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2011 March 2nd in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan the Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti died.
He was driving through a residential district in broad daylight going to a work meeting after leaving his mother’s home, when suddenly his vehicle was surrounded by several armed men and sprayed with bullets. Witnesses said that before to open fire they asked the minister’s driver to get out of the car sparing his life.
“The initial reports are that there were three men who attacked him. He was probably shot using a kalashnikov, but we are trying to ascertain what exactly happened”, said Wajid Durrani, Islamabad police chief. At the arrival to the capital’s Shifa Hospital his corpse was already lifeless.
The Minister Bhatti was traveling with no security escort when the attack happened .It is not clear yet the reason why he was not accompanied by his guards and did not have the standard ministers’ security vehicle.
In recent weeks he expressed his concern about security after he received death threats from some Islamist militants for his efforts to reform the blasphemy law. He explicitly requested extra security when some shots were fired at his residence in Islamabad by some unknown aggressors and the capital’s police chief insisted that proper security had been provided to him, but inexplicably that fateful day no escort was accompanying him.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab,a branch of the Taliban in the most populous province of Pakistan, claimed the responsibility of the attack. “This man was a known blasphemer of the Prophet [Muhammad]. We will continue to target all those who speak against the law which punishes those who insult the prophet. Their fate will be the same”, said Ahsanullah Ahsan, the group’s deputy spokesman. At the scene of the killing were found pamphlets by the Tehrik-i-Taliban and Al-Qaeda warning anyone opposing the blasphemy laws of the same fate of Shahbaz Bhatti.
The blasphemy laws in Pakistan are the strictest among all the Muslim-majority countries. The religious feelings’ outrage is forbidden, the defilement of the Quran is punished with life imprisonment, and the death penalty is prescribed for the “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet”.
Bhatti had always criticized the Pakistan’s blasphemy law and had struggled for the support and the saving of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman mother of four children, sentenced to hang in Punjab in November 2010. She was charged with blasphemy for having insulted the Prophet Muhammad during a row with Muslim women villagers about sharing water. She denied the charges and although the minister Bhatti supported her nothing could be done to save her.
Also the governor of the province of Punjab, Salman Taseer, had strongly opposed the blasphemy law and had fought for the presidential pardon for Bibi. On January he was shot and killed in Islamabad by one of his bodyguards,who has been acclaimed as a hero by many people in the country. For both Tasser and Bhatti their involvement in the recommendation to amendments to the blasphemy law has been the cause of their death.
The event was condemned by the government and by the Christians,that in Pakistan are the 1,5% of the Pakistan’s population.
“We have been orphaned today!Now who will fight for our rights?”, told Rehman Masih, a Christian resident of Islamabad.
Shahbaz Bhatti in all his political career had always supported the religious minorities and he dedicated his life to struggle for human equality, social justice, religious freedom, and to uplift and empower the religious minorities’ communities.
With his death Pakistan lost a fundamental figure that represented a gleam of hope for the minorities for equality and freedom in a country where the civilization and the essential human rights are just an utopia.