Blasphemy law victim: One more silenced

Published: March 3, 2011

Shahbaz Bhatti falls to assassins’ bullets; Tehreek-i-Taliban Punjab claims responsibility for murder; police claim the minister had restricted his security squad. DESIGN: SAMAD SIDDIQUI

ISLAMABAD: The brazen assassination of Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti on Wednesday might have shocked the nation, but in one of his last interactions with the media, he seemed ready, and reconciled with his fate.

“I know I am target number one for them (extremists) now after they succeeded in eliminating Salmaan Taseer (Punjab’s slain governor),” said Shahbaz Bhatti talking to The Express Tribune and a correspondent from a German newspaper on Monday, two days before his assassination in the capital.

“And frankly, let me tell you, I think they will get me one day.”

“But,” added the minister defiantly, “I won’t change my thinking towards a certain issue on the dictates of someone. I’ll continue to pursue my ideals for Pakistan; my dreams for the country.”

‘One day’ turned out to be two days later on an overcast Wednesday morning.

Bhatti was shot dead in broad daylight in the federal capital.

The only Christian minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, 42-year-old Bhatti had been receiving frequent death threats from religious fanatics.

This is the second high-profile killing inside two months, following the murder of Salmaan Taseer, the former governor Punjab, who was gunned down by one of his security guards.

Both leaders had been vocally opposing the blasphemy law, and had been actively supporting the release of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy.

“Four men in a white Suzuki Mehran intercepted the minister’s car near his mother’s house. Two of them disembarked from their vehicle, spared the driver, while one of them  sprayed bullets at the minister from the left side of the car,” Islamabad’s police chief Wajid Ali Durrani told reporters after the incident.

Gul Sher, the minister’s driver, told the police he had ducked when the assailant opened fire. According to him, the assailants fired three or four shots before firing a continuous burst.

Bhatti was taken to the nearby Shifa International hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. Police said they had collected 25 empty shell casings from the crime scene.

The post-mortem report showed as many as 30 bullet wounds on the minister’s body, including some in his skull, which ruptured it, causing his immediate death.

The report said that his upper torso was “riddled with bullets. His skull, heart, lungs, and other vital organs were all ruptured. However, there were no wounds on his limbs,” said a source in the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) where the post-mortem examination was conducted.

Brazenly, the killers did not even bother to eliminate vital evidence, including the driver, who suffered minor bruises.

Police said they had found a pamphlet left behind by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Punjab, an al Qaeda affiliate, claiming the responsibility for the attack and attributing it to Bhatti’s calls for amending the blasphemy law.

Security escort

Police chief Durrani said that the minister had been provided a security escort. However, the escort was nowhere to be seen in the aftermath of the killing.

Initially, the police said that the minister had left the security escort at his home. “This was his routine,” said Durrani.

Later, the police issued a press statement, claiming that the minister had relieved the security personnel at 11 pm on Tuesday adding that he had asked them to come to his office on Wednesday. The statement also claimed that 15 security personnel, including police commandos and Frontier Constabulary personnel, had been deployed for providing security to Bhatti – but they had been confined to his office.

According to the statement, the minister had personally restricted the security contingent.

It said that the Islamabad IG “has requested all VIPs to keep their guards with them at all times to avoid any untoward incident”. The IG said that sketches of the culprits involved in the murder had been rendered with the help of Bhatti’s driver.

It was not immediately clear if the security officials were bound to follow the minister’s instructions even if he had ordered them not to follow him. “In the case of VVIPs, security escorts were bound to follow the standard operating procedures and not the VVIP’s instructions,” said a police official. However, he did not know if that held true for VIPs, including ministers.

After Taseer’s death, Bhatti had often expressed mistrust in personal security, instead reposing his trust in “heavenly security”.

The IG said an investigation team had been formed to probe into the incident under Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Tahir Alam Khan and Deputy Superintendent of Police (CIA).

Message from the dead

Bhatti, it seemed, already knew of his assassins. In a prerecorded message he had given to the BBC and Al Jazeera, which he had asked to be released in case of his death, Bhatti said that he was being threatened by the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The threats would not deter him from speaking out for persecuted Christians and other minorities, he said in the one-minute message released following his assasination. “I will die to defend their rights.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2011.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 03, 2011

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti as Minister for Religious Affairs.

