Features

In power's grip

"In power's grip" Continued...

Issue: "A mighty fortress is our sect," Oct. 20, 2007

Man or woman, Pakistan's leaders do not last long without military backing, and Bhutto was ousted twice. She and other opposition leaders demanded that Musharraf resign as army head before the election; he said he would step down if he won. But the general is no fool, Gill says: "He knows if he takes his uniform off, he's lost the gun."

For his part, Musharraf has both helped and hindered religious minorities. To Washington's dismay, he has made thorny alliances with Taliban-style Islamic radicals in Pakistan's frontier provinces, which are at risk of breaking away. But when radicals threaten his power, he fights back: In the summer, government forces raided Islamabad's Red Mosque, a hotbed of terrorists. The assault, Buwalda says, may be a reason that persecution of Christians has risen in recent months: Enraged Muslims are now pursuing "infidels."

Though cozy with radicals, Musharraf has also pushed through more legal safeguards for religious minorities and rape victims, who had virtually no protection. He is like Bhutto in that respect, but the difference is Bhutto has always been tough on Muslim radicals. In her fallow years Bhutto lived in the Middle East, often touring the West and giving speeches on democracy in her trademark gossamer headscarves. As she readies to reenter Pakistan's political stage, suffering Christians hope her presence will mean fewer deaths, and more living heroes like Joseph Din.

Infidels

2007 violence and intimidation against Christians

About 2 percent of Pakistan's 147 million people are Christians. Most live in Punjab Province.

June 17: About 40 Muslim men armed with guns, axes, and wooden sticks attack a Salvation Army Church north of Faisalabad for holding an evangelistic meeting, injuring seven. A month later, the attackers apologize.

June 25: A prison halts Bible classes and puts Catholic prisoner Dil Awaiz in a high-security cell and tortures him after he teaches fellow Christian inmates to expect persecution. Muslim prisoners earlier protested that a Christian inmate drank out of one of their glasses. Christians are often considered unclean.

Sept. 17: A judge unexpectedly acquits Christian teenager Shahid Masih of ripping up pages containing Quranic verses when Muslim witnesses against him back down. Radicals outside the courtroom are "very, very angry," Masih's defense lawyer says.

Aug. 25: Two men shoot dead Pentecostal evangelist Joseph Din in his Lahore home. Din, a green-card holder, lived with his son in the United States about seven years before returning home to preach. Police have made no arrests.

Aug. 29: A married couple and a man enter the home of Pastor Arif Khan and his wife Kathleen, shooting and killing both. The man, a Muslim, flees to South Waziristan Province and has yet to be caught.

Sept. 27: A man shoots dead Salvation Army Col. Bo Brekke in his Lahore office. The organization says, "There is nothing to suggest that this is related in any way to terrorism."

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