Pakistani Christians are expressing concern about the public order situation in their country, and the security of minorities, following President Pervez Musharraf's widely criticised suspension of consitutional government and his declaration of a state of emergency over the weekend.
The General's move, which has embarrassed his Western allies and outraged democracy and human rights advocates, comes ahead of a Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn his recent election victory. The signs are that Musharraf, and his 20 per cent poll righting is likely now to slip to single figures.
"This move is not about law and order primarily, it is about Musharraf's desperate attempt to survive politically", a leading analyst, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons,told Ekklesia. The army loyal to General Musharraf has been arresting lawyers, opponents and civil society advocates in a widespread clampdown.
There are signs of public protest, but widespread fear. Churches now fear that the situation will be exploited by those who wish to carry out more attacks on the minority Christian community.
News agencies say independent news channels have been forced off the air and telephone lines were cut. Meanwhile army vehicles have taken up positions on key roads in Islamabad surrounding the Supreme Court.
In one of a number of incidents in recent weeks, two Catholic sanitary workers were reportedly shot and killed because they refused to convert to Islam. Bribery allegations were also involved.
A Catholic-run public high school in Sangota, in the Swat Valley, was also attacked by a group calling itself Janisaran-i-Islam, allegedly for “forcibly converting students” and “encouraging un-Islamic behaviour.” The school has re-opened after a period of closure.
But some Muslims who boycotted and attacked Christians in Gowindh, a Punjabi village of 10,000 people, have subsequently apologised for their actions, which were stirred up by misinformation from extremists.
Several Pakistani Christian leaders and church officials have distanced themselves from General Musharraf and criticised his policies recently, amidst claims from militants that they back the West and US policies.