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Bleak outlook for Christian persecution in Pakistan after deadly election day
A Christian religious freedom campaigner has said discrimination against Christians in Pakistan will not get better as the country headed to polls to vote for a new prime minister on Wednesday.
The leading contenders are former cricket star Imran Khan and his right-of-centre Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) and the right-of-centre Pakistan Muslim League, the party of disgraced Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif is in jail serving ten years on corruption charges and his younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, has taken control of the party.
Wilson Chowdhry from the British Pakistani Christian Association, told Premier News Hour: "Imran Kahn has openly said he would not change the blasphemy laws and insure that it's enforced.
"That blasphemy law has been a tool or discrimination and persecution for Christians since 1987."
The unprecedented participation of radical religious groups, including those banned for terrorist links but resurrected and renamed, has also raised fears the space for moderate thought may shrink further in Pakistan.
Wilson added: "The tragedy is that for the first time in any election in Pakistan, no Christian candidates have been picked by any of the mainstream parties for the national assembly. We will be bereft of a voice whoever we vote for."
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into people waiting outside a busy polling station in the Pakistani city of Quetta, killing at least 31 and casting a dark shadow over the election day.
The bombing also wounded 35 people, with several reported to be in a critical condition.
No-one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing but local officials were quick to blame the Islamic State group (IS).
Rev Wilson Gill, pastor of Emmanuel Church in Southall, moved to the UK from Pakistan 20 years ago.
He told Premier he will continue to pray for peace.
"I pray that there will be peace and smooth handle of the transfer of power to the party who will win or who will have the majority."
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