Pakistan Christians Stage Massive Rally for Rights; Protest Emergency Rule

In a courageous move, Pakistan's tiny Christian community staged a rally in Islamabad on Friday to press for the "due rights" they claim "had been denied to them" while also condemning the proclamation of an emergency rule in the country.

Led by former federal minister Julius Salik, protesters numbering around 300 blocked Islamabad's Municipal Road for about two hours, hindering the traffic flow.

The protesters gathered in front of Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club at Melody Chowk and marched towards the offices of a banned TV channel located on Jinnah Avenue. Police tried to block their march but eventually gave in, allowing the protesters to march up to their destination.

During the demonstration, the protesters raised anti-government slogans and made a number of demands. According to the Pakistan Daily Times, the protest was to press the government to provide Christians permanent accommodation in the capital city and due representation in parliament, as well as to press for restoration of the constitution and deposed superior court judges

The angry protesters also urged the United Nations and European Union to pressure the government to accept their demands.

The protesters said the government had increased quota for women in parliament but failed to increase the number of seats for Christian community. They also announced boycott of the upcoming general election under the present interim setup.

They further condemned President Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule last month, through which he rounded up opponents, purged top judges who could have derailed his re-election, and cracked down on independent media.

Furious protesters lambasted the government for chaining the media freedom and depriving the people of their constitutional right to unhindered access to information. A heavy contingent of police stood around to deal with any potential problems.

Minorities in Pakistan – including Christians, Hindus, and other sects of Islam – have often complaint about the harsh reality of living among an absolute majority Muslim population.

The adherents of Christianity are the largest religious minority community in Pakistan. They account for about 1.5 percent of Pakistan's population of 162 million, of which an overwhelming 96.1 percent is Muslim.