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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shahbaz Bhatti:Pakistani minister shot and killed

Islamabad, Pakistan -- Shahbaz Bhatti, the federal Minister of Minorities Affairs, was shot and killed in Islamabad Wednesday, Pakistani police and hospital officials said.
Bhatti, in the past has been critical of Pakistan's blasphemy law and was a Christian member of Pakistan's cabinet.
He was leaving his home when unknown gunmen sprayed his vehicle with bullets, said Jameel Hashmi, a senior Islamabad police official.
He was dead when he arrived at Shifa Hospital in Islamabad, said Azmat Ullah Qureshi, a hospital spokesman.
It was not immediately clear why Bhatti was killed, but in the past officials have been targeted for opposing Pakistan's blasphemy law.
The blasphemy law makes it a crime punishable by death to insult Islam, the Quran or the Prophet Mohammed.
In January, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own security guard because he spoke out against the country's blasphemy law.
In the wake of Taseer's death, Bhatti pledged to continue pushing for amendments in the law.
"I will continue," Bhatti said at the time. "I will campaign for this ... these fanatics cannot stop me from moving any further steps against the misuse of (the) blasphemy law."
Asked if he was in fear of his own life, Bhatti said he was not, but "I am getting threats. I was told by the religious extremists that if you will make any amendments in this law, you will be killed. But I am ready to sacrifice my life for the principled stand I have taken because the people of Pakistan are being victimized under the pretense of blasphemy law."


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