Pakistan Minister Shahbaz Bhatti assassinated in Capital City

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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated on Wednesday morning in Sector 1-8 of the Federal Capital by unidentified assaliants who opened fire on him and fled the scene on a car.

According to his private secretary, the Minister’s car was intercepted by the attacker’s car that came from the opposit direction and one of the riders opened fire on the minister. Consequently, Shahbaz Bhatti received volley of bullets on his face and upper parts of the body.

Soon after the incident, driver of minister’s car rushed him to the nearby Shifa International Hospital where he succumbed to injuries. Shahbaz Bhatti was on his way to a meeting of Federal cabinet with no security guards when he came under attack of unknown assaliants, the PS said.

His body was shifted to PIMS hospital for autopsy while his burial ceremony will be held after his brothers return home from Canada and Italy. The minister’s secretary said that Shahbaz Bhatti was receiving threats for the last few days.

Executive Director PIMS Prof. Mehmood Jamal Wednesday said 25 to 30 bullets had riddled the body of Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, who was assassinated by unknown armed men in Islamabad on Wednesday morning.

Briefing the media men, ED PIMS said it would take about 24 to 72 hours in making the final post mortem report of the slain Minister. He said a five-doctor board did the post mortem of the deceased which revealed that most of the bullet wounds were on the torso – chest and shoulders.

Prof. Jamal said the final post-mortem report would be issued after the forensics completes its investigations. This will take 24 to 72 hours time, he added. He said the family of the deceased has requested to preserve the body at the hospital’s facility for a couple of days.

Inspector General Police Islamabad Wajid Durrsni told pressmen that the assasinated minister was provided two squads each of police and FC for his protection but he (minister) himself directed not to provide protective squads at his residance.

He said there was no squad for protection was accompanying him at the time of incident. When he left home in the official car, a Mehran car intercepted his car and the riders opened fir on him, causing critical injuries. “He was intercepted by three to four persons riding a Mehran car and opened fire at him,” IG Islamabad said.

He said all outlets of the city have been sealed and mobile squads directed to check all the cars having similarity with the attackers car. A special team has been constituted for investigation besides coordinating with the mobile squads in the field.

Meanwhile, receiving the information of minister’s assassination, members of christian community and other minorities thronged to Shifa and PIMS hospitals and protested the brutal killing of their leader.

As reported by ‘Pakistan Times’ [Daily e-Newspaper] earlier, Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated in a firing incident in Islamabad on Wednesday. Close aides of the minister said that the minister succumbed to the injuries after the attack. He was rushed to the hospital. Unknown assailants shot the minister when he was leaving from his house in Sector I-8.

Reports say that unknown assailants opened fire on Shahbaz Bhatti’s car near his residence in I/8 sector of Islamabad. In the attack Shahbaz Bhatti hit several bullets and was immediately shifted to hospital where he died.

Some reports say that Minister Shahbaz Bhatti had been receiving threats. At hospital official said the Minister for Minorities died after being shot by gunmen. Shahbaz Bhatti arrived dead at hospital in Islamabad after the attack by gunmen, a report said.

A police official said that the attack happened on Wednesday as the Minister was leaving his home on the way to work. Hospital spokesman Dr Azmat ullah Qureshi confirmed that the minister succumbed to the injuries.

In broad daylight, unknown assailants sprayed bullets on the car of the minister after he came out of his mother’s home in a residential area of Islamabad, police said. “Three or four armed men riding in a white car intercepted his official vehicle GV-444,” city police chief Wajid Durrani told reporters.

“The attackers were clad in shawls and fired bursts on him, and he died,” Durrani said. The minister’s driver was wounded. The police chief said that Bhatti had been provided with proper security, but said the minister was not accompanied by his security detail when the attack happened.

“The squad officer told me that the minister had directed him to wait for him at his office. We are investigating the matter from different angles,” Durrani said. Bhatti was dead on arrival at Shifa International hospital, doctor Azmatullah Qureshi confirmed.

President, PM condemn

President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday condemned the murder of Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti in strongest terms and vowed that such acts would not deter the government from eliminating extremism and terrorism.

The president who is in Karachi immediately sought report of the incident. He condemned, what he termed as a “heinous act” and said government would continue to stand firm in its stance and would not bow to the extremists and terrorists.

The president in a message to the family conveyed his heartfelt condolences and said the extremist elements were trying in vain to destabilise the country.

