Islamabad (AsiaNews) - This morning two Islamic fundamentalists attacked a Protestant church, the Assembly of God Church, in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, shooting at a policeman on guard several times. Before they fled the scene, they took the dead officer's weapon and fired at the church. Two clergymen were inside the building at the time of the incident. Civil society groups and the Catholic Church condemned the action. Meanwhile, police have registered the incident and are in pursuit of the gunmen.
Tensions had been running high in the area after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Kharrak said that Muslims could not be street cleaners or janitors, who are in short supplies, "only minorities could do those jobs." Minority groups reacted with outrage calling for his resignation.
Kharrak is a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, Pakistan Movement for justice), led by former cricket star Imran Khan.
Following this statement, the church that was attacked received threats from Islamic extremists and asked for protection from local authorities, who responded by deployed two police officers to guard the church.
This morning two fundamentalists tried to enter the church, which had two clergymen inside. They opened fire when one of police guards on duty tried to intercept them, hitting him in the neck, chest and near the heart. He died immediately.
Contacted by AsiaNews, Fr Joseph Edward, of the diocese of Lahore, condemned the chief minister for his statement.
"His words are a clear sign of discrimination" he said, "something shameful for the PTI, which ran a campaign based on change, peace, justice, equality and respect for everyone, even for religious minorities ".
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has long been involved in the fight against terrorism. It has been the scene of hundreds of attacks, which have claimed the lives 22,000 people in the past five years.