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Pakistani Pastor Survives Assassination Attempt

ISLAMABAD — Police in Muslim-majority Pakistan confirmed Monday that a leader of a local Christian congregation was shot and wounded in an eastern district where mob-led attacks on a Christian neighborhood burned around two dozen churches and scores of homes last month.

The victim, identified as Pastor Vicky, told police in Faisalabad that he was heading home with his son on a motorcycle after leading prayers in a local church Sunday evening when a gunman targeted him.

Vicky is currently under treatment in a local hospital for a bullet injury to his shoulder, local authorities and members of the minority Christian community said.

The pastor described the shooting incident to police from his hospital bed, saying the assailant and another man had first intercepted him three days ago and threatened to kill him for allegedly insulting Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.

Area police officials confirmed that an investigation into the attack was underway.

The pastor said in his written police complaint that unknown men had written Islamic slogans on the front walls of his church last week in violation of local laws, and he was able to get them removed with the help of area police. “Since then, I have been receiving death threats and been falsely accused of blasphemy,” he wrote.

“I call on authorities to ensure my safety and that of my Christian community so we can live in this country without fear. I demand the criminal involved in this attack and his supporters be brought to justice,” the minister said.

No one claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt. It came two weeks after thousands of Muslims stormed a Christian neighborhood in the district’s impoverished Jaranwala town on August 16.

The mob torched and ransacked 24 churches, several dozen smaller chapels, and scores of homes in Jaranwala.

False allegations and rumors that two Christian men desecrated pages of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, had provoked Muslims to riot, according to police and community leaders.

The attack was widely denounced and described as one of the most destructive on a minority community in Pakistan’s history.

Police have since arrested nearly 200 people and are investigating them for their suspected role in the mob attack. Pakistani caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar and the head of the country’s military condemned the Jaranwala attack and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Insulting the Quran or Islamic beliefs is punishable by death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. No one has ever been executed, but the accused can expect to remain in jail for years while their case is on appeal.

Human rights activists say that hundreds of suspects, mostly Muslims, are languishing in Pakistani jails because judges are often reluctant to move their trials forward or exonerate them under pressure from Islamist groups.

Source : VOA News