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Christians fear violence following Pakistan PM's dismissal

Pakistani Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace has called on leaders to show political maturity

Christians fear violence following Pakistan PM's dismissal

Supporters of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hold placards during a demonstration in Karachi Aug. 3. (Photo by Asif Hassan/AFP)

Kamran Chaudhry, Lahore
Pakistan

August 9, 2017

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Christian activists in Pakistan are appealing to political parties to refrain from provocative mudslinging.

This comes amid a highly volatile political atmosphere in the wake of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's removal over a corruption scandal.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is mobilizing public gatherings as the deposed premier plans to travel from the capital, Islamabad, to Lahore near the Indian border by road on Aug. 9.

The Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from holding public office on July 28 for failing to declare some assets in his nomination papers.

Days after Sharif's ouster, Ayesha Gulalai, a female lawmaker from the opposition Justice Party, maintained that former cricket Imran Khan, now a politician, had sent her more than a dozen objectionable text messages.

Pakistan's new Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a Sharif loyalist, ordered a parliamentary probe into Gulalai's accusations.

Khan's supporters have accused the ruling party of manufacturing the claims to avenge Sharif's disqualification.

The Pakistani Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace has called on leaders to show political maturity. Executive director Cecil Shane Chaudhry warned of 'tit for tat' political reprisals.

 

Rising political tensions

More than two-dozen people were injured when a bomb planted in a fruit truck went off in Lahore on Aug.7 night, with no claim of responsibility. Last month, 26 people, including three Christians, died in a suicide bombing in Lahore.

Rawadari Tehreek, an interfaith peace group, expressed concern over the rising political tensions.

"The culture of abuse will only add fire to an already intolerant society and we fear bloodshed in the general elections scheduled for next year," said Samson Salamat, the Christian chairman of Tehreek.

He said both the "letter and the spirit" of an existing ban on hate speech should be observed.

Sharif became Pakistan's 15th prime minister who failed to complete a five-year constitutional term. The military has ruled the nation for more than half of the past 70 years.

The 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, who was twice prime minister of Pakistan, plunged the nuclear-armed nation into turmoil. More than 100 people died, mostly in gun battles with police. Trains and private buses were set alight, banks burned down and government offices ransacked by mobs.

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