Angry youths shouted “death for the killers” on Friday ahead of the burial of slain minister Shahbaz Bhatti on Friday.
The church service for the country’s only Christian federal minister, who was assassinated by the Taliban, was held in the federal capital and was attended by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
“I consider this day as a black day,” Gilani said in the church. “All the minorities have lost a great leader. I assure you, we will try our utmost to bring the culprits to justice.”
Interior Minister Rehman Malik distanced himself from the slain politician, telling media Bhatti was himself to blame for his death.
“I think it was his mistake,” Rehman Malik said, adding that Bhatti wanted to keep a low profile. “It was his own decision.”
President Asif Ali Zardari did not attend the service, which was also attended by many other political figures and diplomats.
After the service, the body was transported in a helicopter to his native village for burial.
In a sign of mourning, black flags fluttered atop houses in Khushpur, Bhatti’s mainly Christian home village. Around 2,000 men, women and children thronged the village cemetery for burial.
“These terrorists must be hanged publicly to stop them from committing such brutal crimes,” Hina Gill, a member of the Christian Minority Alliance said. “These terrorists are wearing the mask of religion to defame religion.”
“Bhatti, your blood will bring revolution,” some mourners shouted as his body was taken to the burial site in an ambulance.
Christians were not alone in mourning Bhatti.
“Shahbaz Bhatti has tried hard to promote interfaith harmony but those who want to destabilise Pakistan have killed him,” said Badruddin Chaudhry, a Muslim attending the funeral.
Only dignitaries were allowed to enter the Church amid tight security.
Scores of members of the Christian community, who had come to attend the memorial service, stayed outside the Church after they were not allowed to enter the premises. Later, they staged a protest and subsequently a sit-in on the Faisal Avenue.
Diplomats from everal countries also participated in the prayers.
With additional reporting from our correspondent
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2011.
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