Islamists Assassinate Pakistan’s Sole Christian Minister and an Old ICC Friend

Islamists Assassinate Pakistan’s Sole Christian Minister and an Old ICC Friend

Washington, D.C. (March 2, 2011)–International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that today Islamists assassinated Pakistan’s Minorities Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, for opposing the country’s blasphemy laws. Islamists riddled Shahbaz’s body with ten bullets in broad daylight in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. 

The spokesman of the Islamic radical group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Ahsan Ullah Ahsan, has accepted responsibility for the assassination of Shahbaz. In a note left at the scene of his murder, the Islamists accused Shahbaz of blasphemy for opposing the country’s blasphemy laws.

Shahbaz was the sole Christian minister in the Pakistani government. He called for reform of the country’s blasphemy law that prescribes the death penalty for blaspheming Muhammad and a life sentence for desecrating the Qur’an. Muslims have used the law to persecute the country’s Christian minorities on innumerable occasions.

Shahbaz is the second high ranking government official to be killed for opposing blasphemy laws. On January 4, Islamists murdered Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, for criticizing the country’s blasphemy law and calling for the release of Asia Bibi.

It is heartrending to receive this news, but is unfortunately not unexpected. The last time I was with Shabaz in 2010, I asked him about his security and if the Islamists were closing in. He had lived under the cloud of this eventuality for many years and he knew he was on borrowed time. He was a close friend of ICC and started working with us helping Pakistan’s persecuted Christians in the 1990’s. We will dearly miss him. He courageously defended the rights of persecuted Christians in Pakistan despite living under the constant threat of death. He died as a martyr for a cause he believed in,” said ICC’s President, Jeff King. 

[Picture: Shahbaz Bhatti with ICC President, Jeff King 2009]

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