By Robin Gomes
The bitterly fought elections was marred by allegations of vote rigging, administrative malpractices, and violence, including a terrorist suicide bomb attack on election day, July 25, in Quetta, that killed at least 31.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, which is alleged to have the backing of the country’s powerful military, has been declared the winner with 116 of the 269 contested seats in the National Assembly, far ahead of its nearest rival, Shahbaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League with 64 seats.
Khan is currently holding talks with allies and independents to form a coalition government.
Dominican priest Father James Channan, who heads the Peace Centre Lahore told Vatican News that in the run-up to the elections, Christians were messaging on the social media not to vote for Imran Khan. Noting this, Imran Khan assured minorities they should not be afraid of him and his government, adding he wants to see Pakistan as envisioned by the nation’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
According to Imran Khan, all citizens, including Christians, will be treated equally in Pakistan, but Fr. Channan said it is difficult to say at present whether that is going to happen. However, the priest who is active in interfaith dialogue and harmony feels optimistic and hopes that Khan will fulfil the promises he has made.
Fr. Nasir William, director of the Social Communications Commission of the diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, told AsiaNews that Pakistan’s previous governments failed to give equal rights to religious minorities. In his victory speech, Khan assured minorities of the basic privileges guaranteed in the constitution but Fr. Willian said he remained silent when leaders of his PTI party referred to “Christians as kaafir (infidels) and churhas (low caste) in assemblies and television talk shows".
Fr. Willian noted that a 5-year term many not be enough to counter decades of religious fundamentalism. “Chances of big protests and sit-ins are bleak as military is rumored to support his party,” he added.
Hyacinth Peter, executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Major Religious Superiors Leadership Conference said Khan has “no interest” in minorities as he has vowed to defend the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. His government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has removed all secular content from school syllabus.
Church leaders in Pakistan also criticized the PTI provincial government for its failure to compensate the families of those who died in the Peshawar Church blast in 2013.
However Fr. Qaiser Feroz, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops' social communications commission was more vocal in supporting Imran Khan who, he said, believes in the secular vision of Jinnah.