Reader Comments (57)

  • Star of David
    Mar 3, 2011 - 7:42AM

    Protect Sherry Rehman and destroy the “BLACK BLASPHEMY LAW” foreverRecommend

  • faraz
    Mar 3, 2011 - 8:10AM

    correction editors: its ministers for minority affairsRecommend

  • PeaceLover
    Mar 3, 2011 - 8:45AM

    People have developed a habit of seeing only one side of the picture. Why don’t they bother to think about other person’s point of view. It has become a fashion to condemn everyone who is not of your faith or belief.
    I am afraid, a worst type of ‘extremism’ is developing across the globe. So called ‘moderate’ and ‘enlightened’ people also fall in this category. If you expect tolerance from people who have different belief, please learn to show tolerance towards them too.Recommend

  • abdul jabbar
    Mar 3, 2011 - 8:47AM

    The next one in your photo seems to be sherry rehman.The blood of shaheed salman taseer,shahbaz bhatti can be found on the hands of the ppp.Their pathetic surrender before the religious barbarians has led to the cold blooded murders of these martyrs.

    ppp’s ministers like babar awan,khurshid shah,raza gilani & many more were bending over backwards to somehow appease the religious savages.

    But just like Hitler couldn’t be appeased by chamberlain these fanatical barbarians won’t be appeased & more sane & rational people will be killed at their hands due to ppp falling on its knees before them.Recommend

  • muhammad fajimr
    Mar 3, 2011 - 8:51AM

    Sherry is the last woman standing,the true “Qaum ki beti”.Salman taseer,shahbaz bhatti & sherry rehman were the only ones in a nation of 180 million with the courage to take a stand publicly on the draconian law.
    Two of these brave voices have been silenced by the blood thirsty maulvis,the ppp should get out of its surrender mode & get the courage from somewhere to fight these hatemongers.
    Zulfiqar bhutto & Benazir will be turning in their graves at seeing how their party has capitulated & raised its hands up before the religious terrorists. Recommend

  • muhammad farhan
    Mar 3, 2011 - 9:19AM

    these animals will kill all the sane,rational elements in our society.These religious terrorists want to take us back to the seventh century.If we become scared & don’t speak up publicly then one by one they’ll impose their hatefilled,women oppressive,homophobic,bigoted ideology on all of us.

    stand up before these barbarians kill us all.Recommend

  • sadiq khan
    Mar 3, 2011 - 9:24AM

    may god save sherry rehman,the pride of pakistan.

    if only there were more sherry rehmans & asma jehangirs in this country their would be still hope for its survival.Recommend

  • Kazmis
    Mar 3, 2011 - 9:44AM

    Blockquote

    “I won’t change my thinking towards a certain issue on the dictates of someone.”

    Blockquote

    , This was the thinking of Mr. Shabaz Bhatti. But why this tone in a society where majority of people are touchy on some issues. Perhaps tolerance was not evident from his side.Recommend

  • abul sami
    Mar 3, 2011 - 9:53AM

    when you allow religion to mix with the affairs of the state,this kind of barbarity results.
    Religion has no place in the matters of the state,it’s a private thing for every individual.
    The laws & policies of the state can’t be allowed to be taken over by religion,otherwise the present chaos of our country results.Recommend

  • Adnan S. Khan
    Mar 3, 2011 - 10:02AM

    Hope the 3rd one’s Hafiz SaeedRecommend

  • Arachnid
    Mar 3, 2011 - 10:42AM

    This photo with the polaroids and the crosses is in pretty poor taste. I’d recommend something a bit more restrained.Recommend

  • naum
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:03AM

    On part of media, it’s pathetic to observe that they’ve decided themselves that the deceased minister was a victim of religious extremists. The other extreme element & intolerant behaviour in our society is that we hardly encourage or wait for any impartial inquiry. Let’s hope for a massive behavioural change. Recommend

  • Shafaqat Ali
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:05AM

    What a shame! People don’t have right to express themselves and we call it a democratic government and Islamic Republic. I wonder where are we heading?Recommend

  • kashif ali rajper
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:05AM

    Hat’s off to u, u r truly a martyr and i salute your courage. may allah curse those who killed an innocent consequently killed the whole of humanity. Recommend

  • Atif
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:13AM

    Minister for Religious Affairs – please correct itRecommend

  • Usman
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:34AM

    Bloody “Star of David”. Mind YourSelfRecommend

  • vasan
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:54AM

    Bloody USMAN mind your country and the extremistsRecommend

  • bvindh
    Mar 3, 2011 - 12:21PM

    Sherry Rehman seems to be the last man standing in Pakistan.Recommend

  • srk
    Mar 3, 2011 - 12:32PM

    please be careful to comment, just condemn the misuse not the law. Recommend

  • Mar 3, 2011 - 12:39PM

    @Usman:
    why should STAR OF DAVID mind himself? it is a BLACK LAW and it should be deleted from the book before this law is applied against YOU!!

