05/08/2013, 00.00
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For Islamabad Bishop, elections give Christians and Muslims an opportunity for "peace and change"

by Jibran Khan
Bishop Rufin Anthony hopes to see the end of politics based corruption, intolerance and extremist violence. Education, energy and the country's development are the most urgent issues. However, fundamentalism and a general climate of suspicion cast their shadow over the vote. Priest in Rawalpindi calls for greater Christian involvement and participation.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - People are looking for an opportunity to "change" and put an end to a "culture of corruption, intolerance, irresponsibility and terrorism," said Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, as he talked about the upcoming general elections in Pakistan. This Saturday in fact, voters will pick a new parliament and the new government will be confronted with the country's economic crisis and Islamist violence.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Bishop Anthony said that ordinary Pakistanis want "peace and respect". For this reason, "we are praying for peace in Pakistan," adding, "are hopeful that the new government will be able to address in a decisive manner the problems facing minorities."

The hopes of the capital's bishop are shared by Catholics and Protestants alike as well as other religious minorities, not to mention many Muslims; however, they contrast with daily reports about extremist activities, a trend confirmed by a recent survey that suggests that more than half of young Pakistanis think that Sharia, or Islamic law based on the principles of the Qur'an, "is better than democracy."

Tensions have been aggravated and the campaign marred by a number of incidents, murders, and attacks, like the recent arrest of former President Pervez Musharraf who came home after four years in exile to take part in the elections or accidents like that of Imran Khan who was injured yesterday in Lahore after he toppled off a forklift that was raising him to a platform for a rally.

Doctors have prescribed ten days of rest for Pakistan's former cricket start and current leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), but he has already confirmed his presence at a public meeting tomorrow in Islamabad. Statements of solidarity have been issued by almost all political parties.

The country's economic crisis, its future development, the shortcomings of its educational system and energy sector top the list of issues in this campaign. Against this backdrop, some groups are urging voters to come out in great numbers to cast their ballot, whilst others are calling for a boycott.

For Pakistani Christians, who have often been the victims of persecution and abuse, minority protection remains a priority.

Pervaiz Rafique, a Catholic leader in the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), defends the government's record and popularity for what it has done in favour of rights protection and against the country's talibanisation.

However, for Fr Anwar Patras, a Rawalpindi-based priest, more should be done "to solve the problems of minorities". More Christian candidates should also be present in order to achieve "real change".


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