Minorities minister assassinated


ISLAMABAD – Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated on Wednesday by unidentified gunmen in Sector I-8/3 as he was leaving his mother’s house to attend a cabinet meeting.
Eyewitnesses said that the minister was leaving his mother’s house when the gunmen stopped his official car at 10:50am, riddled him with Kalashnikov bullets and fled the scene, leaving behind pamphlets claiming that the minister was killed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab and al Qaeda because of his opposition to the blasphemy laws.
Punjabi Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan later confirmed on the phone that the militant outfit had killed the minister. A hospital source told Pakistan Today that according to the postmortem report, the bullets fired at the minister had not left a single organ intact. “The body had 30 entry and exit wounds from the bullets,” the source added.
“This is a document to teach a lesson to all infidels including Christians, Jews and the Zardari-led government who have dared to amend the blasphemy law and made one of their fellow infidels, Shahbaz Bhatti, head of a committee to introduce amendments in the law. Learn a lesson from the fate of this cursed man. From now on, we will send each one of the infidels to hell with the help and blessings of Allah,” the pamphlet read.
Inspector General (IG) of Islamabad Police Wajid Ali Durrani, who had reached the scene immediately after the incident, told reporters that three men had intercepted the minister’s car in a white Suzuki Mehran. “Two of them came out of the car and sprayed bullets at the minister’s car from the front … the driver took cover under the dashboard of the car and asked the minister to take cover as well, but the killers kept shooting at the backseat of the car,” the IG said.
He said the minister’s driver, Gul Sher, rushed him to Shifa International Hospital, where doctors declared him dead. The IG said the police cordoned off the area and began a search operation, but no arrests were made. He said the police found 25 bullet casings from the scene and also alerted checkposts to scan all white Mehran cars.
The minister’s family complained that he was not provided with enough security or an official residence by the government despite many requests, especially after the assassination of slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer just two months ago.
Durrani, however, insisted that Bhatti had been provided with proper security, but said the minister was not accompanied by the two security squads assigned to him – one from capital police and another from Frontier Corps, as well as three security officials of his choice – when he was attacked.
“The squad officer told me that the minister had told him to wait for him at his office. He used to often visit his mother’s house without a [security] squad,” he said. He said a high-level joint investigation team headed by Islamabad Senior Superintended of Police (SSP) Tahir Alam Khan had been formed to investigate the assassination.
A case was registered at the Sector I-9 Police Station against unidentified assailants under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Accompanied by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani rushed to the hospital as soon as he was informed of the assassination.
Condemning the assassination, Gilani vowed that such acts would not deter the government from eliminating extremism and terrorism from society. President Asif Ali Zardari ordered a full inquiry into the incident, which he called a “heinous act”.
He conveyed his condolences to the minister’s family and said he was deeply saddened because of the minister’s murder. Zardari said that the PPP would give Bhatti’s seat to either his wife or another family member to convey a clear message that the party acknowledged his services and was determined to carry on his legacy.
Meanwhile, the government has ordered the police to provide additional security to federal ministers.