https://pakistan.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_pf/features/2019/09/26/feature-01
| Terrorism

Peshawar church observes 6th anniversary of deadly terrorist attack

By Ghulam Dastageer

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Members of the Christian community on September 15 take part in services at All Saints Church. [Ghulam Dastageer]

PESHAWAR -- Peshawar's Christian community on September 22 observed the sixth anniversary of twin suicide bombings at All Saints Church that killed 104 people and wounded another 142.

A police team comprised of a dozen personnel equipped with assault rifles could be seen standing at the rear entrance of the worship place at a Sunday service just a week ahead of the anniversary.

Barriers on the road blocked vehicular traffic.

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Increased security can be seen September 15 outside All Saints Church in Peshawar. [Ghulam Dastageer]

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A policeman stands guard on top of All Saints Church in Peshawar September 15. [Ghulam Dastageer]

Inside the church, Pastor Shahzad Murad led the routine Sunday service.

The bombing on September 22, 2013, still haunts many of the congregation. Izac John, one of the worshippers, lost five close relatives, including a daughter, sister-in-law, two nephews and a niece.

He said he was not satisfied with the steps the government has taken to prevent the recurrence of such terrorist attacks on worship places of religious minorities.

"We want security at our worship places like the one that is extended to Shia mourners during the month of Muharram," he said, elaborating that all the roads are sealed for non-residents during Muharram processions.

On the other hand, Murad appeared to be satisfied with the security measures.

A Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter group, Jundullah, claimed responsibility for the massacre.

Victim compensation

Following the bombing in 2013, the Christian community stopped performing a routine procession on the eve of Easter, said Murad.

"But in April this year, we took out the procession from All Saints Church. It ended at the same place after passing through Kohati, Yakatoot, Gunj, Lahori and Hashtnagri."

Pakistani authorities are still working to compensate the victims of the 2013 attack.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government within a month of the bombing distributed Rs. 500,000 ($6,400) each to the next of kin of those killed and Rs. 200,000 ($2,550) each to those injured.

The Sindh government acted similarly out of solidarity. It has provided compensation to the next of kin of 73 people who died and 62 out of 142 wounded, according to Khurram Yaqoob Sahotra, the president of the United Christian Victims Movement.

Then-Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif also announced in October 2013 a Rs. 200 million ($2.6 million) endowment fund for the victims, with Rs. 100 million ($1.3 million) to be provided by the federal government, which the provincial government was expected to match.

The Auqaf Department of KP has only recently forwarded a draft bill to the provincial law department for the endowment fund.

Once vetted, the draft will go to the office of the chief minister for approval before the KP Assembly considers turning it into law.

Under the draft, a monthly stipend would be provided to orphaned boys until they are 18, and to orphaned girls even after they turn 18, if they are unmarried. Widows would receive a lifetime stipend until they remarried.

The well-being of religious minorities is a priority, said Shaukat Yousafzai, a spokesman for the KP government.

The endowment fund will help provide financial relief to the victims of the All Saints Church bombing, he said, assuring that the government was striving to accomplish the legal process for the establishment of the endowment fund as early as possible.

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