India Abroad News Service
Pakistan's Christians
extremely fearful of Muslims
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 1997 15:38:48 -0500

Over 100 Pakistani Christians gathered in front of the country's
Consulate to denounce the attack on three Christian enclaves in
the Pakistani district of Multan, earlier this month.

In a letter addressed to Pakistani President Farooq Legari, Mr
Shadab E Khokhar, President of the Canadian chapter of
International Christian Awaz, noted that his group,
"With deep sadness and anger must protest the savage attacks
on the Christian community of Khanewal,  Bhuttabad and
Santinagar on February 5 and 6, 1997."

Published reports said that two people were killed, 15 injured
and thousands left homeless as a result of the violence.

Christians constitute about 3 per cent of Pakistan's
130-million population.

"Coming just two days after Pakistan's national elections of
February 3, 1997, the attacks may be a portent of more
dangerous things to come," said Mr Khokhar.

"Pakistan's Christians are extremely fearful," he said, alluding
to the fact that the previous government of Pakistan Prime
Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League oversaw
implementation of an Islamic Constitution, setting the stage for
the country's infamous blasphemy law which grants death
penalty to anyone found guilty of blasphemy towards Islam or
its Prophet Mohammed.

Mr Khokhar said that the Pakistani Christian population has
long maintained that the law is used by Muslim fanatics to harass
them and have asked for its repeal.

In the letter to President Legari, Mr Khokhar wrote,
"It is clear that the law of Pakistan does not protect Christians
but rather targets them."

Mr Khokhar said the Christian population in the three areas fled
for their lives when the stick-wielding, stone-throwing mob beset
their enclaves, burnt and looted churches, a mission school and
its hostel, and number of shops and houses.

He said that about 80 members of their organisation met on Feb.
9 to discuss the condition of Pakistani Christians.

They concluded that when the violence started, local Pakistani
police "were ineffective and the army was eventually called in
to maintain law and order," Mr Khokhar said.

About 30 members of International Christian Awaz also camped
in front of Queen's Park (seat of the Ontario provincial govt)
in Toronto to bring to the notice of the provincial
parliamentarians the condition of Pakistani Christians.

"Christians are always treated as second-class people in
Pakistan," Mr Khokhar claimed.

Six members of the group, including 10-year-old Christopher
Khokhar, were on hunger strike for a day.

When asked about the cause of the violence, Mr Khokhar said
the trouble erupted as a result of rumours that Christians had
torn pages from the Islamic holy book, Koran.

Speakers at the meeting in Toronto urged the Canadian
government to investigate and protest the latest incident of
religious persecution in Pakistan.

The Canadian chapter of International Christian Awaz has
demanded that the blasphemy law be repealed and the Pakistani
government repair all the churches destroyed during the recent
violence.

Return to Project Open Book