Pakistani Christians gather in a protest in Islamabad on September 22, 2013 against the killing of their community members in two suicide bomb attacks on a church in Peshawar. -Photo by AFP
PESHAWAR, Sept 22: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its allies tasted public anger for the first time when aggrieved families of those killed in the Sunday’s twin suicide attacks on All Saints Church in Peshawar city sparked anger over the government’s apathy.
“Shame, shame, we don’t want your posters and slogans. Come and help us,” the Lady Reading Hospital crowded with families of the killed and injured in the attacks resonated with protest chants as one PTI MPA turned up to give a statement on media present on the spot instead of consoling the families of the victims.
The yard outside the trauma centre resonated with cries of pain and anger as the aggrieved families did not let the MPA score points on media and speak. Mourners were chanting slogans against the provincial government and LRH management for not providing quick response to the traumatised wounded people.
“The government instead of giving severe punishment to the culprits has been releasing militants and criminals from prisons,” remarked Father John William, who stated that not a single murderer was brought to justice.
Umar Maseeh, another protester at LRH, accused PTI chairman Imran Khan of supporting the cause of militants. “Imran carried out his election campaign across the country, but he was never attacked, while we are unsafe even inside church, why?” he asked.
“It only shows Imran is a sympathiser of militants,” he alleged.
The bloody attack was a reality check for the coalition partners of PTI, including Qaumi Watan Party and Jamaat-i-Islami. The ministers and MPAs fearing backlash could not dare to visit the LRH for almost three hours after the incident to console the angry mourners and ensure timely treatment of the wounded. There were no arrangements at the official level to provide coffins. Thanks to Al Khidmat Foundation which arranged about 100 coffins for packing bodies.
Of total 59 cabinet members, advisors, special assistants and parliamentary secretaries, only senior minister Sikandar Khan Sherpao and PTI provincial information secretary Ishtiaq Urmar, who is also parliamentary secretary, reached the LRH, but the angry protesters did not let them speak. Agitated Christians forced Sikandar Sherpao and Mr Urmar to leave the hospital’s premises immediately.
The absence of Information Minister Shah Farman often seen in an offensive demeanour on the floor of the assembly and press briefings, was conspicuous.
Health Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai whose reckless statements frequently put the ruling coalition in hot waters was missing till the PTI chairman and chief minister turned up at the hospital where he just gave figures of the dead and injured in the attack.
Perhaps, it was the appearance of the former information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain on media which might have spurred the PTI into action as Imran Khan came from Islamabad to the Peshawar hospital for damage control.
Imran, while talking to media, blamed his political rivals for inciting the aggrieved Christians against the provincial government. He condemned them for politicising the incident. However, he seemed willy-nilly in condemning the terrorists who had attacked the innocent worshippers at one of the oldest churches of the city.
“The previous government has left the mess for us and now people are being provoked against us,” he told media without mentioning the Awami National Party.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, on the directives of the President and prime minister, came too late (at around 8:00pm) with the message of the Punjab chief minister’s offer of medical help.
The agent of the federal government Engineer Shaukatullah, who did not come out from his palatial Governor’s House to console the religious minority brutally attacked by terrorists, was visible only when the interior minister was talking to media.