Wednesday, March 2, 2011

UPDATED March 4 '11 - Shabaz Bhatti Assassinated: Recent tragedy no excuse to foment more violence

Photo by AFP

Shabaz Bhatti:
apparently for his stand that execution
should not be the payment for allegedly blaspheming the prophet.

Posted the morning of the assassination among my many international emails/lists:

Excerpt: "Pakistan’s information minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, said Bhatti had played a key role in promoting interfaith harmony, and he was a great asset. “We are sad over his tragic death,” she said

ISLAMABAD: Gunmen shot and killed Pakistan’s government minister for religious minorities on Wednesday, the latest attack on a high-profile Pakistani figure who had urged reforming harsh blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam. Shahbaz Bhatti was on his way to work in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, when unknown gunmen riddled his car with bullets, police officer Mohmmad Iqbal said. The minister arrived dead at Shifa Hospital and his driver was also wounded badly, hospital spokesman Asmatullah Qureshi said. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but private Pakistani TV channels showed pamphlets at the scene of the killing that were attributed to the Pakistani Taliban warning of the same fate for anyone opposing the blasphemy laws. Gulam Rahim was coming from a nearby market when he saw Bhatti’s car drive out of his house. Three men standing nearby with guns suddenly began firing at the vehicle, a dark-colored Toyota. Two of the men opened the door and tried to pull Bhatti out, Rahim said, while a third man fired his Kalashnikov rifle repeatedly into the car. The three gunmen then sped away in a white Suzuki Mehran car, said Rahim who took shelter behind a tree. Pakistani TV channels showed Bhatti’s vehicle afterward, its windows shattered with bullet holes all over. It was not immediately clear why Bhatti, a member of the ruling Pakistani People’s Party, did not have bodyguards with him. Pakistani government leaders condemned the attack. “This is concerted campaign to slaughter every liberal, progressive and humanist voice in Pakistan,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to President Asif Ali Zardari. “The time has come for the federal government and provincial governments to speak out and to take a strong stand against these murderers to save the very essence of Pakistan.” Bhatti’s friend Robinson Asghar said the slain minister had received threats following the death of the Punjab governor. Asghar said he had asked Bhatti to leave Pakistan for a while because of the threats, but that Bhatti had refused. Pakistan’s information minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, said Bhatti had played a key role in promoting interfaith harmony, and he was a great asset. “We are sad over his tragic death,” she said, adding that the government would investigate why he did not have a security escort.

Quick note from this blogger:
I am constantly inspired by the ongoing courage demonstrated by so many journalists, lawyers and leaders in Pakistan, despite the dangers from both the US and possibly some who seek to please (too much) the fundamentalists as well as the US military.
We must also keep in mind that some of our western/US/world leaders have participated and still participate in stirring up unrest in order to "divide and conquer". We must do all we can to seek restraint from the same. Sometimes, it's hard to know who's doing what these days. Also, some of our heroes could possibly wait to be too vocal publicly until justice and rule of law show facts and proper amendment - thereby saving lives. Bottom line is that MANY MANY Pakistanis are mourning this minority leader's person and life and now loss. No matter the religion or position, let's work together so that such tragedies will be fewer and fewer. Let's remember to pray for ALL involved - including the assassin and his/her family - who will surely have many sleepless nights to come and the need to become right again before Allah.

Added March 3 PM ET

See the empathy and call for continued unity in justice on this most recent tragedy:

Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti had been receiving death threats since the Bibi case. Minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti has been brutally gunned down today – joining the list of many to have been killed.Voices of sanity do not do well here in Pakistan.

Just when you start thinking things will be okay, that now the maniacs have safely put away Aasia Bibi and they’ve killed Salmaan Taseer so maybe that’s enough to make their point – you are jolted into the reality that is Pakistan. You understand completely and fully, even if you did not that morning when reading the opinions page of The Express Tribune, why George Fulton is leaving.Today’s breaking news has brought a new understanding to the line I was editing in the article yesterday:“You do not chart your own destiny in Pakistan; Pakistan charts it for you. It’s emigration by a thousand news stories.”Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination has become another one of those ‘stories’. And we can do nothing about it. If a governor and a minister aren’t safe in this country, who is?Of course there is the broader question of why the minister was killed. This is no random killing and is unlikely to be inspired by personal enmity. Bhatti was killed for what and whom he stood for.There is a certain futility, hopelessness to it all. When our own are killed simply for asking for justice and fairness and change, how can we actually bring about that change? How can we ensure that our minorities are treated equally and kept safe, when all those championing for them are gunned down? And in response we are the rest of this opinion and comments


photo by AFP

Find the following report and more here

Christians mourn the death of slain minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti during a protest in Lahore on March 2, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

Federal Minister for Minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was killed in the I-8/3 area of Islamabad on Wednesday morning by three unidentified gunmen.
According to reports, the Tehrik-i-Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the minister.

