Two months after the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, was assassinated by his bodyguard for his criticism of the country’s controversial blasphemy law, another vocal critic, minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, was gunned down.
Like Taseer, Bhatti was killed on an
Islamabad street in broad daylight. Four unidentified assailants stopped his car, asked the driver to alight and rained bullets on the minister. He had no security detail.
Bhatti, a Christian, was one of the few ministers to publicly condemn Taseer’s killing and used to say he, too, was a target.
Observers said Bhatti was killed for speaking against the law and the media said pamphlets found at the scene of the crime called for killing all those who insulted the Prophet. The police did not confirm this. The media said the Tehreek-e-Taliban-Pakistan had claimed responsibility.
The government has been dilly-dallying on prosecuting Taseer’s murderer, who confessed to killing the governor because he called the law a ‘black law’. “This attitude has emboldened Pakistan’s religious extremists to attack at will,” said security analyst Aisha Siddiqa.
The blasphemy law seeks either death or life imprisonment for those who make derogatory remarks about the Prophet.