    YES.. these HADITHER MULLAHS will find a way to apply it against YOU once they are thru with others…

    if you bothered reading the QURAN instead of the HADITHER DISORTED VERSIONS you would know that there is NO WHERE In the QURAN where it says to MURDER.. ONLY BLOOD THIRSTY MURDERING HADIHTERS have distorted the QURAN to mean that!!Recommend

  • asmat Jamal
    Mar 3, 2011 - 12:42PM

    Islamabad Police has a lot to answer in this regard. A man under threat was left exposed. The man heading police in Islamabad is the same man who was himself tried in Murder of Murtaza Bhutto.Recommend

  • Aamir Mairaj
    Mar 3, 2011 - 12:47PM

    Its only Mula who has developed such intolerance in the society , they are most Culprits of the
    Pakistan’s History to make such behavior in the minds of innocent people.
    they will definitely face consequences in The Akhrat and in this World as wel.Recommend

  • khan
    Mar 3, 2011 - 1:19PM

    seperate religion and the state!!

    a shame for a pakistan and for being a pakistani that today we’ve reached such a stage that we can not express our thoughts, risking being killed.

    every pakistani should stand against these barbarians … i for one will die like these 2 shaheeds did for my country in hopes to aspire people not to back down to bigots.Recommend

  • Rashid Awan
    Mar 3, 2011 - 1:23PM

    One should not forget the presence of CIA and other lobbies working against the interest of Pakistan. We all are blaming Taliban for every killing either Political Figures or not, raising number of suicide attacks on our Military creating Anarchy and THINK who would benefit and what are they upto? “NUKES”. Recommend

  • DW
    Mar 3, 2011 - 1:34PM

    It is high time for Pakistani society to stop calling everything a ‘US conspiracy’ and accept responsibility for this atrocious murder. It is no secret, that the incident is caused by the indifference and indecisiveness of society towards the controversial religious policy. The ineptitude (or perhaps cunning) of the majority demographic is allowing violent enforcers of religion to take matters into their own hands. It is ironic that these enforcers who claim to believe in peace, justice and equality, flagrantly work for exactly the opposite.Recommend

  • Dr. A Raja
    Mar 3, 2011 - 1:58PM

    a MURDER is a MURDER….no matter in what name its done !!! These murderers and butchers who are illiterate and ignorant…should read QURAN…first ..which says AIK INSAAN ka KHOOON.. insaniaat ka khooon…..
    Now they will get BUD DUHA of his kids and family even in their graves !!!!!!!! Recommend

  • umar
    Mar 3, 2011 - 2:09PM

    Have any one of us including our leaders and world preacher of peace, gone through the blasphemy law, if not, and surely not, than none of us should comment on it that it is barbarian law .

    First read the law and than make objection on it, and furthermore do not do it for point scoring in international or national media. what these people did they just went outspoken on law without going through it because they think that what was reported to them and reported in newspaper was right. why they did this just to score points in the arena which suits them

    Similarly why every body including liberal are afraid of impartial judiciary inquiry of these cold blooded deaths

    one more question is any of us allow engineer to treat our disease or doctor to built a house for us, surely not, than why every body including these ministers who are not religious or law experts are continuously passing comment on it just to please some corner of international media so that the media should present them on front page and they be survived in international mediaRecommend

  • R. Khan
    Mar 3, 2011 - 2:41PM

    When State & Religion are Mixed it Explodes! Bhutto to appease Mullah made the 73 Islamic constitution with no intention to implement but Zia ul Haq used it to the hilt & destroyed us. We are in deep mess & nobody has any idea what to do & running like headless chickens. Only useless statements coming out otherwise business as usual. These mad people will kill all who speak the truth & ultimately we will be declared a failed state. Army is living in their own make believe world & till such time Mullah Military Alliance is not ended, these monsters will continue to kill innocent citizens of Pakistan.Recommend

  • ali
    Mar 3, 2011 - 2:53PM

    i would like to say that ist of all we have to educate our self regarding islam . then we must speak . other wise our personal judjement on this sensitive issue will take more lives. I will only say that God gives us Hidayat.Recommend

  • Rana Amjad
    Mar 3, 2011 - 2:55PM

    Please Stop These Terrorists from killing innocent people otherwise only mentally retarded & extremist would be left in this country. Mullah Military Alliance Must End ASAP. Hell with Kashmir. Let’s save Pakistan whatever is left. Time to wake up for Amy Generals & smell the Coffee!Recommend

