Monday, October 15, 2012

Christians Forced Out of Their Homes in Landi Kotal, Pakistan

Members of the community said they had been ordered to leave the area on Sunday while they were offering weekly prayers. They complained that no prior notice was given to them nor was any alternative provided for their accommodation.
Chairman of the Christian community of Khyber Agency Arshad Masih said they have been living in the area since 1914 when they were brought there by British rulers. According to him, the land was given to the British by the Khugakhel tribe for a hundred-year period.
The Frontier Corps (FC), which also existed at the time under the name of Frontier Constabulary, now says the lease is over and the people must vacate the land, said Masih.
He lamented that all requests to reverse the decision fell on deaf ears with political administrators including senior officials saying the area fell under the jurisdiction of FC.
The Frontier Corps , when contacted, declined to comment on the issue.
Masih, however, rubbished speculation suggesting the tribal people posed a threat to their safety, and stressed the locals of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) were “peace loving people.”
Another prominent member of Khyber Agency’s Christian community, Wilson Wazir said the Frontier Corps  had asked the males of their families to leave immediately, while the women and children had taken shelter in hotels around Peshawar and Khyber Agency.
Some were also residing with their relatives in the provincial capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
“I am here at a hotel in Landi Kotal and my family is not with me,” said Wazir, adding that the community will approach minority ministers Paul Bhatti and Akram Masih Gill to take up the issue.
Wazir added they could not purchase land as most property in the area was disputed over.
Meanwhile, members of the Christian community staged demonstrations to protest against the move. Families holding banners denouncing the decision chanted slogans against the force and chorused: “Where will the poor go now that winter is coming?”

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