-five Asia Bibi who was arrested in June 2009 and sentenced to death for blasphemy, a crime which she denies committing.

During his time in Pakistan, he held meetings with other senior figures in the Pakistani government including the Prime Minister and the Minister for Minorities. He met with senior officials from the British High Commission and the EU delegation in Islamabad.

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In a show of solidarity Cllr Anjum also spent Christmas day with Asia Bibi in prision.

“The allegations against Asia Bibi, that she insulted Islam, are widely considered internationally, and within the Pakistani government, to lack solid evidence and to be a creation of her Muslim neighbours who had refused to share water with her,” he said.

Cllr Anjum received strong support from the British Foreign Office in his mission, and they conducted all arrangements for his official government meetings.

At their request, Cllr Anjum has compiled a fact finding report on his findings which he will present to them as well as the European Union in the coming weeks.

Speaking about his expedition, he said: “Human rights are at the very heart of Britain’s foreign policy. We have to be resolute and determined in standing up for those who are denied the rights and freedoms we enjoy.

“It is important to champion human rights in a pragmatic and effective way, that inspires others and that strengthens the global rule of law.”

Since arriving back in the UK, Cllr Anjum has given interviews about his experience to the BBC, The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian.

He aims to continue to campaign for Asia Bibi and was successful in gaining assurances from the Pakistani government that they would pardon her release in the near future.

? The Churches Together group in Saffron Walden is holding a meeting on behalf of Cllr Anjum who has been invited to speak about his experiences. The meeting takes place at the United Reformed Church hall in Abbey Lane on January 23 at 5pm.