Punjabi Taliban, al Qaeda assassinate Pakistan’s Christian minorities minister

The Punjabi Taliban and al Qaeda assassinated Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs in a shooting today in Islamabad, calling him a “blasphemer.”

Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was gunned down as he was leaving his mother’s home in the capital. At the time of his death, Bhatti was setting out for a federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad. Bhatti’s driver was also seriously wounded in the attack.

“The attackers were wearing shawls and opened indiscriminate fire as they got close to the minister’s car,” Wajid Durrani, Islamabad’s chief of police, told reporters at a press conference.

Al Qaeda and the Punjabi Taliban left pamphlets left at the scene of Bhatti’s murder to claim responsibility for the assassination. The terror groups claimed that Bhatti, an “infidel Christian,” was in charge of a secretive committee assigned to repeal Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, The Associated Press reported. Al Qaeda and the Punjabi Taliban also threatened further assassinations against unspecified targets.

“With the blessing of Allah, the mujahedeen will send each of you to hell,” the pamphlet read.

Two Taliban spokesmen also claimed credit for the assassination, and compared him to Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was assassinated in January by his bodyguard for opposing Pakistan’s repressive blasphemy laws, which allow those perceived to have slighted Islam to be put to death.

“He was a blasphemer like Salman Taseer,” a spokesman known as Sajjad Mohmand told Reuters.

“[The] assassination of Bhatti is a message to all of those who are against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws,” said Ihsanullah Ihsan, another Taliban spokesman.

Bhatti had continued to campaign for the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws despite the assassination of Taseer and direct threats from al Qaeda and the Taliban.

“I want to make it clear that I am mindful that in the struggle to protect the religious freedom, the rights of minorities, and to raise the voice against the blasphemy law, I can be assassinated. I can be killed,” Bhatti told The Christian Post in February.

Bhatti told The Christian Post that he was the prime target of “religious extremists” and had received a direct threat from a Taliban commander:

You know that I’m getting threats and I’m told by the extremists that if I will continue to speak against the blasphemy law I will be beheaded. So after the [death of] Gov. Taseer, I am the number one target in Pakistan. It is written in the Pakistan and international media a lot.

And before coming to here, I received a call from the Taliban commander and he said, “If you will bring any changes in the blasphemy law and speak on this issue, then you will be killed.” And in the protest processions, religious extremists burn the effigies of the pope and mine. And I have received a lot of fatwas of killing by the extremist Talibans.

Bhatti had refused to use his government-supplied bodyguard after Taseer was gunned down by Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, one of his bodyguards. Bhatti said he could not trust the government-supplied escorts.

“I don’t believe that bodyguards can save me after the assassination [of Taseer],” he told The Christian Post.

After Taseer’s death, the assassin Qadri was feted by mainstream religious parties, lawyers, and other groups inside Pakistan often considered to be moderate. Lawyers showered the assassin bodyguard with rose petals as he left a court after a hearing, while Barelvi clerics, who are upheld as the caretakers of Pakistan’s moderate Muslims, said the murderer acted with “courage, bravery and religious honor and integrity,” and warned other Pakistani politicians against opposing the blasphemy law.

Pakistani politicians have been mostly silent on the subject since Taseer’s assassination, for fear of retribution from Islamic extremists. Sherry Rehman, another governmental minister who had sought to revise the blasphemy laws, has dropped the issue after receiving death threats, and is currently under heavy security.


Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • sports says:

    Pakistan! What a wretched place to live.

  • Neonmeat says:

    Another tragedy for rational humanity.
    Pakistan needs more honest and brave men like Shahbaz Bhatti willing to stand up against religious tyranny.
    When the elites of a society laud the actions of a murderer like Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, and politicians and leading religious figures either refuse to condemn these deaths or even support them you’ve got to know there is something sick and wrong about Pakistani Society.
    This infuriates me beyond belief, the plain ignorance of these people I am fed up of hearing of these atrocities I just wish the Pakistani people were too.

  • Tim says:

    Pakistan is a State governed by the fear of the irrational clergy and even more irrational extremist organizations. Wasting billions of dollars of hard earned tax payers money in this hell-hole is not going to achieve anything:
    Stop direct cash and weapons aid to Pakistan and stop buying Chinese goods! The very same dollars that we waste on these countries come back to bite us.

  • Grim says:

    Things will only get worse for Christians around the world with the current dynamics. Many muslims complain about discrimination in the US but it is nothing compared to the discrimination against Christians in Islamic countries. The anti-US sentiment in Pakistan is growing rapidly. Our “ally” is showing more and more of its true colors. Our leaders need to wake up in regards to dealing with Pakistan and show a stern hand.

