Tags: Pakistan | Shahbaz Bhatti

Pakistani Christians Fear Cabinet Minister's Killers May Go Free

Image: Pakistani Christians Fear Cabinet Minister's Killers May Go Free
A Pakistani Christian girl lights candles in front of the picture of slain Christian minister Shahbaz Bhatti in Karachi on March 6, 2011.

By    |   Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 11:39 PM

Several men who have confessed to involvement in the murder of Pakistan’s first Christian cabinet minister could soon walk free due to pressure from jihadist radicals, activists fear.

Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was shot to death on March 2, 2011 by gunmen who ambushed his car in broad daylight on an Islamabad street. His brother Paul told Morning Star News, an online news site that  covers the persecution of Christians around the world, that Islamist militants have issued death threats and demanded the suspects’ release as a condition for progress in negotiations now underway with the Pakistani government.

After Morning Star reported on the investigation last week, Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry  Nisar Ali Khan briefed Paul Bhatti on the details  of the investigation, the website reported Monday. But it remains to be seen whether this will allay public concerns about the slow pace of legal proceedings in the case, which has left many skeptical that authorities want to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

Paul Bhatti, a doctor, recently left the country after receiving death threats from the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) terrorist organizations,  saying they threatened his life after he publically complained about the lack of progress in the investigation of his brother’s murder.

Ironically, he had left his medical practice in Italy and traveled to live in Pakistan after Shahbaz’s killing, saying he hoped to continue his brother’s work for reconciliation. He succeeded Shahbaz as chairman of his political party, the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, and took his place in the national cabinet.

Paul Bhatti was replaced as minority affairs minister by a Muslim after last year’s national elections.

Bhatti says he is determined to return to Pakistan. But that process has been complicated by government officials’ refusal to guarantee him a security detail.

The possibility that the confessed killers of Shahbaz Bhatti could be released during peace negotiations is a huge complicating factor. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (which has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department) has demanded the suspects’ release as a condition for going forward with peace negotiations.

Paul Bhatti said the killers should not go free. “The men themselves confessed to killing my brother,” he said. “I’m certain that they are the real culprits, because the Taliban are demanding their release. It would be very unjust if the government submits to the Taliban demand.”

Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani human-rights activist, said that talk of releasing the murder suspects illustrated the dangers of negotiating with the Taliban and other jihadist groups.
 “The Taliban have killed thousands of innocent people and members of security forces in the last seven years,” Jahangir said. “How can the government even think of negotiating with such barbarians? The government must not accept the Taliban’s demand for release of hard-core militants, as the peace talks may turn out to be a Taliban ploy to get their friends released from prisons.”

A senior official with Pakistan’s Interior Ministry declined comment on the possibility that any of the suspects in Bhatti’s murder could go free as part of a deal between Islamabad and the jihadists, saying  that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would make the final decision.

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Several men who have confessed to involvement in the murder of Pakistan’s first Christian cabinet minister could soon walk free due to pressure from jihadist radicals, activists fear.
Pakistan,Shahbaz Bhatti
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2014-39-18
Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 11:39 PM
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