This article can also be found at Tremr.
A Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility for an attack on Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan on Easter Sunday. The attack, which took place in the predominantly Christian neighborhood of Youhanabad, killed more than 70 people and left 340 wounded. Among those killed were 14 Christians and 44 Muslims.
After the attacks, the government promised to crack down on extremism – military and police initiated raids on terrorist hideouts in the region of Punjab and 5,000 suspects were rounded up as part of a mass investigation.
Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, the extremist faction that claimed responsibility for the attack, stated that its goal was to target Christians. It was the group’s fifth attack since December.
Pakistan has seen a general increase in extremist violence ever since it joined the American-lead anti-Islamist-militancy campaign after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Christians are viewed as “allies of the West” by extremists and laws are often times manipulated in order to persecute them.
Pakistani Christians have been increasingly targeted in recent years. Taliban groups target Christians for various reasons: to divide Pakistani society, to distract the government from acting against extremist groups, and to “erode confidence in the government” in order to create a void that extremists can then fill. Furthermore, the Christian population in Pakistan is a particularly easy target because it is highly marginalized and largely unable to retaliate without the threat of more attacks.
Unfortunately, the persecution of Christians is not a new development in Pakistan. Christians are among the poorest and most marginalized populations in the country. They are not fully integrated into the political process, and their persecution is even “codified in legal systems in the form of blasphemy laws.” Pakistani school textbooks often contain biases against Christians and there have been accounts of several forced conversions of Christian people.
The future does not look particularly bright for the marginalized Pakistani Christians, as Jamaat-ur-Ahrar has said that it’s plotting future attacks.
Photo courtesy of christiansinpakistan.com