By Jawad Mazhar, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
SARGODHA, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) A Christian politician in Pakistan’s Punjab province was recovering of his injuries Thursday, December 11, after he was apparently nearly killed by Muslim activists, amid growing religious tensions in the region.
Mushtaq Gill, a Christian member of the local Assembly of Punjab’s Sargodha District, told BosNewsLife that he and two Christian friends were attacked by supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League’s (PML-N) during “a welcome procession” for Provincial Minister of Punjab for Minorities’ Affairs and Human Rights, Kamran Michael.
Police told BosNewsLife the attack happened late November 30 on the outskirts of Sargodha, in Chak Village 91 Southern Branch.
“Suddenly two cars, appeared and tried to crush me,” Gill told BosNewsLife, speaking from his hospital bed. He said the cars were driven by PML-N’s local activists, who he identified as Yousaf Gill, Younis, Zia-ul-Haq, Asif, Qaiser and an unknown assailant. The party had no comment.
Mushtaq Gill said the PML-N workers “brandished iron rods in the air and they started thrashing me” and his Christian friends, identified as Yasser Masih and Asif Masih “in a barbarian” way.
“The attack left my left leg fractured and I also got serious injuries to my forehead,” he said. The Christian politician also alleged that PML-N worker Asif snatched his cell phone and sunglasses. Doctors said they would keep him under observation for a month at the DHQ Hospital Sargodha.
Gill said his Christian companion Yasser Masih also “received serious injuries to his chest” while believer Asif Masih “sustained a hand bones’ fracture.” He added that two Christian men rescued them “after hearing our cries for help” and “pleading before the activists to stop their brutality.
Local police said the assailants have been detained. In a statement obtained by BosNewsLife Minister Michael said he “condemned the attack”and would “provide full support to the injured Gill.”
The Pakistani advocacy group ‘Rays of Development Organization’ (ROD), which has supported the politician, expressed concerned about the “the cruel attack on a Christian political leader.” The attack was the latest in a series of incidents targeting Christian leaders and individual believers, according to an investigation of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
Pakistani Christian communities in several areas of Pakistan have been confronted with rising Islamic extremism, including from groups with links to the Taliban and Al-Qaida terror networks, the group suggested.
Christians in especially the North Western Frontier Province of Pakistan find themselves “in the midst of a complex conflict involving regional and global powers,” WCC said, with Pakistani government security forces fighting Taliban from within the country and Al-Qaida militants from neighboring Afghanistan. “Add in cross border strikes from US military based in Afghanistan and it is hard to know who is who in the very tense situation.
WCC visited the area with a “Living Letters” team, a small international ecumenical group traveling to locations around the world where Christians strive to overcome violence. At the end of November one such a team made of representatives from the United States, Armenia and the Netherlands visited Lahore and Islamabad.
“We deem it a privilege that we as a church are present in perhaps the world’s most hostile and vulnerable areas at the moment”, said the bishop of Peshawar, Munawar K. Rumalshah, from the Church of Pakistan, speaking to a Living Letters team. Christians comprise less than five percent of the country mainly Muslim population of some 173 million people, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (Please support Jawad Mazhar’s reporting from the most difficult areas of Pakistan via our donation button. Also visit Website: http://letsfulfilthegreatcommission.blogspot.com/)