11/15/2013, 00.00
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Islamabad bishop: unity against terrorism in a country where fear of more violence is growing

by Jibran Khan
Bishop Rufin Anthony asks for prayers for peace in Pakistan, but the death of Taliban leader Mashud in a US drone raid is likely to fuel the cycle of terror. Meanwhile, as security measures increase around churches, cracks in the Islamist camp are starting to show, as some reject the idea that the taliban leader died a martyr's death.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - "We must remain united and continue to pray for peace in Pakistan. [Our country] is a victim of terrorism. This is why we must work closely with our armed forces and the government of Pakistan," said Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad/Rawalpindi.

The nation, he noted, is reeling from the "scourge of terrorism". Attacks against individuals and communities have claimed hundreds of lives, from Christians killed in September in Peshawar to those who died in fighting between the army and the Taliban.

In recent weeks, media reports have focused on possible peace talks between Pakistani authorities and Islamists, a prospect now suddenly brought to a stop by the death of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Mashud Hakim Ullah, who was killed in a US drone raid on 1 November.

For Washington, he was at the top of the world's most wanted terrorists list. However, the Pakistani government had taken tentative steps in recent weeks towards talks with his group. For this reason, Islamabad strongly condemned the US drone attack.

On several occasions in the past, drones have also affected the civilian population and claimed innocent victims. But the Taliban leader's death comes at a very awkward moment, just a few days before the Pakistani prime minister travels to the United States where he is expected to discuss US drones with his US hosts.

For the government in Islamabad, the Taliban leader's killing by a drone was like rubbing salt in a wound and thus strongly reacted. At the same time, the authorities have beefed up security measures throughout the country, especially around churches and other places of worship as well as at other sensitive sites, for possible attacks.

For Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, "The timing for killing Masud was wrong as Pakistan was about to start peace talks with the TTP".

However, Mashud's death has also underscored divisions within Islamist ranks, with the Taliban going against other radical groups.

Jamat-e-Islami leader Manwar Hassan not only wants an immediate end to drone attacks, but insists on calling the dead Taliban leader "a martyr," a view rejected by the head of Sunni Tehrik, a radical Sunni group. For the latter, describing the taliban leader as a martyr is "treason" because he was "a terrorist" who caused the loss of "thousands of lives" and "fought against our army."

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