Pakistan Minorities Minister Killed in Islamabad Weeks After Governor Shot

Posted: March 2, 2011 in Christian persecution, International Oppression

 By Haris AnwarMar 2, 2011

Gunmen killed Pakistan Minister for Minorities’ Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti in Islamabad today in the capital city’s second high-profile assassination this year.

As many as four men ambushed Bhatti, a leader of Pakistan’s Christian minority, as he left home without a security escort, Geo television reported, citing a police official, Bin Yamin. Bhatti was dead when brought to the city’s Al-Shifa Hospital, the institution’s spokesman, Azmatullah Quraishi, said by telephone.

Bhatti, a former leader of Pakistan’s main minority-rights group, was killed eight weeks after the governor of Pakistan’s largest province was shot to death by one of his bodyguards. Both men had called publicly for changes to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which prescribes the death penalty for anyone convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

“Many Muslims see the U.S. war in Afghanistan as a war against Islam,” S.K. Tessler, a Christian retired army colonel who served as minority affairs minister under the military regime of former president Pervez Musharraf, said in a telephone interview. “That has led on to more pressure and violence against the Christians and other minorities.”

Tessler declined to discuss the blasphemy law, saying “no one should even mention this sensitive issue. We have to live here.”

Death Threats

Bhatti, a Catholic, was 42, the Pakistan newspaper Dawn reported. Like Bhatti, Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, reported receiving death threats following his comments on the blasphemy law.

Increased violence in recent years by Taliban and other Islamic militant groups has included escalated attacks on Pakistan’s non-Muslim minorities, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Non-Muslims in Pakistan, mainly Christians and Hindus, form 5 percent of the population.

Religious conservatives have used the blasphemy law to institute a “reign of terror” against minorities, the human rights commission said in a report last year.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani “has clearly stated that his government will not change the blasphemy law,” said Qamar Zaman Kaira, spokesman for the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party. “This chapter is closed for us,” he said.

“Still, there are some elements in our society who want to spread anarchy by using this issue. This is a long war within our society and I think it will take a lot of sacrifices,” Kaira said.

Bhatti wasn’t using guards assigned to him by authorities at the time of his attack, Wajid Durrani, Islamabad’s inspector general of police, told reporters at the site of the assassination.

“He had instructed that these security officers remain at his office and not accompany him home,” Durrani said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Haris Anwar in Islamabad at




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