Church attack sparks protests and condemnations
23 September, 2013
PESHAWAR: Christians in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura and other cities staged protest rallies to condemn the killings of Christian worshippers in Peshawar, on Sunday.
In Karachi, angry protesters clashed with police when they tried to clear a road in Essa Nagri, a low-income Christian locality. Protesters also clashed with police in Peshawar where people complained about the highhandedness of police. Police arrested several protesters who tried to damage public properties. In Lahore a protest rally was held outside the press club. Protesters raised slogans against the perpetrators of the attack.
Meanwhile, leaders of major political parties condemned the Peshawar blasts that claimed at least 78 lives on Sunday. Awami National Party (ANP) leader Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, who himself is facing severe threat from the terrorists, lost no time to reach the church attacked by the suicide bombers for expressing his sympathy and solidarity with the mourning Christian community. However, he had to return soon as the environment over there was highly charged, while some enraged persons started voicing slogans. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan offered his condolences over the loss of dozens of lives in the incident.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement also condemned the blast and announced three-day mourning. According to media reports, Council for International Religion has announced three-day mourning and three holidays in the missionary schools and colleges in Peshawar. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and Pakistan People's Party also announced three days of mourning to express solidarity with the Christian community. Protests were staged by the Christian community and the civil society organisations in four different localities of Lahore against the twin bomb blasts.
The main protest demonstration was held in front of the Lahore Press Club. The Human Liberation Commission Pakistan, Maseha Millat Party, EPT Fellowship Ministry, PPP Minorities' Wing and people of Behar Colony, Joseph Colony, and Makka Colony participated in the demonstration. The protesters were carrying placards, crosses and flags and were chanting slogans for justice. A number of Christian women were also present on this occasion.
Some children also participated in the protest. Most of the demonstrators were wearing black bands on their arms in protest. Minority leaders Aslam Sahotra, Anwar Javed, Amin Masih Sohni, Anees Pervez, Saleem Gabriel, Hanif Thekedar, Ch Shahid Iqbal, Baba Aslam Bhatti, Ch Sadiq, Joseph Frances, Zia Khokhar, Javed Sindu, Martin Javed Michael, and Amir Bashir addressed the protesters.
They demanded the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to improve security of minorities and arrest the perpetrators of the church attack. They asked the government to deal with the terrorists with iron fist and urged Imran Khan, the chief of the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to remove his party's chief minister, saying he has failed to provide security to the minorities in the province. They claimed that the chief minister was responsible for the attack as his government was aware about it but did not take measures to protect the churches.
The local people of Youhanabad, the area which is populated by around 70,000 Christians, also held a big protest under the leadership of PPP's minority wing leader Napoleon Qayyum and others, and announced three days of mourning against the killings of Christians in Peshawar. During the mourning period more than 700 shops and 42 schools located in the area will remain close. Meanwhile, Napoleon left for Peshawar to attend funerals of the Christians who died in the attack.
A protest demonstration was also staged in Joseph Colony, Badami Bagh. The Christian community strongly condemned the terror attack and their leadership demanded the federal government take stern action against the terrorists. Some of the non-governmental organisations, like Civil Society Network Pakistan (CSNP), Human Liberation Commission Pakistan (HLCP), and The Voice Society, held a protest demonstration at Charing Cross in front of the Punjab Assembly building. A good number of human rights activists as well as Christian community members also participated in the protest.