  • Jose says:

    Agreed. Howeve, one non-violent approach the US could take, but nobody has the cajones to do it – stop accepting university visas from friendly countries such as Pakistan and others in the middle-east. Unfortunately, our major universities do significant business courting middle-eastern students, and lobby like hell against this. I believe that all of the nice luxuries these countries have – like sending their students here to get a good education – should be one of the things taken off the table. After 9/11 when visas were scrutinized and traffic hampered a bit, the Universities complained loudly that a singificant chunk of their budget woiuld be lost, so they lobbied the white-house to ease restrictions. I say ‘why’? It’s the same ol, same ol – if it affects business, the US won’t do anything to stop it. Once the US starts saying “well, if you don’t really like us, I guess you shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the good things we do”, would be a good start. But Nooooooooooooooo.

  • Paul says:

    Saudi Arabia must feel proud of its satellite nation both ruled by hatred and intolerance.
    Pakistan is starting to make Iran look moderate in comparison!

  • JRP says:

    The attacks on other faiths, the piracy situation, the refusal thus far to grant diplomatic immunity to Davis, today’s attack on U.S. Airmen in Germany . . . The West, and the U.S. in particular, will be in dire straits, if our Gov’t does not quickly and firmly come to grips with the Pakistani situation, the Yemen situation, and wherever else we know predatory terrorists are lurking. Our Gov’t has to know, further evidence is not needed, that we are losing, not gaining, ground in the World-wide war against Terrorism. I also think it high time that those senior officers in our military who know how desperate our situation is show not just physical courage, but moral courage, and, after resigning their commissions, come forth on the media and in the newspapers and start ringing the alarm bells. That is the kind of Patriotism that is now needed. Simply killing hordes of low-level AQs and Talibs is getting us nowhere fast and we need to stop drinking the Kool-Aid the political and military spinmeisters are ladling out to us.

  • Paul says:

    It really cracks me up……these peopel have no idea of what God is going to do to them when they die. They are so misguided ……….THEY are the blaspemers! Another Christian martyr.
    I pray for his soul and I know where he is.
    These killers are headed for Dante’s 7th circle of hell.

  • Jimmy says:

    But I heard Secratary of State HC is announcing another fat dollar package for Pakistan? Are our pleas falling on deaf ears? If the leaders have made up their mind to let the country be devoured by this monster, pretty much nuthin we can do, mate!

  • Mike. says:

    That lawyers would cheer a murderer for an extrajudicial killing shows the moral illness in Pakistan, to be sure.
    Punishing university students for the crimes of terrorists or their supporters, however, is not reasonable or just. There are many good people in Pakistan, caught up in the web of fear, chaos, hypocrisy, and violence.
    I have to believe there is a silent majority in Pakistan, the goodness of the majority of people. But they are not morally strong. Nor are the majority literate, don’t forget, which is the real bane of the country.

  • Villiger says:

    What a barbaric society Pakistan is. They should really be accorded the fate of the Neanderthals. They are in fact the Neanderthals of our time.
    Now, in all fairness, one can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    But somewhere there is going to have to be a process of shaking out the the bad Pakistan from the good Pakistan. People/society, military/militants and geography. Pakistan’s culture of violence has been years/decades in the making, with their Army at its heart. That bad heart is going to have to stop beating and be replaced with a new good one. This is going to call for a military intervention. Who is going to do this?
    Pakistan’s bubble of sovereign virginity needs to be pricked. Once pricked, all gone. Start with the easy (land, air, sea) Balochistan. Balochistan is essentially “good”, except for the Quetta Shura/Taliban–i doubt in formidable numbers, who will run with their tails between their legs. Then you are dealing with AFPAK/AFPAQ. Otherwise one is fighting in a half-Afed war.
    When Obama said he will go to Pakistan in 2011, i know he didn’t quite mean it this way. But, i can’t imagine any other.

  • blert says:

    ALL of the top terrorists have received advanced educations in the West, typically at our expense.
    That is their ‘tell.’
    That policy should have been reversed nine years ago.

  • Jimmy says:

    Here is another intelligence report of how the Pakistani State is double-timing the United States, not just now, but from 1950!

  • Neonmeat says:

    @ Jose
    In a way I think it is better that Pakistani students would come to the West to be educated in what is largely a secular university environment.
    This is better in my opinion than the education that they may get in Pakistan along with the perils of the extremist madrassas and other groups that hang around there universities.
    At least over here they can perhaps get a ‘real’ opinion of the West and not the one produced for them by the biased Pakistani media and Islamic Groups.
    Hopefully they go back home with a respect and an understanding of Western culture that they can then pass on to others.

  • JRP says:

    Villiger . . . You’re definitely on to something. The problem is that the War on Terror has to be labor intensive and the West won’t revert to a conscript Army. You have to send in what would be, in essence, an occupation force to police the “good” Pakistanis while you root out the “bad” Pakistanis. The “Business Model” adopted by Al Qaeda/Taliban is to blend in with the indigenous population to ensure that whenever we do go after them, and it’s usually by air, there will be collateral damage, thus ensuring further propaganda damage to us. It is similar to how the Viet Cong acted in South Vietnam, but now on a Global scale. So, you have terrorists operating from Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, just to name three places, and they are shielded by the local population. Pakistan is the biggest threat, of course, but if we are not going to go into Pakistan proper, or even the Waziristans, then the next best thing is cutting off the money flow. The U.S. Congress is way ahead of the Administration on this point, so Pres. Obama and his Military and Intelligence advisors have to play catchup in their thinking. It’s self-defeating to keep plying the Pak Army with money, which is then used to support the so-called “friendly” Taliban, not root out AQ/Taliban.

