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 >>
LAHORE, Pakistan– The often unseen or unrecognized abuses suffered by Christians at Pakistan’s lowest level of society – street sweepers – have come into sharp focus this year.
While one Christian sanitation worker in Lahore has been suspended and criminal charges filed against him for objecting to discrimination against fellow workers, another was killed the same month for not tending to a shopkeeper’s command fast enough.
Anayat Masih Sahotra, who has worked as a street sweeper for Lahore’s Solid Waste Management (SWM) department for 24 years, said he is facing baseless charges of forgery and fraud from his employers because of his work as a labor leader for area sweepers, who are nearly all Christians. He was suspended and accused of the crimes on May 14 after he asked SWM Managing Director Wasim Ajmal Chaudhry to fulfill a promise to make 400 Christian workers regular employees with full benefits, he said. more >>
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – An investigation into the assassination of a Christian Pakistani government minister who criticized the country's rigid Islamic blasphemy law is on "the right track," his brother said on Thursday.
Shahbaz Bhatti, assassinated in March, was Pakistan's minister for minorities' affairs and campaigned for the rights of Christians before he was gunned down in Islamabad – apparently by Islamist extremists.
"The investigations into the homicide of my brother are finally on the right track," Paul Bhatti, currently an adviser to Pakistan's government on religious minorities told the Catholic Fides news agency. more >>