Deadly Intolerance: Shahbaz Bhatti (1968-2011)

Posted on March 2, 2011
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, People, Religion
67 Comments
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Adil Najam

Shahbaz Bhatti – Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs, son of Jacob Bhatti, defender of minority rights and tolerance in Pakistan, and the only Christian Minister in the current cabinet – was gunned down today by the enemies of Pakistan, the enemies of humanity, and enemies of all that is decent and right.

Today, once again, we have one less good Pakistani amongst us. Today, once again, all of us should be ashamed at the intolerance that we have bred and tolerated around us.

Here is a report from Dawn on the news:

Gunmen shot and killed Pakistan’s government minister for religious minorities on Wednesday, the latest attack on a high-profile Pakistani figure who had urged reforming harsh blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam.

Shahbaz Bhatti was on his way to work in Islamabad when unknown gunmen riddled his car with bullets, police officer Mohmmad Iqbal said. The minister arrived dead at Shifa Hospital and his driver was also wounded badly, hospital spokesman Asmatullah Qureshi said.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing, saying the minister had been “punished” for being a blasphemer.

Witnesses said the attackers scattered leaflets signed by “The Qaeda and the Taliban of Punjab” at the attack scene, which read: “This is the punishment of this cursed man.”

Taliban militants had called for Bhatti’s death because of his attempts to amend the blasphemy law.

“He was a blasphemer like Salman Taseer,” spokesman Sajjad Mohmand said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Gulam Rahim was coming from a nearby market when he saw Bhatti’s car drive out of his house. Three men standing nearby with guns suddenly began firing at the vehicle, a dark-colored Toyota.

Two of the men opened the door and tried to pull Bhatti out, Rahim said, while a third man fired his Kalashnikov rifle repeatedly into the car. The three gunmen then sped away in a white Suzuki Mehran car, said Rahim who took shelter behind a tree.

Pakistani TV channels showed Bhatti’s vehicle afterward, its windows shattered with bullet holes all over. It was not immediately clear why Bhatti, a member of the ruling Pakistani People’s Party, did not have bodyguards with him.

After Salman Taseer’s assassination, Bhatti said he was also receiving death threats, telling AFP that he was “the highest target right now”.

But he had insisted that he would work as usual.

“I’m not talking about special security arrangements. We need to stand against these forces of terrorism because they’re terrorising the country,” Bhatti said at the time.

“I cannot trust on security…. I believe that protection can come only from heaven, so these bodyguards can’t save you.”

Pakistani government leaders condemned the attack.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited the hospital and offered condolences to Bhatti’s grieving relatives.

“Such acts will not deter the government’s resolve to fight terrorism and extremism,” he said, adding that the killers would not go unpunished.

“This is concerted campaign to slaughter every liberal, progressive and humanist voice in Pakistan,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to President Asif Ali Zardari. “The time has come for the federal government and provincial governments to speak out and to take a strong stand against these murderers to save the very essence of Pakistan.”

Bhatti’s friend Robinson Asghar said the slain minister had received threats following the death of the Punjab governor. Asghar said he had asked Bhatti to leave Pakistan for a while because of the threats, but that Bhatti had refused.

Pakistan’s information minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, said Bhatti had played a key role in promoting interfaith harmony, and he was a great asset.

“We are sad over his tragic death,” she said, adding that the government would investigate why he did not have a security escort.

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67 responses to “Deadly Intolerance: Shahbaz Bhatti (1968-2011)”

  1. Azhar says:

    Adil you are a courageous person to keep writing on this and speaking up despite the threats and the idiots who spew venom. Thank you for doing so. You are proof and your readers are that most Pakistanis are NOT haters and if we all speak out we can drown the voices of hatred around us.

  2. Jafri says:

    The Jamaatis are again defending teh real killers by suggesting some sinister hidden hands. Grow up guys. These are our demons. YOU are our demons.

  3. Raheel says:

    We are a nation gone crazy. But in some ways these incidents like this and Salman Taseer are making people wakeup to and speak up against just how bad things have become. That acceptance is first step in recovery.

  4. Naan Haleem says:

    Yes. Once again the enemies of Pakistan have struck real hard on us. The actors playing the “Taliban” series in Pakistan have given another performance achieving multiple gains.

    Before this event, never had I read or heard that “Blasphemy” was an issue carried by so-called talibans of Pakistan. Remember that Afghani Talibans follow Deobandi sect and hence the so called TTP should also belong to the same sect. While the blasphemy issue is overwhelmingly carried by Barelvi sect of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. And we are aware of the fierce differences between the two sects on some fundamental beliefs.

    So it is incomprehensible why TTP (if they are really religious militants) should take up a battle concerning their opponent sect. Furthermore, never before did such strikers left statements of confessions on the scene of crime. Previously they had always called to some media group for accepting responsibility. It is the first time they had done this way. Looks like they want to make a quick impression that Talibans (in Punjab) had done this act and they did not want police, media, govt. or public to think on any line other than a newly enforced connection between blasphemy issue and so called Talibans.

    Thirdly, If the killers were really religious elements, how could they leave the papers on the ground with the names of Allah Almighty and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on them?

    This brutal murder of Shahbaz Bhatti seems another assault by anti-Pakistan forces playing the name of TTP with the motives of maligning Islam & its followers, creating harassment among general public and administrative entities, crippling Pakistan’s economy and forcing Pakistani establishment to bow down to western pressure on a number of issues.

    I have no doubt that anti-Pakistan forces of CIA and RAW are financing and manipulating the rogue elements playing the name and game of TTP. As exposed by the media reports and Russian secret agency that the arrested CIA agent Raymond Davis had links with so called TTP and he was responsible for providing these mercenaries with money and weapons to achieve targets set by CIA. This political murder may well be an extension of the same chain.

    By the way, did someone consider the possibility of personal enmity as a motive for murder? A thought which came to my mind while watching detective series “Columbo”.

  5. Rasheed says:

    I still can’t comprehend how and why our country has gone down such a dangerous and shameless road. We are setting precedents which cannot be undone. In the future, such acts by our compatriots will come back to haunt us BIG TIME. Intolerant as we are, just imagine what would become of us if another intolerant Christian, or other non-Muslim, country decided to reciprocate in kind. Pakistanis and Muslims live in many countries where other religions are the majority and their own scriptures, or concocted interpretations by one exegete or another, DO injunct going after members of other religions. I have already learned about the attitudes of Christians abroad towards Muslims and Pakistanis changing for the worse. Don’t be surprised if a Pakistani gets murdered abroad for no other reason than angry retaliation.

    I am so deeply saddened for our Christian countrymen and women, but I can only imagine the sadness, disappoinment and anger you’d be feeling toward the majority Muslims at this time. I know that no words can lessen the feelings of your grief, but rest assured that many, many, Muslims’ hearts bleed today with yours, as if one of our own has been killed. May the Almighty forgive the sins of the noble minister and allow him to enter Paradise. He gave his life just as he said he would, just like a lamb, he believed, was sacrificed two milennia ago for humanity’s sake by men whose evil can only be paralleled by today’s Mullah of Pakistan.

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