Pakistan's minorities minister assassinated
ISLAMABAD (PAN): A Pakistani federal minister, who recently received death threats from militants for opposing a blasphemy law, was assassinated in a high-security neighbourhood of Islamabad on Wednesday, officials said.
Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was riddled with bullets on his way to the office in the capital, police officer Bin Yamin told Pajhwok Afghan News. The attack came soon after Bhatti left his house in Sector I-8.
The gunmen managed to escape in a car at about 11am, Yamin said, adding that police had sealed all important exit and entry points as part of an operation to hunt down the assassins.
The 42-year-old minister was travelling in a vehicle with a government number plate, according to witness, Tariq Khan. The driver and a woman had got out of the car before the assailants opened fired on Bhatti.
A note left at the scene said the killers belonged to the little known Fidayeen-i-Mohammad group, based in central Punjab province, Khan added. The pamphlet warned opponents of the blasphemy law of meeting a similar treatment.
Under the law, which is often misused, insulting Islam, the Quran or Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is a crime punishable by death. On Jan. 4, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was killed by his security guard after he opposed the law.
"Initial reports are that three men attacked the minister, probably with Kalashnikovs, but we are still investigating the assassination," said Wajid Durrani, the Islamabad police chief.
The only Christian minister in the Cabinet, Bhatti had received threats after he stressed the need for amendments to the controversial law. He called for the changes in the wake of Taseer's assassination.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani condemned Bhatti's killing as a "heinous act" and said such acts would not deter the government from eliminating extremism and terrorism.
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