The sentence of life imprisonment given to Pakistan's deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif by a special court last week has prompted mixed reactions from Pakistan's church leaders, with many local Christians declaring that life has improved under the nation's unelected military leader, General Pervez Musharraf. Samuel Pervez, a bishop of the Church of Pakistan and president of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan (NCCP), told ENI April 10: "Some say it [the sentence] is good, others say it is bad." Speaking by telephone from Gujranwala in the diocese of Sialkot in northern Pakistan, Bishop Pervez said the verdict had "neither shocked nor surprised" the people.Sharif was ousted by a military coup last October led by the head of Pakistan's military, General Musharraf, who has since assumed the title of Chief Executive of Pakistan. Sharif was tried in a special court for ordering the "hijacking" of the plane carrying the general back to Pakistan from Colombo, Sri Lanka, last October 12. Victor Azariahs, the NCCP's general secretary, told Ecumenical News International (ENI) that most people were "not much worried" by the sentence. The NCCP is a forum of Protestant churches and related institutions, including the Protestant Church of Pakistan, the Presbyterian Church, the Salvation Army and the Association of Reformed Presbyterian Churches. The NCCP's members account for nearly half of Pakistan's 3 million Christians. Pakistan also has a big Roman Catholic community. About 97 percent of Pakistan's 140 million people are Muslims.Pakistan's Catholic bishops have yet to respond to ENI's request for comment on the jail sentence for the 52-year-old former prime minister.Azariahs told ENI by telephone from the NCCP's offices ...

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