Killers of Pakistan’s Christian Minister of Minorities Confess

ICC Note:

Recent statements by Pakistani police officials and one government official statements have revealed that the killers of Shahbaz Bhatti have confessed to the 2011 murder. Members of the Pakistani Taliban arrested two weeks ago told police officials that their group was responsible for the killing of the Federal Minister of Minority Affairs after he led an effort to amend Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws and publicly stated his support for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy. Although police have claimed to have captured Bhatti’s killers in the past, Bhatti’s brother, Paul Bhatti, believes these confessions to be true.

9/18/2013 Pakistan (Morning Star News) – The killers of Pakistan’s first Christian to become a federal cabinet member, Shahbaz Bhatti, have confessed to the crime, Bhatti’s brother and security sources said.

Paul Bhatti, brother of the slain Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, told Morning Star News that security officials and a senior government minister had told him that a suspect belonging to terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had confessed to murdering Bhatti over his efforts to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and his support of Asia Noreen (also known as Asia Bibi), a Christian woman sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.

“The police had made a similar claim last year which proved untrue, and it seemed that they had given up tracing the killers, but this time I’m confident that they have the real culprits,” Bhatti said by phone from Islamabad.

Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan met with Bhatti, former minister of National Harmony and Minority Affairs in place of this brother in the previous government, and shared the details of the investigation with him, Bhatti said.

“He told me that a suspected militant taken into custody had revealed during interrogation that besides conducting other terrorist attacks, his group had also killed Shahbaz Bhatti,” he said.

The TTP is closely connected with Al Qaeda. The capture of three Islamic extremist suspects in connection with the assassination comes more than two-and-a-half years after the March 2, 2011 murder in Islamabad.

Security agencies arrested Hammad Adil, brother of a serving superintendent of police, about two weeks ago, along with Muhammad Tanveer, leader of a TTP cell in Islamabad. With the assistance of intelligence agencies, the suspects were arrested from their hideout in Phulgran, a suburban area of Islamabad. The security officials also seized a car laden with explosives.

During interrogation, Adil and Tanveer revealed that besides carrying out terrorist attacks on foreign nationals and security installations, they had also murdered the Christian minister for voicing concern over the blasphemy laws, officials said.

A security official who requested anonymity told Morning Star News that the two suspects were accompanied by another Muslim extremist, Omar Abdullah, during the attack on Bhatti. He said that the three-member terrorist team carried out reconnaissance of Bhatti’s movements for a few days before executing their plan.

“The minister was quite apprehensive about his security, especially after the murder of Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer, who was gunned down by his own police bodyguard for opposing the blasphemy laws, which is why he used to sleep at his mother’s house after leaving his security detail at his own residence,” he said.

The official said that the assailants waited for Bhatti in a car outside his residence in Islamabad’s I-8/3 Sector and opened fire as soon as they spotted the vehicle.

“Adil planned the ambush, while Tanveer provided them with the assault rifles and ammunition,” he said.

Police sources said that Adil and his group members were preparing for a large-scale terrorist attack in Islamabad at the time of the assassination. A suicide bomber, they said, from Pakistan’s tribal areas was to drive the explosives-laden vehicle found during the raid into a key target in the capital, Islamabad.

Although law enforcement agencies have finally been able to net the alleged killers of the Christian minister, it remains to be seen if they will be punished for their crimes in Pakistan’s Byzantine justice system. Bhatti’s brother, however, was optimistic that the killers would receive justice.

“I’m quite hopeful that the police and judiciary would do their job and punish these terrorists according to the law,” he said. “These arrests and subsequent revelations have also vindicated our stance that my brother died for opposing the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, and not over some property dispute as alleged by our detractors.”

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