Adnan William has been making rounds of government offices in Peshawar for the last four months seeking financial relief for his family which lost its main breadwinner in a brazen terror attack in the provincial capital on Jan 30, but he says the prolonged delay is adding to their woes.
“It has been seven months since my father, Church of Pakistan Pastor William Siraj was martyred by unidentified terrorists when he and two other priests were driving home from a worship service in Peshawar, but the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has neither provided us any relief nor has it arrested the assailants,” Adnan, 34, told Kross Konnection.
The pastor’s son said that government officials, including the deputy commissioner and city’s police chief had announced a relief of Rs500,000 when they visited their home on the day of the incident.
“The provincial government gives Rs500,000 relief to victims of accidents but my father was killed in a terrorist attack and his case should have been treated under the Shuhada (Martyrs) Package which was created for victims of terrorism,” he said.
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According to Adnan, when he visited the Peshawar deputy commissioner’s office in March, the officials there expressed surprise that the family had not even received the Rs500,000 relief.
“I am working as a teacher at a local private school. My sister’s husband was martyred in the terrorist attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar in 2013, and she has been living with us ever since. My father was the family’s provider but after his death it is very difficult for us to meet ends in my meagre salary, especially due to increasing inflation,” he said.
The school teacher said that they would not have faced this situation if the Church of Pakistan’s Peshawar’s Diocese had pursued the compensation issue from the onset.
“We were grieving and not in a mental position to follow up with the compensation process. My father was a CoP pastor so it was the diocesan bishop’s responsibility to ensure that the government provided us with adequate and timely compensation, but unfortunately this did not happen.
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“The process started when I submitted an application in March but the DC office referred our case to the Auqaf Department, which is in control of the endowment fund that was established for all non-Muslim victims of terrorism in the province following the 2013 church attack,” he said.
The survivors of the church attack received Rs500,000 for the deceased and Rs200,000 for the injured from the provincial government while the federal government of the time announced Rs200 million for victims’ families. However, KP’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and Auqaf Department changed the Rs200 million package for Christians into an endowment fund for all minorities.
“It’s been nearly eight years since the church attack but no Christian victim has been compensated from that fund for their losses so far. The endowment fund matter is in court so we don’t even know when the case will be decided and the compensation will be released to the 2013 attack victims. In this situation, I don’t think we have any chance of getting relief from that fund,” he added.
Adnan said that he had moved another application demanding that his father’s case be treated separately from the 2013 attack.
“The government gave financial assistance of up to Rs3.5 million under the Shuhada Package to each Shia family who lost their loved ones in the suicide attack on the Koocha Risaldar Imambargah in Peshawar in February so why is it showing discrimination in our case?” he asked.
National Commission for Minorities member Dr Sarah Safdar told Kross Konnection that she had asked the provincial government to adequately compensate the William family.
“I spoke to the CM’s special assistant on minorities affairs, Wazir Zada and asked him for giving at least Rs3 million compensation to the family. Rev Shahzad Murad of the Peshawar Diocese is now pursuing this case,” she said, expressing the hope that the issue will be resolved soon.
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Wazir Zada told Kross Konnection that he had reversed the DC office’s recommendation for Rs500,000 relief to the William family and had also brought the case to the chief minister’s notice.
“The pastor was killed in a terrorist attack so his family should be compensated from the Shuhada Package. I will meet the chief minister this week and request him to give his approval,” he said.
Speaking on the release of compensation to the survivors of the All Saints Church terror attack from the endowment fund, Wazir Zada said that it was delayed after Christians moved the court over the distribution mechanism.
“Christians wanted lump sum payment for the survivors while the government representatives had proposed categorizing the recipients and disbursing the funds to them on a monthly or annual basis. We will start the process as soon as the court decides the matter,” he said.
As many as 97 people were killed and over 200 were injured in a twin suicide bombing at the All Saints Church located on Kohati Gate Road in Peshawar on Sept 22, 2013. The deadly attack had destroyed the church but the community rebuilt it gradually at a cost of Rs4million. The government did not contribute any money for the church’s reconstruction.