Family rivalry and not religious victimisation claimed Minorities’ Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s life, according to investigators.
In an interesting twist, the daylight murder in the capital has been attributed to a property dispute between relatives. Police investigators have concluded it was not a religiously-motivated murder in their latest report despite the fact that the Punjabi Taliban had claimed responsibility for the assassination.
Justice appears to be a long time coming for the former minister’s family since the murderers have fled the country.
“Shahbaz’s murder is said to be linked to a ‘chronic rivalry’ with relatives who lived in Faisalabad five years ago,” revealed an investigator associated with the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
New clues have led the Islamabad police to a family, who left the country due to the rivalry with the Bhattis, the JIT stated in its latest report. The family was also residing in Bhatti’s native town Khushpur, which has produced famous priests and nuns, but some family members are now reportedly living in the UAE. Two or three of them have converted to Islam and are living in Malaysia, said a member of the JIT.
The Express Tribune reported on June 29 that Shahbaz’s murder was plotted by al Qaeda-linked militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri. National and international media ran the story quoting the newspaper. All but two of his brothers moved to Europe in the aftermath of the assassination for security reasons.
The murderers are currently in Dubai or Kuala Lumpur according to an investigator. However, their names have not been identified yet. “We will approach Interpol for their arrest,” he said.
Paul Bhatti, the slain minister’s brother and an adviser to the prime minister, said he has moved his family to Europe. But he did not disclose their exact location due to security concerns. When questioned if his brother’s murder was a case of family rivalry, Paul only said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik had told him he had contacted Interpol to arrest some accused from the UAE.
However, there has been no further progress, he said quoting police officials. “I will request Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to constitute a judicial commission to investigate my brother’s murder.”
Minister for National Harmony Akram Masih Gill said he would take up the issue with President Zardari and the prime minister on August 11, the day they are to inaugurate Shahbaz Bhatti’s memorial trust. “Paul will also speak to both dignitaries to convey the minorities’ resentment which is increasing with every passing day,” Gill said.
Interpol has not been contacted for assistance because we have no clue about the exact location of the accused, said an interior ministry official familiar with the matter.
“We cannot put our case before Interpol without substantive proof,” he added.
“Firstly, we wanted to close the investigation but then we learnt that there was a chronic ethnic and property dispute between the two families which led to Shahbaz’s murder,” said a police official.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2011.