Peshawar blast protests: Churches of Pakistan say no to rioting

Published: September 23, 2013
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Members of the Pakistani Christian community chant slogans during a protest rally to condemn the Peshawar church attack. PHOTO: REUTERS

Members of the Pakistani Christian community chant slogans during a protest rally to condemn the Peshawar church attack. PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE / PESHAWAR: Churches of Pakistan have appealed to the public to avoid rioting on the streets, Express News reported Tuesday. This appeal was made after protests and rioting broke out in the country following the Peshawar church attack yesterday.

Amidst fears of increasing attacks, they demanded that Rangers be deployed to ensure security.

Earlier, they had asked people to stop blocking traffic and avoid destruction and general disturbance of peace in the country.

Christians demonstrated in towns and cities around Pakistan, including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Faisalabad, to protest against the violence and demand better protection from the authorities.

The attack on All Saints church in the northwestern city of Peshawar after a service on Sunday is believed to be the deadliest ever to target Pakistan’s small Christian minority.

More than 600 protesters blocked a major highway in Islamabad for several hours during the Monday morning rush hour, burning tyres and causing long tailbacks, an AFP photographer said.

Later around 2,000 people gathered to protest outside parliament.

In Peshawar, around 200 demonstrators took to the streets, smashing windows at the main Lady Reading hospital, where many of the victims were treated, and blocking the main Grand Trunk road.

In front of All Saints church, more than 100 people chanted slogans demanding justice and attacking the national government for failing to protect Christians.

And they had harsh words for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party runs the provincial government in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Protesters shouted abusive slogans against the cricketer turned politician, including chants of “Imran is a dog”.

“Imran Khan and his senior deputy have failed to protect Christians at their praying centres,” Khalid Shahzad, who lost five family members in the attack, told AFP.

“The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Imran Khan are just making slogans, there is nothing practical (to protect us). They do not have any sympathy for minorities.”

Protesters in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, blocked roads around the press club with rocks and burning tyres, while Lahore saw more than a dozen demonstrations.

In Karachi, there have been protests by the Christian community near Korangi crossing, Isa Nagri, Liaquatabad and Numaish Chowrangi.

The death toll from the blasts rose to 82 on Monday, according to medics, with around 130 in total wounded.

Senior Peshawar police official Najeeb-ur-Rehman said security around churches in the city would be stepped up, but survivors of the bombing spoke of their fears of further violence.

“We had very good relations with the Muslims — there was no tension before that blast, but we fear that this is the beginning of a wave of violence against the Christians,” Danish Yunas, a Christian driver wounded in the blast, told AFP.

The small and largely impoverished Christian community suffers discrimination in the overwhelmingly Muslim-majority nation but bombings against them are extremely rare.

The 400 or so worshippers were exchanging greetings after the service when the bombers struck, littering the church with blood, body parts and pages from the Bible.

The walls were pockmarked with ball bearings that had been packed into the bombs to cause maximum carnage in the busy church.

Sectarian violence between majority Sunni and minority Shia Muslims is on the rise in Pakistan but Sunday’s bombings will fuel fears the already beleaguered Christian community could be increasingly targeted.

A faction linked to the Pakistani Taliban on Sunday claimed the attack, saying it was to avenge US drone strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives in the country’s tribal areas along the Afghan border.

But on Monday the main spokesperson for the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group said they were not responsible.

“We haven’t done this nor do we attack innocent people,” Shahidullah Shahid, the main TTP spokesperson told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“Whenever we carry out an attack we claim it, but the Taliban are not involved in this attack. It was an attempt to sabotage the atmosphere of the proposed peace talks.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called several times for peace talks with the Taliban and two weeks ago won backing from the country’s main political parties.

But speaking in London late on Sunday he said the government was “unable to proceed further” with talks in the wake of the church attack.

Only around two percent of the Pakistan’s 180 million population are Christian and the community complains of growing discrimination.

Pakistani Christians often lead a precarious existence, many living in slum-like “colonies” cheek-by-jowl with Muslims and fearful of allegations of blasphemy, a sensitive subject that can provoke outbursts of public violence.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • A-No.1
    Sep 23, 2013 - 3:20PM

    20 billion gifted to a few chosen ones is not the solution to the problem of terrorism. Open your eyes politicians; as they will not spare you either. Take a lesson from history and see what they did to Babrak Karmal in Kabul.

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  • fyza gandapur
    Sep 23, 2013 - 3:46PM

    a terrible incident it was. but why so much publicized? as if there were never any terror attack before . a dirty game being played to demoralize PTI

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  • Appauled
    Sep 23, 2013 - 4:04PM

    wonder where are the RIOT HAPPY population of Pakistan right now? why are they not out there rioting against this massacre? where are they? or are they silent because they support this?

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  • Max
    Sep 23, 2013 - 4:28PM

    Does anyone has a right to live in this country except a few self-righteous religious nuts? Is this not religious fascism? Shame and on all of us and more on the so which has failed to protect an average citizen.

