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Press Release — October 18, 2002

Tensions Rise for Pakistani Christians After Hard-Line Islamic Party Makes Election Gains

A hard-line Islamic political party made significant gains during Pakistan’s recent parliamentary elections held on October 10. Christians fear a rise in Islamic extremism and more attacks on the already battered Christian community from pro-Taliban militants. The Muttahida Majlas-i-Amal (MMA), an alliance of six clerical parties, won 20% of the parliamentary seats and was elected the majority party in two regions – the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) bordering Afghanistan and the Balochistan province bordering Iran. Known as open supporters of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime, the MMA has publicly called for the imposition of Islamic shariah law in Pakistan.

Already tense from five deadly attacks since last year, Pakistan’s Christians fear the MMA may create an even harsher environment for the country’s non-Muslims. Some Christians in NWFP and Balochistan have already considered migrating to friendlier areas of the country or even overseas. A Pakistani human rights leader told ICC: “The future picture looks very bleak and gruesome in Pakistan. The religious minorities find that their plight will further be made miserable.” Islamic extremist groups are reportedly already meeting with MMA politicians in Islamabad. There is concern that these are some of the same groups that brutally murdered workers of the Peace and Justics Institute in Karachi on September 25 and carried out lethal attacks at Christian churches and institutions.

The Muthida Majlas-e-Amal (MMA) party is known to vehemently oppose President Musharraf’s cooperation in the War Against Terrorism. After winning the majority in NWFP and Balochistan, the group took out processions in the capital cities of these provinces during which they displayed portraits of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar and hailed the two as their heroes. An MMA leader, Munawar Hasan, was quoted in the press as saying: “The Taliban and Al-Qaeda members are our brothers.” It seems likely that an MMA-controlled provincial government will provide a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban members evading arrest. As the provincial government controls the police, this will hamper efforts to bring down Pakistan’s terrorist network and most likely result in less protection for the Christian minority in these areas.

ICC has also learned that on October 16th three mail bombs contained a note saying “This is a gift from MMA, hearts and flowers, hope everything comes up for you” exploded in Karachi. The bombs were addressed to several people investigating Al-Qaeda links in Karachi. It is not yet known whether MMA members were truly behind the bombs, which injured nine people. Considering these bomb attacks on Muslims, the Christians seem justified in their fears of what the MMA may do to the Christian community.

International Christian Concern, a Washington, DC based human rights organization, advocates and aids Christians undergoing persecution worldwide. More information is available at www.www.persecution.org or by calling the ICC office at (301) 989-1708.