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
These attacks add to the instability of an already highly unstable country and also show how
In dozens of interviews from
The trouble in D’Souza’s parish started with bold blue graffiti on the church walls praising the Taliban and Islamic law, and condemning Christians as infidels. Young Christians in the neighborhood protested.
Within days, about 25 burly men with shaggy beards rampaged through the neighborhood, beating Christians, pelting women with stones and setting fire to the doors of houses and to meager possessions. An 11-year-old boy was killed, and several people were wounded.
‘The police never helped. None of us had weapons. The police just stood there,’ said 26-year-old Imran Masih, who spent 10 days in the hospital after a bullet pierced his neck.
Dozens of Christian families fled. One man who stayed, Sohail Masih, showed what is left of the family’s two Bibles and a Sunday school book — a seared and crumbled mass of paper. He had wrapped it in plastic bags and hidden it, in case evidence was ever needed.
D’Souza said the parish is thinking of forming its own armed youth brigades to patrol Christian areas. When he asked the government for armored personnel carriers, he said, two bored-looking policemen showed up for the Easter Sunday service and were gone the next morning.
‘I don’t say minorities are not worried. They have a genuine concern. They have been attacked,’ said Bhatti, a Christian. ‘The Taliban say non-Muslims are infidels, and the people who are misguided zealots can interpret this in any way. Minorities can be easy and soft targets of these extremists, but these Taliban are committing such violent acts that everyone feels fear in their presence — the minority and the majority in
Religious minorities represent about five per cent of
Javed said he has been told by militants to take the cross off his schools in
‘It has never happened in the past like this. Today we feel we have no future. They want us to hide, but we won’t,’ he said.
Even Shia Muslims have come under attack as the Sunni Taliban tears through the tribal areas. In the past two years, the Taliban has embraced a violently anti-Shiite group, Lashkar-e-Janghvi, unleashing a fresh wave of bitter bloodletting. More than 500 Shia Muslims in the Kurram tribal agency have been killed in daily attacks.
Editorials in local newspapers have warned of the threat to minorities and predicted that the brutality will eventually reach the larger population. In an April letter to the prime minister and president, Lahore Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha said allowing Islamic law in the violent Swat Valley would give license to ‘trigger-happy Taliban (and further) erode constitutional protections for minorities and women.’
The Taliban issued an ultimatum in March to the elders of more than 25 Sikh families in the Orakzai tribal agency near the Afghan border: Convert to Islam, join the jihad or pay five billion rupees — roughly $62 million — for protection.
‘We couldn’t pay that amount. We were farmers,’ said a young Sikh who asked to be identified only as Singh, because he was too terrified to give his full name or location. He fidgeted nervously, and his voice became little more than a whisper as he recalled the Taliban’s threat to take a Sikh leader to
The villagers persuaded the Taliban to reduce the amount to 12 million rupees or $150,000 — still a princely sum for the Sikh community. But Singh said they raised enough money to get their elder released, with a promise to pay the rest by March 29.
On March 28, he said, the Sikhs paid the full amount, and the Taliban promised to protect them anywhere in
By , the elders had packed everyone into cars and trucks, and more than 150 Sikhs fled to
‘What are we to do? We have nothing,’ Singh said. ‘We have asked the government of
The lives of Hindus are also in danger, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Last month, extremists attacked a Hindu Holi religious festival not far from the border with
And last year, a young Hindu worker was beaten to death at a factory in
Although no figures are available, anecdotal evidence and human rights groups say attacks against Hindus have risen in the last two years, with temples and worshippers targeted especially in Sindh province, where
‘We are under more and more of a threat because of these extremists, but we ourselves feel if we take the wrong step, even to tell of the wrong things, then it will be death for us,’ said Amarnath Motumal, a lawyer and head of the Karachi Hindu Panchayat, representing Hindus. ‘We worry about the future of our families and our children here in