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  • Ali
    Sep 23, 2013 - 4:30PM

    I read about Babrak Karmal on Wikipedia but did not find any thing interesting except that he was usually involved in bringing down Afghan governments and had links to Moscow. He died of liver cancer. Can you please elaborate why you mentioned him here. Thanks.

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  • Mir
    Sep 23, 2013 - 5:54PM

    Another 83 people died, just as much Pakistanis as anyone else. Its sad and just as tragic and we should mourn their deaths as Pakistanis first and foremost without overstating the religion they belong to. That would takes away from countless others who died in vain up till now. Seems like its hard to feel safe these days no matter who you are or what group or religion or a region you belong to. This is a war for the survival of Pakistan and not of just one in particular. Minorities are as much Pakistanis as anyone and equally important part of the picture we call Pakistan.

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  • amir
    Sep 23, 2013 - 6:13PM

    This is the difference between humans, and the animals who kill them.

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  • Reas Ekberg.
    Sep 23, 2013 - 6:19PM

    They should protest as Pakistanis and not as Christians. They are equally Pakistani. Altaf Bhai says there is no such thing as minority in Pakitan.

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  • Iftikhar Khan
    Sep 23, 2013 - 6:27PM

    @amir:

    Do not insult animals, these beasts are pure devils.

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  • Mj
    Sep 23, 2013 - 6:54PM

    @Iftikhar Khan:
    @amir:

    They are not animals and monsters, but humans just like you and me. A weak mind is a powerful tool in the hands of those who seek power in the name of religion, nationalism, economic system, fascism, or any other ideology.

    “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire

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  • fawad
    Sep 23, 2013 - 7:56PM

    I feel sorry for the Christians but terrorists have targeted almost everyone in Pakistan in last 10 years. And most of them have been sunni’s. So generally speaking it is not against minorities but against all Pakistani’s. But same killing happening in FATA by our own forces cannot be ignored as well. They also call our forces as devils and animals.

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  • Ali
    Sep 23, 2013 - 11:42PM

    ||A faction linked to the Pakistani Taliban on Sunday claimed the attack, saying it was to avenge US drone strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives in the country’s tribal areas along the Afghan border.
    But on Monday the main spokesperson for the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group said they were not responsible.
    “We haven’t done this nor do we attack innocent people,” Shahidullah Shahid, the main TTP spokesperson told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
    “Whenever we carry out an attack we claim it, but the Taliban are not involved in this attack. It was an attempt to sabotage the atmosphere of the proposed peace talks.”
    Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called several times for peace talks with the Taliban and two weeks ago won backing from the country’s main political parties.
    But speaking in London late on Sunday he said the government was “unable to proceed further” with talks in the wake of the church attack.||

    Just shows why and how the nation is kept in perpetual confusion about whats happening, resulting in endless conspiracy theories, making it difficult to find a workable solution. The whole purpose of starting the dialogue process that all parties agreed to (including so called liberal ANP, PPP etc) is to reduce this confusion.; to find out how many groups and factions we are dealing with and what their individual motivations for fighting are – If any groups are willing to stop fighting against the state and respect the constitution once we disengage from US war/ prevent illegal & immoral drone attacks, then there will be less groups to fight against and less motivation for wronged people to join these militants, making the eventual victory easier and nearer. Why lump all those who are fighting into one category? Those that don’t stop fighting even after this disengagement need to be dealt with by the full force of our military. The hardcore elements which are in partnership with SSP/LeJ/ASWJ and kill innocent civilians, targeting minorities and moderate sunnis alike, will never stop their killing, as this has been going on even before the US invasion of Afghanistan, even before Pak Army operations in FATA. These pre-TTP/ Zia era scum which our own establishment shamefully supported, used or at least ‘tolerated’, should be crushed with punitive military action regardless of any peace talks, as there is no scope for negotiation with these demonic barbarians who have now proliferated all over the country..

    In the words of Imran Khan, “We must make this our OWN war!” – which in my opinion, means: stop being confused! The US war is based on false premises and pre-planned 9/11 attacks. They pulled us into their war to destabilise us as part of their strategic Great Game for global power and control of resources. They want us to stay in this quagmire. The real war that we pakistanis should have been fighting (ages ago) was the war against bigotry, intolerance, and sectarian hatred that Zia and his regime magnified and with the help of extremist mullahs, and subservient political puppets, imposed on our society, propagating it far and wide with Saudi blessings.

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  • conspirashid
    Sep 24, 2013 - 1:57AM

    “We haven’t done this nor do we attack innocent people,” Shahidullah Shahid

    and what about those 50000 people in last 10 years? none of them was innocent?

    @ Ali , I havn’t any words for you.

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  • Khan Gul
    Sep 24, 2013 - 3:35AM

    According to PTI and Imran Khan, it is ANP hooligans who are protesting. So relax.

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