Terrorist groups in Pakistan are planning to assassinate Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s federal minister for religious minorities, because of his opposition to the country’s blasphemy law.
Bhatti is the founder and president of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, a religious minorities network. He is also a Catholic.
The alliance told the Vatican-based news agency Fides that a Pakistani Secret Service report states it is “deeply concerned” by circulating news that an “imminent attack” on the minister is being organized. Bhatti has become a “number one target” because of his commitment to the abolition of the blasphemy law.
“Those close to the Minister need to protect him and ask the state to afford the minister maximum protection,” the Secret Service report continued.
The powerful terrorist organization Laskar-e-Toiba has already declared a death sentence upon Minister Bhatti. The new information confirms an actual plan is underway.
Bhatti told Fides his resolution was firm.
“Pray for me and for my life. I am a man who has burnt his bridges. I cannot and will not go back on this commitment. I will fight fanaticism and fight in defense of Christians to the death,” he said.
One Pakistan source deplored the inaction of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. It is not aligning itself with Bhatti and coming to his defense because it is being pressured by lobbying from fundamentalist Islamic parties.
The party is “leaving too much space to the fanatics in society: its leadership believes that its political survival depends in keeping the militant religious right happy,” the source told Fides. “However, in doing so, the party is losing its traditional nature: moderate, secular, popular and pluralistic.”
Pakistan’s blasphemy law came to be a prominent part of the national conversation after Asia Bibi, a Christian mother, was sentenced to death under it. She has been in prison for a year and a half and is presently in a secure cell to protect her from assassination attempts.
Tensions escalated even further when Punjab governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by one of his body guards who was reportedly angered by his opposition to the law and his support for Bibi.