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Protests, violence in Pakistan after church attacks

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  17 March 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Islamabad, March 16: Mass protests were held across Pakistan on Monday, a day after 15 people were killed in bomb blasts at two churches in Lahore city. Sunday’s attack came months after more than 3,000 protesters torched some 100 houses as they rampaged through Joseph Colony, another Christian neighbourhood of the city, following blasphemy allegations against a Christian man. The Christian community accuses the government of doing little to protect them, saying politicians are quick to offer condolences after an attack but slow to act to improve security.

Protesters also smashed shops and attacked vehicles in Lahore. Police and several politicians who tried to intervene were chased away, Dawn online reported. The protesters also blocked the Kamalpur Interchange on Faisalabad motorway. “The purpose of the sit-in in Lahore is to shed light on the fact that the Christian community should be given protection and peaceful living conditions,” said one of the protesters.

Following an attack on a metro bus in Lahore, authorities curtailed bus services on Monday as people continued to protest in various parts of the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

All Christian schools remained closed as prayer services and funerals for the victims got under way Monday, said Christian community leader Kamran Michael. He also appealed to fellow Christians to remain peaceful.

While briefing the tiol Assembly () interior standing committee, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar described the church bombings as tragic and said the extremists were eyeing a division of Pakistan. Nisar said that while the war on terror was not easy at all when the Pakistan Muslim League-waz came to power with several bomb blasts occurring daily, the government has been successful in limiting the number of attacks.

He said attacks on mosques and churches depicted the wretched condition of the banned outfits. Pakistan is in a state of war for as many as 13 years now, he added.

The interior minister said that further steps were needed for complete eradication of militancy in the country. Terrorist find religious places easy targets, said the minister.

Nisar, however, asked the tion to stand firm to take the war on terror to its logical conclusion and added, “We should remain united to foil their (terrorists’) nefarious designs.”

Meanwhile, the security of churches and missiory institutions and patrolling by police and Pakistan Rangers has been enhanced.

Prayer ceremonies were held in the churches for the departed souls. Furthermore, lawyers in Sindh province observed a black day on the appeal of the bar council.

Police have registered cases against unknown people under Sections 302, 109 and 324 of the Pakistan Pel Code (PPC) and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) at the Nishtar Colony police station. The cases were filed on complaints by Father Francis Gulzar and Father Irshad. Senior Superintendent of Police (Investigations), Ra Ayyaz Saleem, said that senior police officials held consultations over the registration of a case over the lynching of two suspects by enraged protesters. Christians make up around two percent of Pakistan’s mainly Muslim population of 180 million. They have been targeted in attacks and riots in recent years, often over allegations of blasphemy. Pakistan on Monday mourned the dead in the deadly suicide attacks on two churches in Lahore that killed 15 people, as Christians took to the streets to denounce the ghastly massacre.

Provincial governments declared Monday a day of mourning. All missiory schools and colleges were shut across the country, officials and the media reported. Security was stepped up in churches and missiory institutions while patrolling by police and Pakistan Rangers were enhanced, Dunya TV quoted officials as saying. Prayer ceremonies were held in churches across Pakistan on Monday. (IANS)

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