Pakistani Christians hold a burning tyre as they protest in Lahore against the twin suicide bombings of a church in Peshawar and (Right) Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman (centre), a leader of Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam condemns the bombings, during a press conference in Quetta yesterday.
PESHAWAR: Angry Christians protested across Pakistan yesterday to demand better protection after a devastating double suicide bombing at a church killed more than 80 people.
The attack on All Saints Church in the northwestern city of Peshawar after a service on Sunday is believed to be the deadliest to target Pakistan’s small Christian minority.
Christians demonstrated in towns and cities around Pakistan, including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar to protest against the violence and demand the authorities do more to protect them.
More than 600 protesters blocked a major highway in Islamabad for several hours during the yesterday morning rush hour, burning tyres and causing long tailbacks. Later, around 2,000 people gathered to protest outside parliament.
In Peshawar, around 200 demonstrators took to the streets, smashing windows at the main Lady Reading Hospital, where many of the victims were treated, and blocking the main Grand Trunk Road.
In front of All Saints Church, more than 100 people demanded justice and criticised the federal government for failing to protect Christians.
They had harsh words for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party runs the provincial government in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
“Imran Khan and his senior deputy have failed to protect Christians at their praying centres,” Khalid Shahzad, who lost five family members in the attack, said.
“The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Imran Khan are just making slogans, there is nothing practical (to protect us). They do not have any sympathy for minorities.”
Protesters in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, blocked roads around the Press Club with rocks and burning tyres, while Lahore saw more than a dozen demonstrations.
The death toll from the blasts rose to 82 yesterday, according to medics, with around 130 wounded.
Senior Peshawar police official Najeeb-ur-Rehman said security around churches in the city would be stepped up, but survivors of the bombing spoke of their fears of further violence.
“We had very good relations with the Muslims.
“There was no tension before these blasts, but we fear that this is the beginning of a wave of violence against the Christians,” Danish Yunas, a Christian driver wounded in the blasts, said.
The small and largely impoverished Christian community suffers discrimination in the overwhelmingly Muslim-majority nation but bombings against them are rare.
The 400 or so worshippers were exchanging greetings after the service when the bombers struck, littering the church with blood, body parts and pages from the Bible. The walls were pockmarked with ball bearings that had been packed into the bombs to cause maximum carnage in the busy church.
Sectarian violence between majority Sunnis and minority Shias is on the rise in Pakistan.
But Sunday’s bombings will fuel fears the already beleaguered Christian community could be increasingly targeted.
A faction linked to the Pakistani Taliban on Sunday claimed the attack, saying it was to avenge US drone strikes on Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives in the country’s tribal areas along the Afghan border.
In Kabul: Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the suicide attacks.
“Such attacks which target innocent civilians, reflect enmity with humanity,” the presidential palace media office said in a statement. Agencies