The killing of two senior state officials for speaking up against the controversial blasphemy law in Pakistan raises serious concerns. For it is evident that both Punjab Province Governor Salman Taseer and Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated by Islamist extremists although the Pakistani government has been a key ally of the United States in its war against terror for around a decade.
Both former President General Pervez Musharraf and the current head of State, Asif Ali Zardari, promised to repeal the blasphemy law embedded in Sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Their pledge acknowledged that the law was being misused to target religious minorities – Christians, Shi’as, Ahmadiyyas and Hindus – and was allowing Islamists to justify killings, thereby propagating their twisted belief that killing a “blasphemous” person earns a heavenly reward.
This law is dangerous particularly because there is no provision to punish a false accuser or a false witness of blasphemy. This means a Muslim can easily seek revenge by making an allegation against his or her adversary who is a non-Muslim. While Musharraf and Zardari fought terrorists with some genuine commitment, they failed to revoke the blasphemy law. more >>
LAHORE, Pakistan – Suspected Islamic extremists sprayed 25 to 30 bullets at Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti’s car on Wednesday as he came out of his mother’s home in a residential area of the Pakistani capital to attend a meeting of the federal cabinet.
The federal government had provided bodyguards for Bhatti, the only cabinet-level Christian, but they were not present at the time of the attack.
A letter found at the scene, purportedly from Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists, claimed responsibility for the killing. Police sources said the letter found at the murder site accused Bhatti of waging a campaign to amend the blasphemy law. more >>
Pakistani Christians took to the streets Wednesday to protest the fatal shooting of the nation’s only Christian Cabinet member and to demand the government bring to justice the killers.
Shahbaz Bhatti, the federal minister of minorities affairs, perished in a hail of bullets as he left his mother's home by car Wednesday morning. Since then, the nation’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik has increased security for federal ministers.
Leaders worldwide have condemned the attack. more >>
Church leaders have condemned the brutal murder of Pakistan Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti.
Bhatti, the first Christian to be a member of the Pakistani President’s Cabinet, was gunned down Wednesday morning, local time.
"It is with the greatest shock and sorrow that we have heard of the assassination of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti," said the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York, Dr. Rowan Williams and John Sentamu. more >>
The No. 1 person on the Taliban’s Pakistan hit list, Shahbaz Bhatti, the federal minister of minorities affairs, was gunned down Wednesday around 11 a.m. (local time).
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the assassination of the long-time minorities activist.
Bhatti, 42, was leaving his home in the morning when an unknown gunman bombarded his vehicle with bullets in broad daylight. He was dead when he arrived at Shifa Hospital in Islamabad. Bhatti is usually accompanied by security guards, but he had told them Wednesday not to travel with him. more >>
LAHORE, Pakistan – The Christian family of 24-year-old Imran Masih in Pakistan’s Punjab Province was in anguish. The previous week, on Feb. 7, Masih was found dead at his Muslim employer’s farmhouse.
The employer, influential landowner Chaudhry Maqsood Cheema, claimed that Masih committed suicide by hanging himself. Masih’s relatives believe that Cheema – seeing the young Christian man as a “soft target” whose family had little standing or legal recourse in the predominantly Muslim society – killed him for taking a day off without informing him.
Masih had married eight months ago, and the couple was expecting their first child, his father Lal Masih told Compass by telephone from Nath Kallan village in Esa Nagar, Gujranwala district. He said Cheema had hired his son to care for his livestock a month ago, and that a few days before his death, Imran Masih had taken a day off from work without informing Cheema. more >>