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Another Victim of Blasphemy – Pakistan killed Shahbaz Bhatti

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.

Frames minorities

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.

February 14th 2005 – Rafic Hariri’s assassination

Rafic Baha El Deen Al-Hariri (November 1, 1944 – February 14, 2005, was a business tycoon and the Prime Minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until his resignation, 20 October 2004. He headed five cabinets during his tenure and dominated the country’s post-war political and business life and is widely credited with reconstructing Beirut after the 15-year civil war.

Hariri was born into a Sunni Muslim family, along with two siblings (brother, Shafic and sister Bahia) in the Lebanese port city of Sidon. Hariri attended elementary and secondary school in his city and pursued his business administration studies at the Beirut Arab University.

Assassination

Hariri was killed on February 14th, 2005 together with 21 others when explosives equivalent to around 1000 kg of TNT were detonated as his car drove past the St. George Hotel in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Among the dead were several of Hariri’s bodyguards and his friend and former Minister of the Economy Bassel Fleihan. The investigation, by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, into his assassination is still ongoing and currently led by the independent investigator Daniel Bellemare. In its first two reports, UNIIIC indicated that the Syrian government may be linked to the assassination. According to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news investigation, the special UN investigation team had found strong evidence for the responsibility of the Hezbollah in the assassination. Hariri’s murder led to massive political change in Lebanon, including the Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Hariri was buried along with his bodyguards who died with him in their final resting place near Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.

Aftermaths of the murder

The latest reports written by Brammertz has indicated that DNA evidence collected from the crime scene, suggests that the assassination might have been the act of a young male acting as a suicide bomber.

Syria was initially accused of the assassination, which led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon following widespread protests. Following Hariri’s death, there were several other bombings and assassinations against minor anti-Syrian figures. These included Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Gebran Tueni, Pierre Amine Gemayel, and Walid Eido. Assassination attempts were made on Elias Murr, May Chidiac, and Samir Shehade (who was investigating Hariri’s death).

The United Nations special tribunal (see Special Tribunal for Lebanon) investigating the murder of Hariri is expected to issue draft indictments accusing Hezbollah of murdering Hariri.

Hezbollah has accused Israel of the murder of Hariri and according to the Hezbollah officials; the assassination was planned by Mossad with the reason of putting the blame on Syria so that the Syrian army should be expelled from Lebanon soil.

In August 2010, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah presented “evidence”, comprising of intercepted Israeli spy-drone video footage, which he said implicated Israel in the assassination of Hariri. After an altercation between male Tribunal staff and women at a gynaecology clinic in October 2010, Hezbollah demanded that the Lebanese government stop all cooperation with the Special Tribunal, claiming the tribunal to be an infringement on Lebanese sovereignty by western governments. On October 2010, Hezbollah conducted a drill simulating a takeover of Lebanon – an operation which it threatened was to be carried out in the event that the international tribunal for the assassination Hariri indicts Hezbollah.

On the other side, it has been revealed by leaked US embassy cables that Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate director Omar Suleiman reported that Syria “desperately” wanted to stop the investigation of the Tribunal

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