Pakistan

Pakistan mosque blast scares Christians

Nobody is safe, says one Peshawar Christian as calls ring out for greater protection after bomber kills at least 101 people

Kamran Chaudhry

Updated: February 03, 2023 07:22 AM GMT

People protest against the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan at Liberty Roundabout in Lahore on Feb. 1 (Photo: supplied)

The suicide blast at a mosque in Pakistan, claiming the lives of 101 people — mostly policemen — and injuring more than 220 on Jan. 30, has set alarm bells ringing among the country's Christian groups.

The blast in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bordering the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, is the deadliest since twin suicide bombings at the city's All Saints Church that killed 70 worshippers and injured more than 120. The attack in 2013 was the worst strike on Christians in Pakistan.

Atif Javed, a Catholic, whose six friends and their families were injured in the church blast, expressed fear for his wife who works at the social welfare department close to the targeted mosque in the sixth most populous city in Pakistan.

Nobody is safe. We try to return home early when we go out shopping and eating, Javed told UCA News.

We don't trust words and await what plan they have to protect us

We were worried about her when the news came in about the mosque blast. On the phone, she described the blast as an earthquake initially. A Christian police officer, who lives adjacent to the mosque, lost his mother, Javed added.

In Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, Christian groups joined a coalition of human rights organizations — the Joint Action Committee — on Feb. 1 to condemn the blasts. 

They demanded the implementation of an anti-terrorism National Action Plan, set up in 2014 following the massacre of more than 130 schoolchildren by Taliban militants in Peshawar.

Both the armed forces and political leaders are issuing the same old statements. We don't trust words and await what plan they have to protect us, said Samson Salamat, the Christian chairman of Rawadari Tehreek (Movement for Tolerance), an inter-faith movement.

Faisal Nazir, a Muslim engineer who left Peshawar with his family in 2021 to settle in the nearby Mardan district, said, What a waste of money on training an elite force to save us but which can't even protect themselves.

The suicide blast inside the mosque at the Pakistan police headquarters was a targeted revenge attack. Between 300 and 400 policemen had assembled for afternoon prayers inside the mosque in the heavily fortified compound when the walls and the roof were blown out. The attack was attributed to jihadist groups like the Pakistani Taliban and the local chapter of the Islamic State.

Pakistan was once plagued by daily bombings, but a major military operation in 2014 restored order.

We witnessed a similar rise in terrorism following the 9/11 attacks. The provincial capital is vulnerable due to the influx of outsiders, including Afghanis, and workers from surrounding towns,  Nazir observed.

Stop the genocide of police

The Taliban has been in power in the landlocked Central Asian nation of Afghanistan since August 2021.

We reject negotiations with the Taliban, Salamat added.

For the first time, police took to the streets in various districts of the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Feb. 1 to condemn the bombing at the mosque.

Cops with placards that read, stop the genocide of police were seen at Peshawar Press Club. 

The attack is the latest sign of the deteriorating security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which has now come in for low-intensity attacks. 

According to the National Counter Terrorism Authority of Pakistan, nearly 1,025 terrorism incidents took place across the country in 2022 that killed 587 people and left 1,110 injured.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the worst hit with 624 incidents, including 14 suicide bombings, which claimed 404 lives and injured 856.

The attacks come at a time when the South Asian nation is grappling with the skyrocketing cost of living amid a shortage of food and fuel.

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