Federal Minister for Minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was killed in the I-8/3 area of Islamabad on Wednesday morning by three unidentified gunmen.
According to reports, the assassins threw pamphlets before fleeing the scene, the pamphlets stated, that whoever will speak against the Blasphemy law will face the same fate.The Tehrik-i-Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the minister in the pamphlet.
The minister had left his house moments ago when his car was intercepted by a white Suzuki Mehran. Assailants, dressed in shalwar kurtas, first took the minister’s driver out the car and then shot 25 bullets at Bhatti.
According to IG ( Inspector General) Islamabad, this was not a security lapse as escorts were provided to Bhatti, which he was not using. The minister had apparently instructed his security to wait at the office in I-8/4.
“The squad officer told me that the minister had directed him to wait for him at his office. He used to often visit his mother’s house without a squad,” Wajid Durrani said. “We are investigating the matter from different angles.”
Bhatti had been receiving death threats and he had requested the government for more security. He was provided with four guards by the interior ministry.
Local resident Naseem Ahmed said the firing continued for about 30 seconds.
“We came out of our home after hearing the gunfire, we saw the car, it was badly damaged. We saw the minister, he was rushed to hospital in a critical condition,” Ahmed said.
Bhatti was dead on arrival at Islamabad’s Shifa hospital, doctor Azmatullah Qureshi confirmed. Police said around 60-65 bullets were fired at Bhatti`s vehicle. The Postmortem report confirmed his body was riddled with 30 bullets.
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.
Bhatti had said fatwas, or religious decrees, had been issued calling for him to be beheaded, by extremist clerics in the country who were allowed to publicly spread messages of violence with impunity.
Earlier, Bhatti had voiced his fears that he believed he would be “the highest target” following the assassination of Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer for speaking out against the blasphemy law. He had also demanded bullet-proof vehicle and government residence in the Minister’s Enclave but all in vain.
Hundreds gathered outside Bhatti`s residence in Sector I-8/3 to condole the grieving family and show their solidarity, they chanted slogans in the favor of the assassinated Minister... "Bhatti your blood is the beginning of a revolution... we will continue your struggle for the review in the blasphemy law". Representatives of the Catholic Church announced three days moaning across Pakistan. All Catholic education institutes across Pakistan will remain closed for 3 days. Bishop of Rawalpindi / Islamabad Rufin Anthony asked the Christians to fast and pray for 3 days, as it is a crucial time for the minorities in Pakistan.
The Angelical Bishop of Lahore, Alexander John Malik also condemned the assassination and announced to join the three days of moaning.
Bhatti`s funeral is expected after 2 days at his native village Khushpur, as the family awaits Bhatti`s two brothers coming from Canada and Italy.
Vice President Life for All Rizwan paul said, "the message of the assailants is clear that those who disagree with their perspective are in danger. The government has failed in providing security for its people. This incidence increases the insecurity of the minorities. The responsibility to address this issue is the responsibility of the government. What was Shahbaz Bhatti’s ‘crime?’ That he wanted to be a full and equal citizen in the country of his birth? Shahbaz Bhatti spoke passionately about need for all Pakistanis to fearlessly stand for an inclusive, tolerant Pakistan we strongly condemn the brutality."
MPA (Member Provincial Assembly) and senior Member APMA ( All Pakistan Minority Alliance) Pervaiz Rafique said, "We condemn the cowardly act, it is such a brutality that Shahbaz Bhatti had just his mother, prayed with her and just moments latter he was attacked. Shahbaz Bhatti believed in equal rights for everyone as announced by Quaid-e-Azam the founder of Pakistan. He died fighting for what he believed in, His death shall not go in vain. Shahbaz Bhatti is a name of a thought, the extremists can kill a man, not the thought...Bhatti`s struggle will continue, we will carry on the thought of a Pakistan where everyone enjoys equal rights. We believe that Shahbaz Bhatti`s blood will be a start of a revolution for the minorities in Pakistan."
President Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz condemn the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti.