Have the Lahore Church Bombings and the Lynchings that Followed Revealed Rifts Within Pakistan’s Christian Community?

The Caravan Magazine: March 27, 20156

It was a little after 11 am on Sunday, 15 March 2015. Asher Naveed, a member of the parish council and a voluntary security guard at Lahore’s Christ Church in Youhanabad, was sitting at the back of the church with seven other members of the security team. Glancing at his watch, Naveed realized that the sermon had gone on for longer than usual; by now, congregants who did not want to join in the Communion would ordinarily be leaving the church. One man, his wife and daughter, snuck out from the pews, headed towards Naveed, and asked him to open the church doors so they could leave.

Less than a minute after the family walked out, Naveed heard the man’s motorbike rev up, followed by the sound of gunshots.

“I heard five or six shots, in quick succession,” Naveed recalled when he spoke to me. In the few seconds of silence that followed, one of guards headed to a small door near the entrance. “We thought it was some miscreants causing a commotion outside, or at worst, a shooting between people from the neighbourhood (Youhanabad),” Naveed said. The guard cracked the door open and peered outside; seconds later, he was swept off his feet and thrown backwards into the church by the force of an explosion.

“Everything was grey,” Naveed recalled. “I remember thinking, as I looked outside the door that had been blasted open, that our congregants had come to church dressed in such beautiful, colourful clothes. But I could see none of that colour, everything had turned grey.”

Through the smoke and debris, Naveed told me that he spotted what he thought was the suicide bomber’s leg. “The minute I saw body parts, we closed the door so people would not rush out and see that,” he said. “All I could think of was how the sermon had gone on longer than usual that day. If it hadn’t, imagine how many families would have been outside the church when the bombings took place.”

The attacks on 15 March were the worst on Pakistan’s Christian community since a double suicide bombing at a church in Peshawar in September 2013 that left nearly one hundred people dead. The community—which makes up roughly 2 percent of Pakistan’s population of more than 180 million people—lost nineteen people in the bombings at Christ Church and Roman Catholic Church, located half a kilometer apart in Lahore’s Youhanabad neighbourhood, home to an estimated 100,000 Christians. Two Christians were killed the following day as a panicked driver tried to make her way through a crowd of protestors, running over fourteen people.

Full story here

More photos here

(First photo by me; photo below by Umar Ali)



Finding Fatima: In conversation with the latest Bhutto to bring ‘Democracy’ to Pakistan

The Express Tribune: March 1, 2015


I first met Fatima Bhutto the day a small heart-shaped icon blinked on my phone’s screen, informing me that ‘fbhutto’ had liked one of my photographs on Instagram. And then on February 13th, a few hours before her latest work, a short story called Democracy, was released online, Fatima invited me to her home.

It felt impossible that we would not to talk about politics. On the way to 70 Clifton, I drove past graffiti that pleaded, “Fatima, you are our only hope”, and as I walked into the house, I expected to see the faces of generations of Bhuttos looking down at me. Yes, they were all there, but so were some unexpected visitors: dozens of children from nearby Neelum Colony, who come to the house to seek refuge from the streets, do their homework, or join art classes with Fatima’s mother Ghinwa.

I decided then that I wouldn’t interview Fatima the Bhutto but Fatima the writer: the woman who spent a night in the kitchens of London’s storied Delaunay restaurant so she could learn to make croissants, who seemed to have a weak spot for beautiful shoes and who gives all her books away as a rule. It seemed fitting to take the conversation out of 70 Clifton and back online, where we first met. And so, for one week, Fatima and I emailed each other.

4- Fatima and mother

Full story here

Karachi railway station: On the right track

The Express Tribune: February 1, 2015
Corridor Sketch_MM 2
If you are a 29-year-old architect and you’ve lost your sense of direction, it seems entirely fitting that your dream job would land you at Karachi’s Cantonment Railway Station. “I had left my job at the Heritage Foundation. I had no jobs lined up and I didn’t even know how I would pay my bills,” recalls Marvi Mazhar. “Then I got a call from architect Aqeel Bilgrami and he asked me to come see the station, as a group of artists and architects was hoping to revitalise this beautiful 19th century building.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Full story here

Quetta’s Hazaras: Old wounds, new fears

The Express Tribune: January 22, 2015


There are some days when Jawad Hazara follows his son Ibtihaj’s school van as it ferries the 12-year-old boy from his home in Quetta’s Gulistan Town till the entrance to the cantonment area where Army Public School and College Seven Streams is located.

“Sometimes my heart will not rest until I see that van enter the cantonment,” Jawad says. After the attack last month on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Jawad feels his son is in greater danger, particularly in a city where his distinct features mark him out as an easy target. “If they can do that to army children, just imagine what would happen if someone entered Ibtihaj’s school. He is a Hazara boy. If anyone came to attack the students, the Hazaras would be killed first,” Jawad says.

Full story here