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Pakistani Christians Not Feeling Safe After The IS Attack

Pakistan's Christian community is terrified following the worst terrorist attacks on them

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Pakistani Christians at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore. VOA
Pakistan’s Christian community has faced the brunt of some of the worst terrorist attack in the country in recent years, but now the community fears another looming danger.

During the last few months, the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, or Daesh, has claimed responsibility for two deadly attack on the Christian community in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan.

In Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, a Christian family was attacked on April 2, a day after Easter.

Gunmen killed four people, all members of one Christian family.

In December 2017, several days before Christmas, suicide bombers attacked a Christian church, killing at least nine people in the southwestern city of Quetta.

IS claimed responsibility for both attacks.

People mourning the death of a Pakistani Christian who was killeed on April 3, 2018. VOA
People mourning the death of a Pakistani Christian who was killed on April 3, 2018. VOA

Nadeem Anthony, a Christian rights activist, told VOA that IS has become a new danger for the community.

“The Christian community is scared and concerned after [the] deadly attacks by Daesh. It is not acceptable,” Anthony noted. “If Daesh is active and involved in the attacks on the Christian community, then we (Christians) can’t do anything against this militant outfit. It’s the responsibility of the state to act against such a group.”

 Also Read: US Shares List of 20 Terrorist Groups Operating In Pakistan And Afghanistan With Pakistani Authorities

Pakistan denies the organized presence of IS in the country and said the state is committed to cracking down on all militant groups that threaten any community or sect.

But some quarters have expressed concern that IS is emerging as a threat.

Dr. Mehdi Hassan, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said IS’s presence cannot be completely denied.

“Attacks on the Christian community by Daesh is really a matter of concern, and this will worsen [the] religious extremism situation in Pakistan. In a country where extremism exists in so many forms, any outfit (including Daesh) can triumph,” Hassan said.

The conditions have got worsened for the Pakistani Christians after the IS attack.
Life is miserable in Pakistan.

Tariq Christopher Qaiser belongs to the Christian community and is a parliamentarian from Pakistan’s ruling Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) political party. He expressed serious concerns about the increasing number of targeted attacks on different Muslim sects and on Christians.

“It’s not only alarming but also shameful,” Qaiser said. It is the responsibility of the state to protect all its nationals without any discrimination as to from which sect of religion they belong to. I have been raising my voice on the floor of the parliament and will continue to do so.”

This story was written by Muhammad Ishtiaq. (VOA)

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Pakistan Increases Efforts To Save The U.S.-Afghanistan Peace Talks

Islamabad swiftly welcomed the remarks, which raised official expectations in Pakistan for an official invitation to Prime Minister Khan to visit Washington.

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Imran Khan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Imran going around world begging for funds: Sindh CM, VOA

Pakistan has intensified efforts to keep the U.S.-led dialogue with the Afghan Taliban on track, but official sources in Islamabad maintain the responsibility for the “success or failure” of the fledgling peace process rests “exclusively” with the two negotiating sides.

The caution comes as U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, landed in the Pakistani capital Thursday amid expectations a direct meeting could take place between his delegation and Taliban negotiators during his stay in the country.

Prior to his departure Wednesday from Kabul, Khalilzad told reporters that talks with the Taliban will “happen very soon. That’s what we’re working toward.” He did not elaborate further.

Meanwhile, in a significant move, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani telephoned Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday and discussed the efforts being made for bringing peace to Afghanistan.

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U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua led their respective delegations in talks in Islamabad, Jan. 17, 2019. VOA

Khan’s office said in a statement that Ghani expressed his gratitude for Pakistan’s “sincere facilitation” for Afghan peace and reconciliation.

It said the prime minister “assured President Ghani that Pakistan was making sincere efforts for a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan through an inclusive peace process, as part of shared responsibility.”

Official sources in Islamabad expected “important developments” over the next two days but they would not share further details. “There is no room for missed opportunities” under the circumstances, they insisted.

Pakistani officials maintain in background interviews with VOA that the U.S.-Taliban talks are being facilitated in the hope that they would ultimately lead to an intra-Afghan dialogue for political settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan. All sides in the peace process will share “the credit and benefits of a success,” they insisted.

“Similarly, given sincere desire and efforts of everyone, no one should be exclusively blamed if the main interlocutors fail to agree due to own lack of flexibility that is very much required from both the U.S. and the Taliban at this stage,” a senior official privy to the Pakistani peace diplomacy told VOA.

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U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Jan. 17, 2019. VOA

Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan where he briefed Ghani and other top officials of Afghan government on the U.S.-led peace initiative.

The Taliban has held several meetings with Khalilzad’s team in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates but the insurgents have persistently refused to engage directly with the sitting administration in Kabul. Their refusal is blamed for a lack of progress in negotiations that started last summer, after American diplomats gave in to a major Taliban demand and met them directly.

Khalilzad, however, made it clear on Wednesday the insurgent group would have to engage with the Afghan government for the process to move forward.

“The road to peace will require the Taliban to sit with the Afghan government. There is a consensus among all the regional partners on this point,” the Afghan-born U.S. special envoy told reporters in Kabul.

He went on to warn that if the Taliban chose to fight over peace talks, the United States would support the Afghan government.

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A general view of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, May 2, 2015, site of several past negotioations with the Taliban. VOA

The Taliban threatened earlier in the week to pull out of all negotiations if the United States backed away from discussing the key insurgent demand for a troop withdrawal plan and pressured the insurgents into speaking to the Afghan government.

Diplomats privy to the peace process support the U.S. effort for the Taliban to speak directly to the current administration in Kabul to resolve internal Afghan matters. They see the Ghani-led National Unity government as a “legitimate” entity possessing official representation at the United Nations and maintaining diplomatic missions in world capitals.

The last substantial talks between Khalilzad and Taliban officials took place in Abu Dhabi about a month ago and Pakistan took credit for arranging it and bringing an authoritative team of insurgent negotiators to the table.

Officials in Islamabad say that Pakistan’s “biggest contribution” has been that it has “broken the political stalemate that was there in Afghanistan for several years.”

Prime Minister Khan has repeatedly stated that finding a political settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan is a top foreign policy priority for his government. While speaking to Khan on Thursday, Ghani invited him to visit Kabul at his earliest convenience and the Pakistani leader reciprocated by inviting the Afghan president to visit Islamabad.

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Pakistan has long been accused of sheltering Taliban leaders and covertly helping them orchestrate insurgent attacks, charges Islamabad rejects.

U.S. officials, however, acknowledge the “positive role” Pakistan has played in the current Afghan peace effort. The thaw in traditionally mistrusted bilateral ties was visible earlier this month when U.S. President Donald Trump announced he intended to maintain a “great relationship” with Pakistan.

Also Read: Peace Talks With The U.S. Stalled: Taliban

“So, I look forward to meeting with the new leadership in Pakistan. We will be doing that in the not too distant future,” said Trump.

Islamabad swiftly welcomed the remarks, which raised official expectations in Pakistan for an official invitation to Prime Minister Khan to visit Washington, though the Trump administration has so far given no such indication. (VOA)