  • Roflcopter
    Mar 3, 2011 - 2:56PM

    State cannot be seperated from religion in Islam. Every muslim should support an Islamic state but sadly as evident from the posts above so many murtads exist in our midst.Recommend

  • Hmmm
    Mar 3, 2011 - 2:58PM

    Think twice before calling the law a ‘draconian’ one. It is the use of it that is bad not the law itself. and don’t yet point the fingers to the mullahs and islamists – not until you are dead sure. Claiming responsibility is a a fashion in Pakistan. And we all know that the TTP has nothing to do with Islam – they are fed by the Americans as clearly seen in the Raymond’s case who is believed to have strong links with the TTP.Recommend

  • rehman
    Mar 3, 2011 - 3:14PM

    kala kanuun hai yeh kala kanuun hai yeh kala kanuun hai yeh!!!!bring it on!!!!Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim
    Mar 3, 2011 - 3:22PM

    @Usman:
    You are so right the Hadith came before the Koran? could you tell us which Angel helped the two authors Bokhari and Muslim compile the life of our holy prophet Mohammad(PBUH) How
    many people did he slaughter in his life time who opposed him or showed contempt? We all know that Allah is the creator of universes and the rightful owner and has given us the privilege
    to use his belongings with utmost care. Mankind has been clearly told not use name of Allah or
    His Prophets in vain. Unfortunately that is what we are doing making religion a commodity to
    profit politically and financially and shunning the spiritual sanctuary that Islam provides against evil. Our religious bigots have to decide which came first Koran or Hadith and then we should
    follow accordingly.Recommend

  • opinionated
    Mar 3, 2011 - 3:32PM

    scary!Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Mar 3, 2011 - 4:10PM

    Many Christians and Ahmadies have been martyred in the guise of blasphemy law. Allah prescribes no worldly punishment for blasphemy as explained by Imam Abu Hanifa. Yet we have these laws on our statute books? Recommend

  • Muhammad Umer
    Mar 3, 2011 - 4:16PM

    @Star of David:
    Indeed it is a black law.
    Needs to be abolished along-with all those who say it is Islamic (on any basis for that matter).Recommend

  • Muhammad Umer
    Mar 3, 2011 - 4:20PM

    @Usman:
    Usman Star of David has said the right thing. Why should he “mind himself”?
    Even if he is a nonmuslim or a jew, he is still saying the right thing.Recommend

  • GH
    Mar 3, 2011 - 4:38PM

    Why we always drag religion into it, Blasphemy Law chapter was closed. This is something else, there is someone hidden who want to polarize our society.Recommend

  • Farris
    Mar 3, 2011 - 4:39PM

    There is no religious hand or ideology behind this killing. Its a well planned, Well Financed, and well timed compaign to destabalize Pakistan. That is exactly what message they are trying to send that this society has become extremists and now their Nuclear arms are in danger so those powers should secure them. After arms are secured, then they will try full invasion to divide it because there is no place in the central Asia where these NATO forces can go now after defeat in Afghanistan. Pull the map and look at it carefully. RD was just networking and financing those people who could do the job for money. Some of them are coming from Afghanistan. It has nothing to do with Religion and Lots to do with Covert War CIA and NATO Waging Against Pakistan. This is no secret. All western sources are full of it. Pakistanis must stand behind their security establishment and civlian think tank and Judiciary. They Must all sit and plan a strategy for this long-term war with these agencies. Doesn’t it looks like Iraq, and Afghanistan? Whats common in those two countries? US Presence. Recommend

  • Amjad Ali Rabbani
    Mar 3, 2011 - 4:40PM

    really it is a very unfortunate incident n i shall say that as a Muslim i can not allow anyone to kill any human being so i appeal the nation fellows to play positive role at their levels so that we may be able to stop such acts. Recommend

  • Cosmo
    Mar 3, 2011 - 6:51PM

    @srk:
    And what if the law provides cover for it to be misused?!! I say abolish the Law, set humanity free of the curse !!Recommend

  • Cosmo
    Mar 3, 2011 - 6:52PM

    @GH:
    Guess CIA, RAW and MOSSAD !!Recommend

  • Abdul Gilani
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:34PM

    @Star of David:

    LOL, STFU you can yap what you like but fact is Pakistan will ALWAYS have this law, like it or not. Only Insaaniyat Kay Thaykaydaar yap against it.Recommend

  • Abdul Gilani
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:35PM

    @Muhammad Umer:

    You should read Federal Shariat Court’s 1990 decision before issuing a fatwaa….:DRecommend

  • Abdul Gilani
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:37PM

    @M M Malik:

    Read Federal Shariat Court’s 1990 DECISION!Recommend

  • Abdul Gilani
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:39PM

    @muhammad fajimr:

    LOL the Qaum you talk about is a small Sharaabi Qaum, liberal fascist Qaum, US boot licking Qaum, Ladeen Qaum etc….

