Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the only Catholic in the Pakistan government, had advocated changes in Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws. The Catholic minister was killed in a cool rain of three or four men with automatic weapons after he had visited his mother in a residential area of Islamabad. His car was riddled with bullet holes after the assassination, and though he was dead before he was taken to hospital.
Taliban takes responsibility
Pakistani Taliban said they killed Bhatti because he was guilty of blasphemy, and because he wanted to change the blasphemy law. The Blasphemy law has been in the spotlight since November, when a Christian mother of four was sentenced to death for having blasphemed the prophet although she denies the charges.
In early January, the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer was killed by one of his bodyguards. Taseer was a consistent opponent of the blasphemy law, and had among other things, visited the condemned woman in prison.
After the murder of Taseer, Bhatti said that he had also received threats. But he would still not have bodyguards. He said he trusted in God’s protection.
Liberal Pakistanis and human rights groups believe the law is highly discriminatory against the small religious minorities in Pakistan. Especially Christians, who account for 2 percent of Pakistan’s population is concerned. By law, anyone who speaks ill of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, sentenced to death, but activists say the law open to abuse.
It is not uncommon that people are judged by the law, but no death sentences have so far been implemented. Many people are acquitted after appeal their sentences, but many who are accused, have also been killed by the fanatical Islamists.
The murder of Taseer was severely condemned by the United States and other Western countries, but the guard who killed him, is hailed as a hero in broad segments of the Pakistani population.