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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Police and army shoot and gas Christians in Karachi, one dead, pastor critically injured

Abbassi Shaheed Hospital - shot pastor taken here

Further to our recent story about the situation in Essa Nagri, Karachi, the situation has now escalated out of control, with riots and fighting in several Christian areas of Karachi, and the police refusing to arrest the Muslim violent mobs but instead firing tear gas and live rounds at the peaceful Christian demonstrations, killing one and leaving two Christians, including a pastor, critically injured and many others injured, with the police arresting at least a dozen peaceful Christians.   We have latest details and some more background.  

To recap, the story as we told it was that the whole Christian community had been charged with blasphemy by the local Jirga - council of elders - and fined. Things were already tense.  Two Christian boys  

The background is that Muslim extremists - described by local sources as Pashto speaking (which may indicate Taliban affiliation) - have been intimidating the Christian community and extorting money from Christian shopkeepers for 3 years - demanding an illegal tax known as bhatti.  They are coming into the Essa Nagri Christian enclave and firing at Christian homes when Christians are paying late.  This has been repeatedly reported to the police and the army rangers unit, but they took no action - what a surprise!  

The Christian community had organized young men to act as guards to deal with the constant drug-pushing, robberies, shooting and intimidation by Islamic extremists who acted in collaboration with local police, local sources say.  Our original article concerned tensions resulting from two Christian young boys who beat two Muslim boys who were hanging around or trying to rob Christians in Essa Nagri.  However, things further escalated when at around 7:15pm 29h August, two of the fundamentalists entered the Essa Nagri  slum and demanded money from Faisal Masih.  He refused and they shot him dead on the spot.  Several of the young Christian guards managed to apprehend the two murderers.  Initially it appears the police arrested the two Muslims.  In the morning, however, the local Pashtun community started to mob the police station, so the robbers were released, and the two Christians were arrested on charges of 'maltreating respectable Muslims'.   Two activists, Raja Yousuf Bhatti, and Liaquat Munawir, who is the leader of the Social Justice group MASS, went to the police station to ask for the release of the Christians.  The police promptly arrested them and then demanded that the Christians pay 100,000 rupees to the Muslim 'victims' before they could be released.  

At some point in the situation, the Christian community of Essa Nagri gathered to protest about this and the Muslim mobs attacking them.  They blocked  next-door Hassan Square for several hours.  The police and the army rangers chose not to arrest the Muslim attackers, but instead fired on the Christians and launched tear gas against them.  Pastor Cornelius was hit in the spine by a police or army ranger bullet as he crossed the road to enter Essa Nagri, and Shahzad Riaz was also critically injured.  An unknown number of other Christians were injured, but sources say 'many'.  In addition, the police arrested over a dozen more Christians who were protesting against the Muslim mob attacks.  

A local Karachi pastor has advised that there is also confirmed reports of fighting in another big Christian area in Karachi, in the Pahar Gunj area, with attacks by Pashtuns.  He calls for prayer for the church in Karachi and says the situation is very serious now, as now it will turn into a religious / blasphemy case.  

Sources : 1 and two local Christian pastors via FB

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