    Get a life and some intelligence. :DRecommend

  • Abdul Gilani
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:41PM

    @R. Khan:

    Typical attitude blaming Zia for everything, Why are you silent at what Musharraf Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan who were champions of liberalism do?Recommend

  • Abdul Gilani
    Mar 3, 2011 - 11:42PM

    @Cosmo:

    Dont be illogical if your pathetic argument is accepted then 302 should also be abolished.

    Liberals get some intelligence as well.Recommend

  • Asmat Jamal
    Mar 4, 2011 - 12:19PM

    @Rashid Awan: have a heart. you are still trying to justify the murder of an innocent man and endevoring to protect the terrorists.Recommend

  • Minority
    Mar 4, 2011 - 12:30PM

    According to Islamic law anyone who converts from Islam is a heretic deserving death and anyone who converts from another religion to Islam deserves no punishment. Similarly, there is now a law against defamation of Islam, but no law for the defamation of other religions. This is a knockout blow for any religion which claims even a small measure of justice and equality.

    Perhaps, the US and other civilized nations should also implement a “Blasphemy Law”, so that anyone who converts to Islam or insults any religion except Islam be stoned to death. Only then would the extremists in this country understand what it feels like to be a minority.Recommend

  • Rashid Awan
    Mar 4, 2011 - 2:36PM

    @Asmat Jamal: There isn’t any question about that Human Blood?, It is more sacred than anything else. What i am trying to say is that, “Think Out of the Box” and inculcate who would benefit using Taliban Name & Blame Game? Recommend

  • Muhammad Umer
    Mar 4, 2011 - 3:16PM

    @Abdul Gilani:
    and what is that fatwa by Federal Shariat Court 1990?Recommend

  • mohammad khan
    Mar 4, 2011 - 10:38PM

    It is utterly shocking for any sane Pakistani to see these killings in the name of our religion by Muslims. These murderers and their supporters have done more damage to Islam than any enemies of Islam could ever do and by appeasement to these murderer and hate mongers our religion is under greatest threat. there is no concept of conservatism and liberalism in Islam ALLAH SWT tells us about the sacredness of life in Quran that one who kills one life he is killed entire humanity the one who saved one life has saved all humanity our Prophet SAW showed us his tolerance when he prayed for people of Taif after they injured him. Our Prophet signed a covenant with the Christians for their safety for all times to come. The Christian countries where millions of Muslim are living have more freedom to practice Islam than in their own Muslim countries and are free to spread Islam. I belong to the in side of the Lahore city I know how emotional we are when it comes to the religion matters and I know how suicidal it would be for any body let alone a Christian to utter any insult to our Prophet SAW or to Quran people will tear that person apart on the spot no question of waiting to file police report and letting the courts decide the fate of that person. But this blasphemy law was made not protect our religion it has become a tool to harass the minorities any one can for personal animosity can register a case under this law. This is man made law it is being abused we need to have nation wide campaign to save Islam and take our religion back from these enemies of Islam. Till the late 70’s I never saw this kind intolerance in our nation the Islam became the fastest growing religion in the world the only way the enemies of Islam could stop this spread was to attach these murderers and hate mongers and intolerant element to hijack Islam and we Muslims just never saw it coming. Recommend

  • Minority
    Mar 5, 2011 - 12:48PM

    @mohammad khan:

    “Till the late 70’s I never saw this kind intolerance in our nation then Islam became the fastest growing religion in the world”

    The only reason why you did not hear about religious intolerance in the 70s was because minorities in Pakistan were treated more like animals back then. There are countless harrowing incidents of pedophilia, sexual harassment, physical abuse and murder which went unreported because the justice always favored Muslims. And all this was not by the hands of Muslim Terrorists (who thankfully did not exist back then), but by the hands of the general Muslim population. Evil had strong roots in our society from a long time, it is only being revealed to the world now. Shahbaz Bhatti was one of the few persons who could at least represent the oppressed minorities of Pakistan.Recommend

  • shahid
    Mar 5, 2011 - 2:18PM

    isn,t it blasphamous to burn copies of quran in bomb attacks in mosques.Recommend

  • Mar 5, 2011 - 2:47PM

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