Pakistan (MNN) — Pakistan has again pledged itself in the fight against terrorism after a recent visit by the United States’ Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Pakistan’s Empty Words
“When you look at that meeting between Tillerson and Prime Minister Abbasi, in Pakistan, even the Pakistani citizens themselves, Christians included, scoffed and laughed at Prime Minister Abbasi’s promise to ramp up the country’s counter-terrorism efforts,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares.
“They see these pledges as political posturing and just empty words. And words that are easy to speak by this prime minister because he’s only an interim prime minister…and his days are very limited.”
Currently, a lot of terrorist groups are operating in Pakistan. In fact, the US President has even threated to withdraw aid if Pakistani counter-terrorism measures are not what the US considered effective. But, being effective and actually combating terrorism are two different things.
Pakistan has taken steps to fight against terrorism in the country; such as raids on terrorist holdings and its recent assistance in securing the release of a kidnapped Canadian family. But it’s things like this that provide evidence that can be misleading in the country’s efforts to combat terror.
Terrorists in Pakistan have paid money to politicians in support of their re-election as a trade for future protection. In fact, most counter-terrorism efforts, according to Allen, are raids on training camps or areas where terrorists have had large areas under their control.
“I just received a list of the names of dozens of political leaders who have aided and abetted terrorists in recent months and years, and they’re still holding office,” Allen explains.
“So, sometimes they are aiding the terrorists by contributions, you know financially. Other times it’s safekeeping or hiding them in certain areas. So, you get this thing where they say one thing, they can legitimately point to success stories in their counter-terrorism efforts. It’s a double speech mentality.”
Pakistani leaders aren’t necessarily lying about their commitment to combat terrorism, as they have performed operations to do just that. But, they are making decisions that best support their individual political standings. That is why many people doubt Prime Minister Abbasi’s pledge.
“In my opinion, it’s entirely out of question that any credible kind of war against terrorism can be fought under the supervision of wholly corrupted leaders. Even the government’s elected national assembly members are on the top of our intelligence agency’s watch list due to their connections with terrorists. Entrusting these leaders to combat terrorism is like asking a cat to watch over the milk,” another spokeperson from FMI says.
“Furthermore, ISIS has completely penetrated Pakistan and … it may appear as the biggest terrorist force in Pakistan soon, which would be difficult to control. ISIS is recruiting [a] number of university students, professors, convicted criminals, etc. I do pray for the safety and protection of Pakistan so that it should not be demolished by ISIS like many other countries, but to think it cannot happen is like is just like closing eyes from the reality.”
Tense International Relations
Pakistan’s pledge to counter terrorism has also been tainted by the fact that Osama bin Laden, the founder and former head of the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda, was discovered hiding in Pakistan, essentially in the backyard of a large military-intelligence establishment. The question remains, was Pakistan blind to Osama bin Laden’s presence, or was the Pakistani government protecting him?
“There’s an uneasy relationship between the two governments, of the US and Pakistan,” Allen says. “Pakistan is very wary of the US, although they certainly appreciate the billions of dollars in aid that they have received from the US. But at the same time, they see the US strengthening its relationship with India, who’s an archrival of Pakistan.”
The US has partnered with India in efforts in Afghanistan, which has led to Pakistan feeling a bit dismissed by the US, Allen explains. But, at the same time the US can’t afford to dismiss Pakistan because the country is a nuclear power– one that has not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Furthermore, Allen shares that Pakistan has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal and has indeed been a source of nuclear materials sent to countries like Iran, North Korea, and Libya. It is a delicate situation.
Christians in Pakistan
Another issue is that a lot Christians feel that the Pakistani government dismisses them. When terrorists attack Christians, very little aid or response to needs are given. Sometimes when Christians are the victims of attacks, they’re made to look like the aggressors when they are not.
In fact, Pakistan is ranked No. 4 on the World Watch List (WWL) by Open Doors USA. The WWL lists the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe. But despite the threat of terror, FMI partners are persevering under difficult situations.
“I am seeing so many Christians get involved in ministry to their community, supporting the work of their churches. I’m seeing evangelism take place in unprecedented ways,” Allen explains. “They’re being bold and they’re being diligent. So, I’m very encouraged by that.”
Beating the Odds
FMI’s data on Pakistan for this year only covers from the beginning of the year through this summer. And yet, the data shows that the number of new Christians in July 2017 has already doubled, coming in at 3,585, as compared to 1,278 new Christians in July 2016.
Furthermore, FMI is seeing Pakistani youths won for Christ– the same age group that terrorists most often target for recruitment. Youths can be considered easy targets to terrorists because they often feel unemployable, poverty is an issue, and Pakistan’s literacy rate is at 50% overall, but often lower amongst minorities.
“Yet, it’s the youths that are also responding to the Gospel…in doing the follow up of the weeks following those  VBS outreaches [from over the summer], they’re drawing hundreds of youths together,” Allen shares.
One pastor, he says, “had just sent me some photos of 700 youths gathering together to receive scripture packets in their own languages [asking,] ‘tell us more, feed us spiritually’…so I see a big responsiveness…and they’re finding hope in Jesus Christ rather than the despair that is so prevalent in this society.”
How to Help
Pray for Pakistan to become a stable country and for God to eradicate the corruption within it. Pray for its leaders and the future transition of a permanent prime minister. On that note, ask God to provide Pakistan with a prime minister of integrity, one who is not corrupt, but fair.
And please, pray for the churches, the evangelists, congregations, church planters, and pastors to be enabled and supported in doing ministry. Many of the pastors and church planters serve in multiple locations rather than one church.
Finally, ask for these churches to be supplied and equipped with the proper resources to reach individuals of all ages both in their congregations and in their communities. As previously stated, Pakistan has a low literacy rate, so providing wordy Bibles won’t be as beneficial if people don’t know how to read them. So please, pray for people to be also be trained to read the Bibles themselves, but to also to train others to do the same.
Another way to get involved is to tangibly help. FMI currently has about 10 sponsored church planters and evangelists in Pakistan who are underfunded. These individuals don’t have enough partners who are praying for them regularly and helping support them on a monthly basis. Will you pray for their needs? Will you also consider helping support these FMI partners?
“While Pakistan is just one of three-Muslim majority nations where FMI supported church planters serve, this is where we’re seeing thousands come to Christ every year,” Allen says.