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Pakistan: At Last Police Have Admitted That Taliban Were Behind Christian Minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s Murder

They have backed away from previous claim that a ’family dispute’ was behind it

09/03/2011 Pakistan (ANS)-Shahbaz Bhatti, 42, the first-ever Christian to serve in the Pakistan cabinet, who had vigorously campaigned for minority religious rights in Pakistan, which is 95 percent Muslim, was killed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

This news was told to Pakistan’s Senate Standing Committee (Interior) on August 24, 2011, by Islamabad’s most senior police officer, IGP Bani Amin Khan, according to The Express Tribune.

“The IGP said that the police had identified two suspects, but they had gone abroad — to Dubai — before they could be caught,” said a message sent to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net )by Aftab Alexander Mughal, editor with Minorities Concern of Pakistan.

According to this group, Bhatti had received numerous death threats from religious extremists before his assassination.

Bhatti had criticized the country’s blasphemy laws, which makes it a capital crime to insult Islam, and has also campaigned for the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother-of-five who has been sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy and is appealing her sentence on death row.

According to a story by Declan Walsh in Islamabad writing for The Guardian newspaper in the UK, Bhatti had predicted his own death. In a farewell statement recorded four months before he was killed and to be broadcast in the event of his death, he spoke of threats from the Taliban and al-Qaida. To see the video, please go to: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/02/pakistan-minister-shot-dead-islamabad

Walsh went on to say, “But he vowed not to stop speaking for marginalized Christians and other minorities. ‘I will die to defend their rights,’ he said on the tape released to the BBC and al-Jazeera. ‘These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles.’”

Walsh then described the killing: “A small white car carrying gunmen blocked his way. After an initial burst of fire they dragged Bhatti’s driver from the vehicle, then continued firing through a side window. ‘It lasted about twenty seconds,’ said a neighbor, Naseem Javed. ‘When I rushed out I saw the minister’s driver standing by the car, shivering, and his niece weeping and shouting.’

“‘They fired 25 bullets,’ said a police officer beside a bullet-pocked pavement, holding a handful of brass Kalashnikov bullet cases.”

Walsh added, “As they left the gunmen flung pamphlets on to the road that blamed President Asif Ali Zardari’s government for putting an ‘infidel Christian’ in charge of a committee to review the blasphemy laws. The government insists no such committee exists. ‘With the blessing of Allah, the mujahideen will send each of you to hell,’ said the note.

This latest news shows that the police are backtracking from a previous claim that police investigators in Pakistan were developing a theory that the murder of Mr. Bhatti was due to a “family dispute,” not religious extremism, according to a story on August 9, in the Express Tribune English daily newspaper.

However, this claim was strongly criticized by Christian groups in Pakistan. “This is just another cover up. They want to show that Shahbaz was not killed by religious extremists,” Victor Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan (NCCP), told ENInews on August 12, 2011, from his office in Lahore.

Now the police have backed away from this strange assertion and are finally going after the real culprits.