Taliban claims responsibility for Shabaz Bhatti killing

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Taliban militia

Taliban militiaTHE Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killing of Shabaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minorities minister, early today.

Ihsanullah Ihsan, a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman, was quoted as saying in news reports: “Assassination of Bhatti is a message to all of those who are against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.”

Shabaz Bhatti had been critical of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The only Christian member of the predominantly Muslim majority cabinet in Pakistan, had once said: “I am ready to sacrifice my life for the principled stand I have taken because the people of Pakistan are being victimized under the pretense of blasphemy law.”

The blasphemy law makes it a crime punishable by death to insult Islam, the Quran or the Prophet Mohammed.

Only in January, the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his security guard because he spoke out against the blasphemy law.

After Taseer’s death, Bhatti pledged to continue pushing for amendments in the law.

“I will campaign for this … these fanatics cannot stop me from moving any further steps against the misuse of (the) blasphemy law,” Bhatti had said then.

Bhatti had been facing death threats for some time.

“I was told by the religious extremists that if you will make any amendments in this law, you will be killed,” he said.

On March 2, Bhatti was leaving his home when unknown gunmen sprayed his vehicle with bullets, said Jameel Hashmi, a senior Islamabad police official.

He was dead when he arrived at Shifa Hospital in Islamabad, said Azmat Ullah Qureshi, a hospital spokesman.

Related reports:

UK bishops condemn Shahbaz Bhatti murder

Pakistani Christians fear reprisals for protesting blasphemy law

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