Screen captures of the pamphlet can be viewed here.
The minister had left his house moments ago when his car was intercepted by a white Suzuki Mehran. Assailants, dressed in shalwar kurtas, first took the minister’s driver out the car and then shot 25 bullets at Bhatti.

‘Not a security lapse’
According to IG Islamabad, this was not a security lapse as escorts were provided to Bhatti, which he was not using. The minister had apparently instructed his security to wait at the office in I-8/4.

“The squad officer told me that the minister had directed him to wait for him at his office. He used to often visit his mother’s house without a squad,” Durrani said. “We are investigating the matter from different angles.”

Bhatti had been receiving death threats and he had requested the government for more security. He was provided with four guards by the interior ministry.

Local resident Naseem Ahmed said the firing continued for about 30 seconds.
“We came out of our home after hearing the gunfire, we saw the car, it was badly damaged. We saw the minister, he was rushed to hospital in a critical condition,” Ahmed told reporters.

Bhatti was dead on arrival at Islamabad’s Shifa hospital, doctor Azmatullah Qureshi confirmed. Police said his body was riddled with at least eight bullets.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited the hospital and offered condolences to Bhatti’s grieving relatives.

“Such acts will not deter the government’s resolve to fight terrorism and extremism,” he said, adding that the killers would not go unpunished.

The highest target
Earlier, Bhatti had voiced his fears that he believed he would be “the highest target” following the assassination of Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer for speaking out against the blasphemy law.

Bhatti had said fatwas, or religious decrees, had been issued calling for him to be beheaded, by extremist clerics in the country who were allowed to publicly spread messages of violence with impunity.

After the Pakistani Taliban said that they killed the Christian minister, former MNA and chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Sindh chapter Asadullah Bhutto said the assassination was an attempt by the CIA to divert the attention of masses from Raymond Davis.

“Accepting the responsibility of killing the minister soon after the incident by ‘Punjabi Taliban’, as reported by media, is an ample proof that the CIA is behind this crime because the US spy agency had been staging such ‘dramas’ of ‘Punjabi Taliban’ after committing the crimes of same nature earlier,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

International condemnation
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she was “shocked and outraged” by the slaying of Bhatti.

“I was shocked and outraged by the assassination,” Clinton told a Senate committee, adding it was also an attack on “the values of tolerance and respect.”
Senior US Senator John Kerry condemned the incident as a “particularly chilling” terrorist attack.

“Coming so soon after the killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, another strong advocate for tolerance and moderation, today’s act of terrorism is particularly chilling,” Kerry said in a statement.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay urged the Pakistan government to support reforms of Islamic blasphemy laws as she condemned the killing of a Bhatti.
“I urge the government of Pakistan to honour the courageous stand of Mr Bhatti and Mr Taseer by supporting their position on the blasphemy laws,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement...

Read the rest of this article (which end with the expected horror from western sources without any note of understanding that we are all in these events together) at the above URL and keep in mind blogger notes before and after this post on nomorecrusades.

See over 178 Comments on this article
Like many, I find it hard to understand such a tragedy and am aghast that such laws which may lead to such unnecessary loss of lives are still in place anywhere in the world--especially in the US. At the same time, I am sure we'd do well to try to understand the historical and regional as well as various religious interpretations for the same. Most of all, we must keep seeing ourselves - in the West - from the eyes of others. Here's an earlier article concerning issues surrounding Pakistan and US/Britain on Human Rights - Blasphemy and Human Rights: The case of three women here

END note: Again, keep in mind that there are way too many who are outraged ONLY when something or someone is somehow related to their own religion, issues, nation, party - yet find ways to twist the truth when it's reasonable outrage about what's being done to their "own" it's time now to see through all these allegiances and see people as people who have the same needs, vulnerabilities and desire for peace, justice, rights as do we - I speak mainly from my own nation, the US, which has been sending way too many cowboys among the good and brave - who have taken too much liberty to do whatever they please without impunity nor even a little decent accountability to the US citizens, let alone to the citizens of the world.

KEEP THE PEACE and seek justice for all...

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