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 >>
Pakistan's Ministry for Religious Minorities survived the recent Cabinet reduction, with its representative reappointed Friday to be a member of President Asif Ali Zardari's Cabinet.
Shahbaz Bhatti was among the 22 newly appointed federal ministers. Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani had dissolved the federal Cabinet on Wednesday and the slimmer new Cabinet includes only 22 federal ministers, down from 60.
"I as a humble servant of Jesus Christ will continue to serve the suffering, victimized and persecuted communities and am ready to even sacrifice my life to defend the principles of religious freedom, human equality and the rights of minorities," said Bhatti after his oath-taking ceremony, according to All Pakistan Minorities Alliance. more >>
Some sources in Pakistan say that the Ministry for Religious Minorities may soon disappear during a reorganization of government offices.
Fides News Agency reported Monday that its sources in Pakistan say that the ruling party, Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), will face a drastic cut in ministries and one of the eliminated offices will be the Ministry for Religious Minorities.
Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, who heads the Ministry, did not immediately respond to a request for comments on Tuesday. more >>
Christians, human rights activists and representatives from other religions are being called by the Catholic Church of Pakistan to participate in a “day of prayer and fasting” on Sunday.
The event is a response to plans by Islamic fundamentalists to campaign against any amendment to the Muslim nation’s controversial blasphemy laws, and for the death of convicted Christian mother of five Asia Bibi.
However, the Day of Prayer is intended to serve as a peaceful response to the intensifying, and often violent rallies led by radical Islamic groups in defense of the laws. more >>
LAHORE, Pakistan - A mother of five sentenced to death on “blasphemy” charges has lived in constant fear since the killing of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, her husband told Compass as he came out of Sheikhupura District Jail after meeting with her last week.
Ashiq Masih said his wife, Asia Noreen (alternatively spelled Aaysa, and also called Asia Bibi), is “very afraid.” Her conviction triggered a violent chain of events in Pakistan, including the Jan. 4 murder of Taseer by his bodyguard after the governor voiced support for her.
“She knows the Muslims have announced a prize on her head and would go to any lengths to kill her,” a visibly nervous Masih told Compass. “The governor’s murder in broad daylight has put her in a state of paranoia.” more >>