ISLAMABAD: Security beefed up around Churches across Pakistan, in consideration of the PeshawarChurch attack.
Security around Churches in Pakistan has greater than before from the time when the deadly suicide blasts hit All Saints in September followed by death of a police guard outside a Church in Peshawar last month.
On September 22, two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the All Saints Church in Peshawar as the congregants were leaving the Church after the Sunday service. More than 100 were killed as a result leaving countless injured. Later on, a police constable, Muhammad Attaullah who was deployed at Assemblies of God Church in Swati Gate area of Peshawar, was killed as unknown gunmen opened fire at him.
The Central Defence Secretary of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, Samson Simon Sharaf, told World Watch Monitor that the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association is “providing security to 160 Churches and it can be increased further”. PTI Defence Secretary Sharaf added that Churches were one of the most likely for targets for such attacks. “Christianity is seen as a symbol of Western cultural imperialism, which is why, after the Shiite and Barelvi worship places, Churches are the third target of hardliner terrorist groups,” he said.
As a consequence, of the PeshawarChurch blasts, the police organized meetings with Church leaders and pastors in Christian areas in main cities, such as Bahar Colony in Lahore. Rev. Dr. Liaqat Qaisar from the FullGospelAssembliesChurch in Bahar Colony said:”Police were working alongside Church members to provide security on Sundays. The police instructed us to put barricades on the outside of the Church, to keep the entrance clear and, rather than the entire congregation leaving at the same time, worshippers should leave in small groups after the Church ends.”
Subsequent to the targeting of police constable Attaullah outside the Swati Gate Assemblies of God Church; Deputy Superintendent of Police Fazal Wahid told World Watch Monitor that ,”The incident had no religious dimension; rather that terrorists were attacking police everywhere.” While on the other hand, the Church administration anticipates possibility of another attack on the Church saying,”The Church had employed security guards for a number of years.”
“The first time indiscriminate firing took place outside the Church was in 2009, after which security has been permanently deployed,” Assemblies of God General Secretary Dr. Arshad Masih told World Watch Monitor. He went on to disclose that one more police constable, Muhammad Shehzad, was killed outside the Church on July 5.
While in Lahore, three suspected men were arrested on October 6, after they were spotted at a Christian’s wedding in St. John’s Catholic Church in Yuhanabad. The security guards suspected these Pashtoon men; noticing that they were outsiders to the area and asked why they had come to the wedding. When they could not provide a reason, they were handed over to the police. The residents of Yuhanabad say they have noticed Pashtoons into Yuhanabad: one of the largest Christian settlements in South Asia in recent years.