Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Pakistani Minister Assassinated For Opposing Blasphemy Laws

An outspoken opponent to Pakistan's longstanding anti-blasphemy laws was assassinated today and was the second such minister to be assassinated for speaking out against the laws this year.
Gunmen killed Pakistan's minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, Wednesday, in the second attack this year on a high-profile figure who has opposed the country's blasphemy law.

Witnesses say the attackers fled the scene in their car without hurting Bhatti’s driver, who then rushed him to the nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. City Police Chief Wajid Durrani spoke to reporters outside the hospital.

The police officer said the attackers intercepted Bhatti’s official car shortly after he left his residence for work and shot him several times at close range.

The slain minister belonged to the ruling party of President Asif Ali Zardari and was the only Christian member of the federal cabinet.

Bhatti had been threatened by Muslim extremists for speaking out against Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.
Pakistan's government is cowering behind the threat, and many government officials have stayed away from the earlier funeral. Zardari and his fellow officials don't want to be seen as being too close to the slain opponents to the anti-blasphemy laws lest they become assassination targets as well.

The movement to repeal the anti-blasphemy laws has come under increasing pressure and the assassinations are likely to thwart the move to repeal the 30-year old laws. Zardari and the reform agenda aren't likely to advance, and I'd say that the effort to repeal the anti-blasphemy law is all but dead due to the extremists cowing the government and those who would seek the changes.

Despite Bhatti's request for security guards in light of threats made against him, none were apparently present at the time of the assassination.


Additional photos of the assassination scene, and ensuing demonstrations can be found here (HT: Gus)

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