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Pakistan grants pardon to young woman who attempted suicide attack on church

(Wikimedia Commons/Fraz.khalid1)St. Luke's Church at Mall Road, Murree, Pakistan.

The Pakistani government has reportedly pardoned a young medical student who joined the Islamic State terror group and attempted to blow up a Christian church on Easter.

According to British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), Noreen Jabar Leghari, 20, a second year student of MBBS in Liaquat University of Medical Science (LUMS), had left her family home in February to join IS in Syria. She was reportedly arrested by Pakistani security forces on April 16 during an attempted suicide attack on a church.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a statement that Leghari was not a terrorist, but she was about to become one when she was saved security forces. He argued that the Pakistani armed forces were able to save her well before she was brainwashed by the militants.

"So should we treat Noreen like a terrorist or release her so that she can tell others how she was trapped and used for terrorism?" he asked.

"In this way, awareness will be created among the younger generation and parents as well as institutions," he continued.

BPCA noted that one man was killed and four soldiers were injured during the operation to thwart the attempted bombing. The security forces arrested two more suspects and confiscated two suicide vests, weapons and other explosives.

Many Muslims had reportedly advocated for Leghari's freedom because of the belief that the promising young student had been brainwashed by the militants at a vulnerable age.

However, the BPCA Chairman Wilson Chowdhry pointed out that the student was intelligent enough to be considered for a role as a doctor, but her supporters describe her as "pliable and immature."

Chowdhry contended that many of Leghari's supporters would not campaign for her if she had targeted Muslims. He expressed his belief that the young student still has an animosity towards Christians.

"It is hard to believe the deep-rooted hatred that Miss Leghari had towards Christians that led to her becoming a suicide recruit, has simply vanished. Years down the line I pray we do not discover a series of 'Shipman' type deaths of Christians at any hospital she is employed by," he said.

While Leghari has been granted pardon, the Pakistani government continues to impose harsh punishments on Christians who were found guilty of committing blasphemy against Islam.

Earlier this month, a Pakistani court sentenced a Christian man named Zafar Bhatti for sending "blasphemous" text messages from his mobile phone.

Meanwhile, the Lahore Supreme Court has refused to fast-track the appeal of Asia Noreen Bibi's blasphemy sentence.

Bibi, a Christian mother of five, had been sentenced to death after her co-workers accused her of blasphemy when she drank water from a public well using a cup meant only for Muslims. The Christian mother has spent the last seven years in prison waiting for the court to hear her appeal.

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