ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Unidentified gunmen in Pakistan on Friday kidnapped the son of Salmaan Taseer, the liberal provincial governor assassinated by one of his bodyguards earlier this year in retaliation for Taseer's opposition to the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.
The abduction of Shahbaz Taseer in the eastern city of Lahore raised concerns that Islamic extremists were intent on targeting members of the Taseer family, some of whom have continued to speak out against intolerance in Pakistani society after the governor's slaying on Jan. 4.
After bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Qadri shot to death the elder Taseer outside an Islamabad restaurant, he told police he killed the Punjab provincial governor because of Taseer's stance against the country's blasphemy statute, which makes it a crime to insult the Muslim prophet Muhammad, the Quran, or Islam and can entail execution as punishment. Qadri, 26, is awaiting trial and Taseer elder son Shehryar Taseer is pursuing the case. more >>
A suicide bomber attacked worshipers inside a mosque as the main prayer ended in a tribal area near the city of Jamrud, Pakistan on Friday, killing more than 40 and injuring hundreds.
The explosion happened in the Khyber tribal area during Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan, when Muslims around the world submit themselves to a month of fasting and prayer.
It is believed that the death toll will rise as the situation becomes clearer in Jamrud. Jamrud is west of Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which lies close to the Afghan border. more >>
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – In another twist in the probe into the assassination of Pakistan’s first Christian minorities’ affairs minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, the joint investigation team formed by the government to trace his killers has claimed that family rivalry, and not the Taliban, had killed Shahbaz Bhatti, according to a media report.
Shahbaz Bhatti’s daylight murder in the federal capital Islamabad on March 2 earlier this year, is now being attributed to a property dispute between relatives. According to a report appearing in Pakistan's vernacular press, police investigators have concluded it was not a religiously-motivated murder despite the fact that the Punjabi Taliban had claimed responsibility for the assassination the very same day.
Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan called several media organizations to claim responsibility for Bhatti’s murder because "he was advocating a review of the controversial blasphemy laws." The Pakistani government, meanwhile, had called on other countries not to link the Christian minister’s assassination with blasphemy. Pamphlets found from the murder site had also claimed that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab, an affiliate of the al-Qaida, had executed Bhatti to punish him for pursuing a review of the blasphemy laws to stop its misuse against the minorities. more >>
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A large number of Christians living in the southern belt of Pakistan’s Punjab province who lost their homes in last year’s floods remain homeless despite a scheme by the Punjab government to allocate land to residents in the area, according to Christian residents.
Hameed Masih, a resident of Kot Addu tehsil in Muzaffargarh district, says the provincial government has not set a quota for members of minority communities left homeless by the devastating floods. The government has launched four schemes in Kot Addu under which around 435 plots of 5-marlas (151 square yards) each are to be distributed among people who lost their property in the floods. Several people were allotted land last month and so far, no minority member has been given land.
“Christians in this area are not rich people. They lost their houses and lands in the floods and should have been given five percent quota in the scheme. Flood victims could have been easily accommodated, but the quota system has not been followed because of which no minority member has been allotted land,” said Hameed. “The aid distribution was fair. There were some problems in the beginning but then minority members protested and the issue was resolved.” more >>
Observing that Islamabad has failed to protect freedom of religion or belief, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom on Thursday demanded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declare Pakistan a “country of particular concern.”
"As human-rights concern with serious security implications, the need for greater respect for religious freedom and related rights should be an integral issue in the U.S. bilateral relationship with Pakistan," USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo and its commissioner Felice Gaer said in an op-ed in The Hill. "We have identified this as a problem, and the U.S. should be devising and demanding solutions. While it is complicated and awkward to do so in the case of an ally, the abuses and threats posed by a growing religious extremism threaten both countries," they wrote.
USCIRF said designating Pakistan “a 'country of particular concern' will help the U.S. to turn its efforts to new solutions and practices to address Pakistan's endemic religious freedom problems." The assassinations of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, and federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti underscored Pakistan's failure to protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience or religion for even its most prominent citizens. more >>
Three Muslims convicted of killing a Christian in Pakistan’s Punjab Province for refusing to convert to Islam last year have been given life sentences, according to attorneys for the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) in Pakistan.
The Sessions Court in Mian Channu on July 7 convicted Ghulam Rasool, Amjad Iqbal and Kashir Saleem of torturing and killing Rasheed Masih on March 9, 2010, and sentenced them to life in prison, which in Pakistan is 25 years. The court also ordered each convict to pay 100,000 rupees (US$1,153) to Masih’s family. A fourth suspect, Muhammad Asif, was acquitted.
“The ECLJ also plans to file an appeal in the Lahore High Court concerning the acquittal of the fourth defendant,” said Asif Aqeel, director of the Lahore-based, ECLJ-supported Community Development Initiative. “The callous treatment by the police presented lots of challenges in proving that Masih was killed by the defendants. However, extensive work by our legal team in Pakistan and in the United States resulted in a conviction for the three defendants in this case.” more >>