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Christians in the Muslim World

Pakistan: Another Afghanistan or Another Iraq?

Interview to Mons. Antony Lobo, Bishop of Islamabad, Pakistan by Maria Laura Conte

 

 

Pakistan has appeared particularly troubled in the last few weeks. Could you help us read the recent news?

 

 

The President sent the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on forced leave. All the lawyers of the country and also all opposition political parties feel that this was to prevent the Chief Justice from ruling against the plan of the President to be re-elected by the outgoing parliament (instead of the one to be newly elected ) and also refusing his wish to be elected President while also holding the post of Chief of Army Staff. There were widespread demonstrations in support of the Chief Justice all over the country, except in Karachi. So when the Chief Justice went to Karachi, he was prevented from leaving the airport, and his supporters were attacked, and about 50 people killed, mostly from the opposition political parties.

 

 

Where do you locate the origin of your country's instability?

 

 

This instability is very much due to politics. The President wants to remain in power, in Army uniform, and the people are against him. Now the people are also turning against the army, and the army may decide to remove the President, since he is giving them a bad name. The international community is insisting on civilian rule, but recently, there is a concern that if Musharraf goes, Pakistan may become"another Iraq" and the USA and Europe are having second thoughts about insisting on "democracy"

 

 

What is the nature of the Army's power?

 

 

The army has been ruling Pakistan for most of the 60 years of its existence. Even when there was "civilian rule", the army was calling the shots. It does not want to give up power since it is the biggest industrial-commercial corporation, with assets of 8 billion euros, according to a book just published by Ayesha Siddiqa, called Military Inc.

 

 

Who is paying the highest price in this situation?

 

 

The poor people of Pakistan are paying the highest price.

 

Whether ruled by the army or by civilians, both being corrupt, the burden falls on the poor. There are discriminatory laws passed in the name of Islam (like the Blasphemy Laws) which are misused against Christians.There is always trouble from the extremists, who are trying to "Talibanize" the country.Generally, when incidents occur, we approach the Government, and they redress our grievance.

 

 

For some time now there have been proposals to amend the Blasphemy Laws. What is the current view?

 

 

The government wants to change the Blasphemy Laws, so that they are not misused by making false accusations, which is frequently done. But the extremists oppose any change in these obviously unjust law. After the coming General Elections, if the new government is strong, they could make changes.

 

 

In the Summer of last year you opened a new college in Islamabad, in an area hit by the earthquake, one of the few Catholic schools in the country. What was this first year like?

 

 

Our Ave Maria College is a great success. It has 40 Muslim boys and girls and 40 Christian boys and girls. A Christian boy from a village came first in the college. We are constructing a girls' hostel. The second year enrolment will take place in August, this year.

 

 

What is Pakistan's opinion about US and European foreign policy?

 

 

If the Democrats win the elections for President in the USA, they will put pressure on Pakistan to return to civilian rule. The European Community also wants this. But now they are having second thoughts. Democracy does not seem to work in Iraq. Will it work in Pakistan?

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