Pakistan: Minorities under Collusive Terror 
Posted on April 24th, 2018

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

At least two members of the Christian community, Rashid Khalid and Azhar Iqbal, were killed and another five were injured in a firing incident near a church in the Essa Nagri area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, on April 15, 2018. Quetta’s Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Abdur Razzaq Cheema, stated that the incident occurred when worshippers were leaving after attending the Sunday service at the church. Islamic State (IS, also Daesh) claimed responsibility for the attack through the Amaq ‘news agency’, its propaganda wing.

On April 2, 2018, four members of a Christian family were shot dead by unidentified assailants on Shah Zaman road in Quetta. A minor girl was also injured in the attack. The family was travelling in a rickshaw, when armed assailants on a motorcycle intercepted them and opened fire. Belonging to Punjab, the family was visiting relatives in Quetta on the occasion of Easter on April 1, and was likely being tailed by the assailants after they had identified them as Christians. Moazzam Jah Ansari, Inspector General of the Balochistan Police, observed that it appeared to have been a ‘targeted attack’. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.

On December 17, 2017, at least 11 civilians were killed and 56 injured in a suicide attack by two Daesh terrorists on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta. Police Guards stationed at the church entrance and on its roof killed one terrorist, but the second detonated his explosives-filled vest outside the prayer hall, causing all the casualties. DIG Abdur Razaq Cheema disclosed further that another two terrorists managed to escape. At the time of the incident there were nearly 400 worshippers in the church for a pre-Christmas service.

Terrorist attacks on Christians are not a new phenomenon in the theocratic state of Pakistan. Indeed, according to partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), Pakistan has witnessed at least 27 such incidents resulting in 252 fatalities and 609 injuries since March 2000 (data till April 22, 2018). The Christian community has faced the brunt of some of the worst terrorist attacks in the country in recent years. Some of the major terrorism-related incidents targeting the Christian community across Pakistan included:

March 27, 2016: At least 74 people were killed and more than 300 injured in a suicide blast inside the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in the Iqbal Town area of Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, when Christians were celebrating Easter. Ehsanullah Ehsan, ‘spokesperson’ of the Jama’at-ul-Ahrar (JuA), a breakaway faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), had declared, We had been waiting for this occasion. We claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter. It was part of the annual martyrdom attacks we have started this year.”

March 15, 2015: At least 15 persons, including 13 Christians and two Policemen, were killed and more than 70 were injured, when two suicide bombers attacked two churches near the Youhanabad neighbourhood in Lahore, sparking mob violence in which two terrorists were killed. Youhanabad is home to more than 100,000 Christians. JuA had claimed responsibility for the attack as well.

September 22, 2013: At least 79 worshippers, including 34 women and seven children, were killed and another 130 were injured when two suicide bombers attacked a Christian congregation at the historic All Saints Church in the Kohati Gate area of Peshawar, the provincial capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), on September 22, 2013. Ahmed Marwat, ‘a spokesman’ for the Jundullah group, a faction of the TTP, had claimed responsibility for the attack, and declared, in a statement to the media, “Until and unless drone strikes are stopped, we will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land. They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them.”

The entry of Daesh into this ‘campaign of targeting Christians’ has created a more insecure environment for this minority. The Voice of America, quoting Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentarian Tariq Christopher Qaiser, who belongs to Christian community, expressing serious concerns about the increasing number of targeted attacks, both on different Muslim sects and on Christians, stating, on April 7, 2018,

It’s not only alarming but also shameful. It is the responsibility of the state to protect all its nationals without any discrimination as to from which sect or religion they belong to. I have been raising my voice on the floor of the Parliament and will continue to do so.

Mehdi Hassan, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), noted, on April 7, 2018,

Attacks on the Christian community by Daesh is really a matter of concern, and this will worsen [the] religious extremism situation in Pakistan. In a country where extremism exists in so many forms, any outfit (including Daesh) can triumph.

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