Shahbaz Bhatti's funeral held amid tight security

Prime Minister Gilani attends service along with 1,000 people including family members, govt officials, diplomats.

Afp March 04, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Authorities shut down streets and police marksmen stood guard around Islamabad's main church Friday for the funeral mass of minister Shahbaz Bhatti, shot dead by suspected extremists.

Police and paramilitary forces prevented vehicles from approaching the Fatima Church ahead of the ceremony for the minority affairs minister, a Roman Catholic who was shot dead in broad daylight on Wednesday.

Police officials carrying metal detectors searched people before they entered the church, an AFP correspondent said.

The coffin draped in the green and white national flag was brought in an ambulance from a local hospital for the ceremony which began around 11 AM and lasted more than one hour.

Bhatti's body will be flown by helicopter to his ancestral village Khushpur in Faisalabad district for burial later Friday.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, accompanied by some cabinet colleagues, attended the service, along with 1,000 people including close family members, government officials and diplomats.

"Today is a very sad day, I consider it a black day. We are mourning the death of Shahbaz Bhatti. Its a great loss to the nation. He was working for inter-faith harmony.

"We will do our utmost to bring the culprits to justice," Gilani said.

Speakers praised the work Bhatti had done, while a banner hung in a street on behalf of local Christians read: "We strongly condemn the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the protagonist of truth and religious harmony."

"Bhatti struggled to help the poor. All our family members will struggle to fulfil his cause," his brother Peter Bhatti said.

Gilani has announced three days of mourning in Muslim Pakistan, where Christians and other religious minorities form about three percent of the 167 million-strong population.

"The murder is unfortunate for the Christian community. It has spread insecurity," Father Rehmat Hakim, the custodian of the church, told AFP.

Bhatti, 42, who opposed Pakistan's Islamic blasphemy laws, was shot as he left his mother's home in a residential area of Islamabad. Police said the attackers fired at least 25 bullets at his vehicle.

A letter found at the scene, purportedly from supporters of al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the killing, police said.

The assassination sparked international outrage. US President Barack Obama said Bhatti's killers must be brought to justice and said he was saddened by the "horrific" attack.

Bhatti had defied death threats, conceding to AFP in January that he was "the highest target right now" but vowing to continue his work and trusting his life to God.

Bhatti, who left a chilling video prophecy of his assassination, had vowed to fight to the death in defence of Pakistan's persecuted minorities. He became the second high-profile victim among opponents of the blasphemy law.

Two months ago, Punjab province governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by one of his own police bodyguards, who cited the politician's opposition to the blasphemy law as justification for killing the "apostate".

The government has said it has no plans to revise the law.


Billoo Bhaya | 10 years ago | Reply Who were the making secure?? There were no ministers or Government officials around. It is all BS. When security was needed in stepped Rehman Malik. That was end of security for all.
mohammad khan | 10 years ago | Reply 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.
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