Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, was killed by unknown assassins in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, on March 2, 2011. But his murderer is still unknown. Minorities are demanding for formation of a commission to probe the Bhatti case. He had been the only Christian minister in the cabinet. He was 42 years old.
Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice, Iqbal Hameedur Rehman on April 6 directed the police to release a suspect - Dr Abdul Razzaq - allegedly involved in the assassination of Bhatti. Bhatti had received numerous death threats from religious fanatics in recent months because he had been campaigning to bring changes to the controversial Blasphemy Law and minimize its misuse against innocent people, including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis – and Muslims of all sects. He supported a Christian mother of five, Aasia Norreen, who was sentenced to death under the blasphemy law in November 2010.
Dr Abdul Razzaq, was arrested at the direction of the senior superintendent of police (SSP) on March 9, according to the Daily Times of Pakistan. The SSP in his report to the district administration named Dr Razzaq as one of the suspects involved in the murder of Bhatti. Dr. Razzaq previously faced criminal charges under an anti-terrorism Act from where he was released recently.
“Usman,24, was arrested on March 9 in Faisalabad when he tried to attack on police headquarter by a van full of ammunition. The van was kept in a local mosque for over the previous night. He disclosed that the attack came as revenge for another terrorist Umar Kundi, a member of Lashk-e-Tayyaba, a banned terrorist organisation, who was killed by the police during an operation in February this year,” Jang reported on March 10. According to Daily Express of March 13,terrorist Usman’s network is allegedly involved in Bhatti’s murder. The active members of this network belong to Jhang and are members of a banned sectarian organisation.
According to daily Aaj Kal, Secretary Interior Chudhary Qamar Zaman told the Public Accounts Committee on March 16 that the police have arrested a person in connection of Bhatti’s murder. He did not disclose his name.
Bhatti was from a predominantly Christian village - Khushpur - where 5000 people live. Christians are a tiny minority in Pakistan but, according to the Washington Post,“Christian leaders claim that about 20 million Christians live in Pakistan”.
Two days after Bhatti’s murder, thousands of Christian and Muslim people attended his funeral in Khushpur, Minorities Concern of Pakistan learned.
For the Christians of Pakistan, he is “the martyr.” The Bible that Bhatti always had with him is now in Rome in the memorial for the martyrs of the past century, in the basilica of Saint Bartholomew on the Isola Tiberina.
Recently,Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani appointed Paul Bhatti, minister’s brother,as Special Advisor for religious minorities.
AftabAlexander Mughal is the Editor of MinoritiesConcern of Pakistan.