01/02/2013, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Islamic extremism affects both non-Muslims and Pakistani society as a whole

Catholic source tells AsiaNews that laws protecting non-Muslims are not enough. Everyone must be protected from "violence and attacks". A NCJP report found that in 2012 nine places of worship belonging to minorities were destroyed, including five churches. At least 27 endured the same fate in the past four years.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Attacks against Christian, Hindu and Ahmadi places of worship last year are evidence of the lack of security and the country's uncertain political situation. Given the critical situation, the authorities must take concrete actions to protect "not only minorities" but society as a whole. Not only the government but also the courts and police must uphold the law and guarantee equality for all Pakistani citizens as enshrined in the constitution.

A recent report by the National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church in Pakistan found that during the year that just ended nine places of worship were destroyed or plundered by unknown men. They include five churches (three in Sindh, one in Mardan and another in Faisalabad, Punjab), three Hindu temples and an Ahmadi mosque. In the latter's case that is because Ahmadis are deemed heretical by mainstream Muslims.

For human rights activists and experts, such acts of violence are a sign of worrying trend. Indeed, the NCJP report also noted that 27 minority places of worship were vandalised in the past four years.

In addition, land owned by members of minorities is often seized, and people involved in building non-Muslim places of worship are sometimes killed.

Except in the case of an Ahmadi-owned building, which was demolished on orders of the police, the authors of such acts are always "unknown".

In the past few weeks, Christian leaders and other community leaders have often called for legislation to protect minorities from attacks as "the only path to defend non-Muslims".

However, "It is no longer enough to defend minorities," a Catholic source said. Speaking anonymously for security reason, the latter told AsiaNews that "Pakistani society as a whole must be protected against violence and attacks."

At present, the situation is not good and the political climate favours uncertainty, the expert on religious affairs explained.

The government must be backed by a popular mandate and act with authority whilst public institutions must "take concrete steps against violence."

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