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Pakistan Christian Families Flee Restive Town After Controversial Wedding

By Jawad Mazhar

10/13/08 ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) – Christian families have fled a restive town in Pakistan’s Punjab province after a wedding between a Christian young man and a Muslim girl led to violence and police threats, local residents told BosNewsLife.

Tensions apparently began September 24 when Mohammad Noor told local police in the town of Nido Kay that his Muslim daughter had been missing since marrying Christian Qamar Bhatti. The name of the girl was not immediately released.

Her father and armed Muslims also allegedly approached Bhatti’s family, threatening to kill them if the daughter “is not recovered” witnesses said. Officials could not be reached for comment.

Local Muslims also demand that Bhatti will appear before a meeting of Muslim elders to face punishment for marrying the Muslim girl “otherwise they threat that they shall burn their (Christians’) homes,” residents said. They apparently accuse him of forcing her “to recant Islam and embrace Christianity,” charges his family denies.

BROTHER, MOTHER DETAINED

On September 25 police already detained Bhatti’s elder brother Zaffar, as well his mother, Sheilla Nasim, his sister Farzana Bhatti and several other relatives, Christians said. News of the tensions soon led to an exodus of Christian families from the region.

“They are hiding to save their lives as police is torturing Zaffar Bhatti because he is the elder brother of Qamar Bhatti,” and apparently viewed as responsible under local traditions. The tensions came as elsewhere in Pakistan police broke up a demonstration by Christians demanding more religious rights in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), another hotbed of Islamic extremism.

Protesters were seen Friday, October 10, in NWFP’s capital Peshawar, holding banners and placards with anti-government slogans and in favour of their demands. Christians said they have been suffering under authorities cutting of their power supplies and said they would continue their protests if electricity is not restored.

Pakistan’s central government has come under international pressure to improve the rights of minority Christians in the country.