Pakistan: Swedish Christian Worker Reportedly Targeted by Punjabi Taliban


Date:  2012-12-08

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ISLAMABAD (ANS) -- The Dec. 3 assassination attempt against Bargeeta Almby, a 72-year-old female Christian charity worker from Sweden, was in all probability, made by the al-Qaeda-linked Punjabi Taliban.

A possible reason was that she had sided with two Christian priests accused of committing blasphemy, preliminary police investigations have indicated.

According to a story by Amir Mir of The News International, Almby, the managing director of the Full Gospel Assemblies (FGA), a church fellowship founded in the United States with congregations worldwide, was returning home from her Kot Lakhpat office. It was then that two unidentified motorcyclists shot her in the Model Town area of Lahore where she has long lived.

The Swedish charity worker, who is in critical condition at the Jinnah hospital, has been living in Pakistan for the past 38 years.

The News International said besides working to protect the Christian minority and promote Christian values, Almby was also running the FGA Church in the Bahar Colony area of Kot Lakhpat, a technical training institute, an adult literacy center and an orphanage in the provincial metropolis of Punjab.

The News International said according to preliminary investigations carried out by the Lahore police into the attack on Bargeeta, some Christian religious leaders associated with Full Gospel Assemblies Church Pakistan (FGACP), had been receiving life threats from some religious fanatics.

FGACP is the oldest church Pentecostal church in Pakistan,

The threats had forced a bishop and a priest working at FGA to go into hiding after being accused of having committed blasphemy. While Bishop Pervaiz Joseph is the leader of the Pastors' Care Ministries and priest of the Gospel Church in Lahore, Pastor Baber George works with the Full Gospel Assemblies Church.

The News International said both Christian leaders were accused of committing blasphemy after raising the issue of misuse of the blasphemy law in a meeting with some religious leaders.

The religious leaders had accused Joseph and George of making insulting remarks against Muhammad.

However, Joseph and George had refuted the allegation, saying that the meeting was held as part of their interfaith work to build peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims, and they could not even think of committing blasphemy in such a sensitive meeting. But as a result of the increasing threats, Joseph and George had to leave their jobs as well as their homes, and were temporarily moved to a safer place along with their families.

The News International said those investigating the assassination attempt on Almby say she had been supporting Joseph and George. They say her attack was retaliation by religious fanatics and the investigation has shown the involvement of Punjabi Taliban, also reportedly involved in targeting several other minority members in Pakistan, especially Shias and Ahmedis.

The News International reported the same day Almby was targeted in Model Town, another significant incident occurred in the Q Block area of Model Town. There more than a dozen masked men carrying arms and digging tools vandalized the tombstones of 100-plus graves at an Ahmedi cemetery.

The News International said claiming responsibility, the Punjabi Taliban had vowed to intensify attacks against the Ahmedis across Pakistan.

Mansoor Maawia, a spokesperson for the Punjabi Taliban had said after the twin mosque attacks, "No Ahmedi would live with peace in Pakistan. Our war against them will continue till their complete elimination because they are as worst infidels as Jews are."

During subsequent investigations, a senior doctor of the Jinnah Hospital in Lahore, who was also the president of the Jamaatul Daawa's medical wing - Muslim Medical Mission (MMM) - had admitted to facilitating four suicide attacks in Lahore, including the May 28 attacks on the places of worship of the Ahmedis in Lahore.

The News International said Dr. Ali Abdullah Chaudhry, who was arrested on July 9 2012, had also confessed to helping the terrorists who had attacked the Jinnah Hospital in Lahore to free a an associate who was injured in the May 28 attack on the Ahmedi-run mosques Model Town.

The News International said Chaudhry revealed that while pursuing his medical degree at Allama Iqbal Medical College, he had received armed training in Azad Kashmir at a Lashkar-e-Taiba training camp which was being run by the JuD.

The News International said that between 2005 and 2010, Chaudhry was the nazim of the Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT), the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan.

Sometime during this period he was given training at the JuD's armed wing, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, in Azad Kashmir. His job was to prepare young people from a variety of Lahore's universities and colleges of Lahore, particularly medical institutions, to support the cause of the militants.

The News International said the confessions made by Chaudhry suggested for the first time that the Lashkar-e-Taiba has also become a part of the Punjabi Taliban. That's a loose network of members of several banned militant organizations based in the urban areas of Punjab which had been a part of the "jihad" in Jammu & Kashmir.

The key components of the Punjabi Taliban include at least eight al-Qaeda-linked Sunni-sectarian jihadi.

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