  • madashell59 says:

    Neonmeat: Although this maybe true but with the majority of professors being liberal I am not sure what information the student would be provided. With what Prez Obama has done to apologize the professor may do the same thing. Giving the student more reason to hate the US.

  • Josee says:

    Thank you for your insights on the University/education front. Here’s my experience, and why it has altered my views for eductation restrictions. I could be wrong though, so keep your comments coming. I graduated with a MS in mechanical engineering from MTU in the mid- 80’s. Many fellow students were from the mid-east (Egypt, Syria, Iran, Pakistan). At that time, I was pretty nieve…didn’t know much about world politics. Anyway, about 75% of these guys absolutely hated me for many reasons (I’m a Christian, I’m an American, I befriend ROTC guys, etc, etc). The other 25% where great guys, and would do anything for you. The University at that time was outdoors oriented, and had a “gun room” and believe it or not, a gun range. It was primarily used by ROTC or students who liked to hunt a lot, which is customary in that area. On several occasions these radical guys would use the gun range, and start fights with everybody else – threatening others with their pistols and rifles. Campus cops where called continuously. However, the University refused to expell the students. It was scary. and they particularly hated any ROTC guys. They simply hated any American (Caucasian). I have to say that I don’t understand why we allow these hateful people into our system, and the Universities protect them. I saw this behavior throughout my college career.
    Primarily, it was the concensus of most victims of this racism, that the reason the University did not expell these students was revenue driven by the Universities, under the guise of “spreading education to the world” argument. What I’m finding is while yes, we are educating a lot of great folks who don’t mean us any harm, we are also educating our enemies, in such things as nuclear technology, advanced electronics. I do not want to deny a good education to good people. My proposal to cut aid would work like this: Cut educational opportunties to people from countries who sponsor. If they want the good things from us, then they need to change their behavior. I’m guessing if enough people get denied a visa and university admitance, their governments might just start doing something to fix their problems.
    I hope that sheds light on the subject – I haven’t attended College for a while and do not know if this problem exists today. Comments welcome.

  • indus says:

    At the time of its formation (1947), Pakistan had over 30% of its poulation which was non-muslim – primarily Christians and Hindus. Today, it is about 3%. Pakistanis would have you believe that Islam means peace, and these guys left (departed, died, killed, converted, …) on their own accord. Truth is that this happens in pretty much every islamic nation, unless the minority is all clustered together in one or few geographical spots within the islamic nation, and able to exist as a fortress within. Islam does not coexist. It believes in its superiority in no uncertain terms.
    It does not coexist, even when in minority. For example, in Europe, Canada and US. Judging by history, it lives as a separate entity within enclaves; followed by insisting on use of Shariah within these enclaves; and finally secession of enclaves as separate islamic entities. Are there islamic people who are tolerant and coexist? Sure, there are some Sufi and other sects, who are tolerant. But Islam (Islam of Saudi, Pakistan and Iran) considers these sects themselves unIslamic.
    Should the killing of Bhatti (the christian, token minister, of minority affairs of Pakistan) come as a surprise to people of the world. Yes, to those who refuse to learn from history.

  • blert says:

    Financial events are going to overtake Pakistan.
    It is lousy protest weather in Tehran and Islamabad.
    When the Spring comes the economic pain will be so intense that roiling protests will break out all over.
    Islamabad has bet it all on RED.
    BTW, Pakistan is now overtaking Britain and will soon be the fourth ranking nuclear power.
    The enemy is using our shakedown / ransoms to build atomics like crazy. At some point Islamabad figures they’ll be able to tell Washington where to go!
    The Punjabis have BIG dreams.

  • wallbangr says:

    I sincerely hope you are correct blert. It remains to be seen what the majority-muslim populations do with their newfound power once they shake off their autocratic rulers. I heard an optimistic assessment by some talking heads (including former intel folks) on NPR yesterday: AQ and the like have not taken advantage of the recent turmoil, mostly because their model has done nothing to advance the kind of economic demands that these movements seek. Of course, the Pakistanis are a different beast. Seemingly content to live in squalor as long as they have some Evil Empire to blame it on. I would still love to see some kind of Spring Awakening happen in Tehran and Islamabad. As uncertain as the ultimate implications will be from a hegemonic standpoint, it can’t get any worse than it already is for us in both of those places. We are impotent against the mullahs in Iran and beholden to the whims of the treacherous Paks, with no light at the end of the tunnel with the current Administration. So I say let ’em fall. Yes, the nukes are an issue. But one that is only growing worse with the status quo.


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