|Pakistani men waiting for transport at a newly installed colorful bus shelter, inscribed with verses of the |
Koran and Islamic calligraphy with a public service message in Islamabad.
Billions and billions of your tax dollars at work supporting an Islamic authoritarian state
Pakistan is decorating bus stops with Quranic verses and Islamic calligraphy to give a more spiritual flavor to the capital Islamabad.
The Capital Development Authority, or CDA plans to roll out 100 new bus shelters – known locally as sunshades – painted with flowers and religious verses to spruce up the 1960s purpose-built capital.
"The new sunshades will not only provide protection to commuters from inhospitable weather but will also project the art of Islamic calligraphy and our rich heritage," CDA official Haji Mehboob Ahmad told AFP.
The CDA intends to erect 30 in the next two months, the hottest and wettest of the year as the monsoon season sets in, at a cost of 400,000 rupees each after the public responded well to a pilot program.
Set up near Islamabad's commercial Blue Area, not far from the seat of government, the first stop has been lavishly painted green, purple and yellow, inscribed with verses from the Quran seeking protection from evil.
The name of God has been painted in Arabic calligraphy and there is a public service message exhorting bus users to respect public property.
"This bus stand belongs to you. Please take care of this sunshade and keep your city green and clean," the message says.
The project has attracted local press attention and residents said they were fans of the new shelters.
"It really looks great to see beautifully designed sunshades with calligraphic art," said Imran Hussain, a telecommunications worker, waiting at the new bus stop surrounded by huge trees.
"I have decided to approach the CDA management to put up one in an area where I live. It really looks beautiful," he said.
The municipality, which is heavily committed to mega building projects such as new under-passes and fly-overs in the growing city of more than one million, says the bus stops have a practical benefit.
"These messages will be meant to enhance awareness among people on crucial issues of water conservation, sanitation and an anti-littering campaign," CDA official Ramzan Sajid told AFP.
|Christians at Mass in Pakistan|
Pakistan's Christians: "You live with fear. You can't express yourself."
An ever-deteriorating situation for Christians in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. "In the 'Rome of Pakistan,' Christians say they fear speaking out, worry about the future," by Nahal Toosi for The Associated Press, April 22:
KHUSHPUR, Pakistan (AP) — A church bell, not a mosque loudspeaker, calls people to prayer along the dung-lined streets and inside the crumbling houses of this village. The body of Pakistan's most recent Christian martyr is buried in its graveyard.
But Islamist militants' recent murder of federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian son of the village targeted for opposing Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, has rattled the peace. As they prepare to observe Easter, many of the 5,300 villagers say Pakistan's Christians face more pressure than ever.
"You live with fear," said Rose Dominic, 45, a math teacher. "You can't express yourself."...
Khushpur has risen to prominence among Pakistan's Christian villages partly because of its reputation for producing "martyrs."
One of them was Bishop John Joseph, a human rights activist who shot himself in 1998 to protest the same blasphemy laws Bhatti wanted to change. The laws impose the death penalty for insulting Islam, and rights groups say they are frequently used to persecute religious minorities or settle personal disputes.
Joseph's body is buried in the nearby city of Faisalabad, but his bloody clothes were interred in the graveyard in Khushpur under a large marble slab. Just a few meters away is Bhatti's grave, topped with a cross bearing his picture, and still topped with fresh flowers daily.
Bhatti led the ministry for minorities, and what little political power Pakistan's Christians had was almost entirely vested in him. Fliers left at the scene of his March 2 murder in Islamabad were signed by Taliban and al-Qaida militants who said they targeted Bhatti because of the blasphemy issue.
The mention of Bhatti's name still brings tears in Khushpur, where one woman said people loved him more than their own sons.
"People feel and people think their hope died," said Father Anjum Nazir, the parish priest. "If he is killed, what will be security for other people?"
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