Deal struck with anti-blasphemy protesters but Pakistan's minorities now gripped with fear
|London: November 27, 2017. (PCP) Pakistan was in turmoil over the weekend as hundreds of thousands of protesters rioted across the nation’s cities and villages. The situation reached such dangerous levels that the army had to be called in to bring things back under control. Last night in a dramatic turn of events the Minister for Law whose resignation was the main target of protesters, quit from his post. Even then Pakistan minority communities say they do not feel safe.
Anti-blasphemy demonstrators began the campaign two weeks ago after a firebrand Islamic cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi first called for protests over a change in the electoral oath for lawmakers that once confirmed the finality of the prophet Muhammed. Although no significant change has been made in the Bill regarding Khatm-e-Nabuwat (Finality of the Prophet) with exception of moving it from point number (i) to point number (iii) and changing the wording from ‘solemnly swear’ to ‘declare’, the reaction has been untamed fury. The offence to Muslims in Pakistan was compounded by the statement itself being relegated from first position to third position on the new form. Read the full story and read the forms that are written in English (here).
At least six people were killed and over 250 wounded as law enforcement agencies finally acted under court orders provided to them on Saturday 25th November, to disperse protesters who had camped out at Islamabad’s Faizabad Interchange for nearly three weeks.
Those were killed identified as Hafiz Mohammad Adeel, Jahanzaib Butt, Abdul Rehman, Mohammad Sharjeel, Zohaib Ahmed and Mohammad Irfan.
A number of senior police officials, nine police officers and a polio vaccinator were also injured in the day-long clashes.
The interior ministry on Saturday evening issued a notification regarding the deployment of Pakistan Army in the federal capital after fierce clashes between security forces and Tehreek-e-Labaik activists turned violent.
On Sunday things escalated beyond comprehension and the whole country of Pakistan was brought to a standstill as protests erupted in major cities across the nation. Our travelling Missionary from the UK Leighton Medley shared his experience of the effects of the protest, he said:
"At the moment the situation in Pakistan is dire. Once again, nationwide protests over the constitutional oath, despite the government correcting their position with law minister apologising, have turned ugly.
A policeman was killed in Islamabad yesterday, and now there is a nationwide curfew of all the major cities. Karachi experienced another bomb blast this morning, where 4 people including a child were killed. As for us , we have been marooned at Kalar Kahar service station, around one hours drive from Rawalpindi, where the situation was grave yesterday. So much so that Mehwish Bhatti [BPCA Lead Officer in Pakistan}, was trapped in a taxi for 4 hours surrounded by protesters near her home. Here in Kalar Kahar, we are surrounded by coaches and trucks, stranded because of the unrest.
Yesterday, we were fine and met some other Christians to fellowship with, but there was a growing sense that this situation is only going to worsen. Worsen it did, and if it hadn't been for an answer to prayer for a taxi, we would still have been stuck at Kalar Kahar, instead of arriving at Rawalpindi safe by God's grace.
Despite being dressed in Asian garb Leighton was particularly noticeable.
We were afraid in the coach park, as far too many people were taking an unhealthy interest in us, and we did not know who to trust. Thankfully we are in a PC hotel now, after much stress and anxiety. We are tired, somewhat traumatised after a hair raising journey, but thankful to God for His gracious providence. Unfortunately, after speaking to some local people, the sense seems to be that Pakistan has to grow up and fast, if it ever wants to be taken seriously on the world stage.
As usual, conspiracy theories abound, like the military being behind most of these protests, due to their lack of action, but I think more likely, the religious establishment is once again flexing its muscles, by using the illiterate masses to do their dirty work.
Again, it's a crucial time for Pakistan and one feels the unease amongst the minority communities as the Islamists ramp up the pressure. There is no doubt, that due to recent events in Turkey, they are feeling emboldened and the clash of world views, between the secular west and the Muslim world, is only going to get hotter. Right now as Christians, we need unity and prayer, trusting in the Word and building up our communities. So we can bring effective cultural change to Pakistan, it is happening in Iran, there is no reason why it can't happen here also. Let's through the gospel, try to make it a reality.
Today (Monday 27th November), the protests have quietened down after the Minister of Law officially resigned from his post. However the minority communities of Pakistan are now living in fear of the extremists that surround them.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: "By God's grace we were able to get Leighton to safety but fears for minorities living in Pakistan remain high.
"The fact that slight alterations on an electoral registration form for MP's can cause such havoc in the country, resulting in the resignation of a law minister in order to restore peace throughout the country, illustrates the widespread radicalisation of Muslims in Pakistan.
"With such a prevalent backdrop of intolerance what chance for survival do minorities have? Very little if you ask me."
"Even then Christians continue to fail asylum appeals in westeren nations ever willing to defend Pakistan who are ostensibly allies in the war against terror and have intrinsic trade agreements with all western nations and the European Union.
"I am praying the sociopolitical conditions in Pakistan alter soon. My greatest fear is that as a nuclear nation, if Pakistan should ever fall into the wrong hands, this could have extremely far reaching consequences.
"The pathetic response by military forces and the Government of Pakistan in dealing with this matter, have done nothing to inspire me with any confidence."