LAHORE: The distressed Christians in a Lahore neighborhood, which met with extreme hostility as fuming Muslims torched about 200 homes, babble Pakistan’s two mainstream political parties have offered only hope of protection at this week’s general election.
The Pakistan Muslim League-N headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif, indicted of being inclined towards Taliban but keen to win Saturday’s polls, and the core outgoing Pakistan People’s Party both granted the affected Christian families of Joseph Town a sum of $5,000 each in reimbursement. PML-N on the other hand is the dominant party in command in Punjab – the dwelling of the largest Christian community in Pakistan. At the same time as in the northwest, Christians believe religious parties offer them additional security, voters in Joseph Colony state they will go for for PML-N for the provincial assembly whereas PPP for the national assembly, in appreciation of their support in the difficult times.
86 million of Pakistan’s registered voters are to show up at the polls on Saturday to elect four provincial assemblies and 272 representatives directly into the National Assembly. In the lower house of parliament, an additional 60 seats are fixed for women and 10 for religious minorities.
Christians cannot straightforwardly elect Christian representatives. They cast votes to different parties, which sequentially select their Christian candidates, in a process criticized as “selection” not election. Barely two percent of Pakistan’s overpoweringly Muslim population of 180 million are Christians. The community is deprived and grumbles about increasing religious intolerance and discrimination.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom cautioned, last week in its report that the risk to Pakistan’s minorities has reached crisis level. The report mentioned that blasphemy and other discriminatory laws are being used to “violate religious freedoms and foster a climate of impunity”.
The promoters of Human Rights often complain that blasphemy legislation, which awards death penalty, is over and over again abused over personal gains; which ought to be repealed or else reformed at least. Punjab has witnessed some of the nastiest cases of religious fanaticism. A Christian mother was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010. In the town of Gojra in 2009, a mob burned 77 houses and killed seven people after rumors that a copy of the Holy Quran had been desecrated. Yesteryear, an immature Christian girl spent three weeks behind the bars after being accused of blasphemy ahead of the case being dropped, even though she and her family have been in hiding ever since, still fearing for their lives.
At the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, Father Andrew Nisari assumed his congregation frightened of traditionalist political parties but favored the PML-N and PPP. But in Peshawar, which is situated in the throttlehold of the Taliban and other extremist groups, Christian candidates have lined up themselves seeking protection from right-wing Islamic parties.
Pervaiz Masih, initially elected to parliament on the Jamaat-e-Islami roll in 2002 and is again their Christian candidate on Saturday. He resides in Peshawar, which has been on the forefront of a six-year confined uprising of the Taliban. He believes the religious parties propose his community the preeminent security. He recalls an incident of August 2009, saying “Some Christians were drinking close to a mosque in Peshawar and it was the call for prayer. When people arrived they became furious… I rushed to the site and talked to the people of Jamaat-e-Islami and convinced them to go back, God ordered me to work here in a religious party, I am a bridge between Christians and Muslims.”