However he expressed the resolve that such attempts would fail. He prayed to Allah Almighty to bless the departed soul and for courage to the family to bear this loss with courage.

And another report says; Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday strongly condemned the killing of Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti.

Prime Minister Gilani visited the local Al-Shifa hospital where the body of Shahbaz Bhatti had been transferred soon after he was shot dead by unknown assailants.

The Prime Minister ordered inquiry into the incident and said such acts would not deter the government’s resolve to fight terrorism and extremism. He expressed deep sorrow and grief over the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti and prayed to Allah Almighty to bless the departed soul and grant courage to his family to bear this loss.

US, UK, Germany Condemn

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she was “shocked and outraged” by the slaying of Catholic Pakistani government minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

“I was shocked and outraged by the assassination,” Clinton told a Senate committee, adding it was also an attack on “the values of tolerance and respect.”

A report from London says that the British Government has condemned the assassination of Pakistan’s minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and described his killing as a cowardly attempt on a democratically elected Government.

The British Foreign Secretary William Hague in a statement said he was appalled by the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani Minister for Minorities, in Islamabad this morning.“This was a cowardly attack on a democratically elected Government Minister and an attempt by extremists to silence free speech and debate in one of the world’s largest democracies,” he said.

He utterly condemned the actions of these extremists, which, he added, fly in the face of the courageous fight for democratic rights and justice being waged in other parts of the Islamic world.

“Mr Bhatti’s death is a tragic loss for Pakistan, and for all people who believe in human rights and freedom of speech. I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to Mr Bhatti’s family.”

In addition, Foreign Office Minister for South Asia Alistair Burt also commented on the shooting of Mr. Bhatti and said: “The assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti marks a new low point in Pakistan’s struggle against violent religious extremism.” Burt said Shahbaz Bhatti was a powerful voice against extremism and a fearless voice for tolerance and respect for minorities. His death is a tragic loss for Pakistan.

“We condemn this shocking attack, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.” He recalled that he met Minister Bhatti on a number of occasions, as a fellow Minister and believer in the rights of minorities. “I supported my friend in his difficult role, and in his attempt to revise his country’s Blasphemy laws. Those laws had been abused to target minorities, and Minister Bhatti’s courage in urging peaceful, moderate change, had been met with violence.”

The British Minister called on all moderate people of all faiths to unite and condemn this act, and work together to end the violent extremism which demeans them all. “This is not only an attack on a dedicated Government Minister but on the people of Pakistan and their future. The UK will continue to work with the leaders of Pakistan and its people, who deserve a stable, democratic and prosperous future, where violence and intimidation is not allowed to threaten freedom of speech and proper democratic debate.”

Another report says; German Foreign Minister Dr. Guido Westerwelle has expressed his shock and dismay over the assassination of Minister for Religious Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti.

Talking to the press in Berlin, the German Foreign Minister, after learning of the assassination of Minister Bhatti, said: “I have just heard this news with great dismay. Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the Pakistani government, was passionately committed to the rights of minorities in Pakistan showing great personal courage.”

He said, “His death has shocked us. It is a real loss for Pakistan. Now, everything must be done to hold the culprits to account and to guarantee the protection of all religious groups, including Christians, in Pakistan.”

Profile of Bhatti

Shahbaz Bhatti, son of Jacob Bhatti was born on September 9, 1968 in Lahore, Punjab. Bhatti joined Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in 2002. Shahbaz Bhatti was elected Member of the National Assembly on reserved seat for minorities on the ticket of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

He was made Federal Minister for Minorities in year 2008. Shahbaz Bhatti was again included in the Federal Cabinet with same portfolio last month. He was one of the founding members of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) in 1985.

He was Chairman of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, Founder and President of the Christian Liberation Front, and the Executive Director of the Pakistan Council for Human Rights. Shahbaz Bhatti was the first parliamentarian who made history by assuming Federal Minister for Minorities.

Shahbaz Bhatti also received International Religious Freedom Award for rendering services to the community. He was the first ever Pakistani to receive this award. He was bachelor and have four brothers and one sister. His father died last month in Faisalabad. He was living in Sector I-8/4 Islamabad.

As federal minister, Bhatti took serious steps to ensure the safety, rights and empower religious minorities while in office. He launched national campaign to promote interfaith and harmony through seminars, awareness groups, and workshop.

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