Pakistan's Religious Minorities Report Violence

May 13, 2009

Author: Kathy Gannon

Source: The Guardian

Wire Service: AP

Fauzia Abrar had finally gotten her crying baby to sleep when screaming men pounded on the steel doors of her home in the mostly Christian slum in the port city of Karachi.

Suddenly she heard shots, and the screaming grew louder: "Long live Taliban! Death to infidels!"

The men forced their way into her house, hurled loose tiles and a glass at her and fired a shot. She fainted.

As the Taliban gains a stronger foothold in Pakistan, increasingly violent assaults against religious minorities are further evidence of its growing power and influence. While the Taliban does not carry out all of the attacks, extremist elements inspired by the group will sometimes act in its name.

These attacks add to the instability of an already highly unstable country and also show how Pakistan, supposed to be a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic extremism, is now itself increasingly threatened by extremists.

In dozens of interviews from Karachi to Peshawar, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus told of attacks and threats and expressed an overwhelming sense of fear. Minority Rights Group International, a watchdog organization, ranked Pakistan last year as the world's top country for major increases in threats to minorities from 2007 �” along with Sri Lanka, which is embroiled in civil war. The group lists Pakistan as seventh on the list of 10 most dangerous countries for minorities, after Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar and Congo.

"In Pakistan today there is a lot of feeling of fear by all the minorities," said the Rev. Richard D'Souza of St. Jude Church in Karachi. "We feel we have no protection."