Shahbaz Bhatti: Yet another hero falls…

Born on September 9, 1968, to a Christian family in Punjab, Shahbaz Bhatti was the only non-Muslim minister in the Pakistan Peoples Party-led (PPP) coalition government.

Bhatti remained a strong critic of the misuse of blasphemy laws enacted by former military ruler General Ziaul Haq, knowing his stance might cost him his life.

The slain minister was one of the founding members of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) in 1985 and was a representative of the religious minorities in Pakistan. He joined the PPP in 2002. He tabled a bill in the National Assembly Secretariat in 2008 that called for the doubling of minority seats in the national and provincial assemblies, and proposed that seats also be allocated to minorities in the Senate.

After being inducted into the federal cabinet in November 2008, Bhatti said in his first statement: “I have devoted my life to the struggle for human equality, social justice, religious freedom, and to uplift and empower the religious minorities of Pakistan.”

On the morning of Wednesday, March 02, 2011, Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was killed in the I-8/3 area of Islamabad by three unidentified gunmen.

Express Tribune

According to reports, the Tehrik-i-Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the minister.

Screen captures of the pamphlet can be viewed here.

The minister had left his house moments ago when his car was intercepted by a white Suzuki Mehran. Assailants, dressed in shalwar kurtas, first took the minister’s driver out the car and then shot 25 bullets at Bhatti.

‘Not a security lapse’

According to IG Islamabad, this was not a security lapse as escorts were provided to Bhatti, which he was not using. The minister had apparently instructed his security to wait at the office in I-8/4.

“The squad officer told me that the minister had directed him to wait for him at his office. He used to often visit his mother’s house without a squad,” Durrani said. “We are investigating the matter from different angles.”

Bhatti had been receiving death threats and he had requested the government for more security. He was provided with four guards by the interior ministry.

Local resident Naseem Ahmed said the firing continued for about 30 seconds.

“We came out of our home after hearing the gunfire, we saw the car, it was badly damaged. We saw the minister, he was rushed to hospital in a critical condition,” Ahmed told reporters.

Bhatti was dead on arrival at Islamabad’s Shifa hospital, doctor Azmatullah Qureshi confirmed. Police said his body was riddled with at least eight bullets.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited the hospital and offered condolences to Bhatti’s grieving relatives.

“Such acts will not deter the government’s resolve to fight terrorism and extremism,” he said, adding that the killers would not go unpunished.

The highest target

Earlier, Bhatti had voiced his fears that he believed he would be “the highest target” following the assassination of Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer for speaking out against the blasphemy law.

Bhatti had said fatwas, or religious decrees, had been issued calling for him to be beheaded, by extremist clerics in the country who were allowed to publicly spread messages of violence with impunity.

After the Pakistani Taliban said that they killed the Christian minister, former MNA and chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Sindh chapter Asadullah Bhutto said the assassination was an attempt by the CIA to divert the attention of masses from Raymond Davis.

“Accepting the responsibility of killing the minister soon after the incident by ‘Punjabi Taliban’, as reported by media, is an ample proof that the CIA is behind this crime because the US spy agency had been staging such ‘dramas’ of ‘Punjabi Taliban’ after committing the crimes of same nature earlier,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

International condemnation

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she was “shocked and outraged” by the slaying of Bhatti.

“I was shocked and outraged by the assassination,” Clinton told a Senate committee, adding it was also an attack on “the values of tolerance and respect.”

Senior US Senator John Kerry condemned the incident as a “particularly chilling” terrorist attack.

“Coming so soon after the killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, another strong advocate for tolerance and moderation, today’s act of terrorism is particularly chilling,” Kerry said in a statement.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay urged the Pakistan government to support reforms of Islamic blasphemy laws as she condemned the killing of a Bhatti.

“I urge the government of Pakistan to honour the courageous stand of Mr Bhatti and Mr Taseer by supporting their position on the blasphemy laws,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the murder of Bhatti was “absolutely brutal and unacceptable”.

“It was absolutely shocking news,” Cameron told the House of Commons.

“I will send not only our condolences but our clearest possible message to the government and people of Pakistan that this is simply unacceptable,” he added.

The archbishop of Canterbury expressed “shock and sorrow” at the murder and the Vatican condemned it as an “unspeakable” act of violence.

Express Tribune

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~ by admin on March 3, 2011.

2 Responses to “Shahbaz Bhatti: Yet another hero falls…”

  1. […] Shahbaz Bhatti: Yet another hero falls… (pakliberals.wordpress.com) […]

  2. […] Shahbaz Bhatti: Yet another hero falls… (pakliberals.wordpress.com) […]

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