By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– The elder brother of an assassinated Christian government minister has fled Pakistan and arrived in Italy after death threats from Islamic militants, a well-informed official told BosNewsLife Sunday, February 9.
Dr. Paul Bhatti, a former Pakistani Minister of National Harmony and Minority Affairs, was reportedly told by terrorist organisations Fidayaan-e-Mohammad, Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi not to continue the murder case of his brother Shahbaz Bhatti against the militants.
“Now Dr. Paul Bhatti has left Pakistan in the wake of that [threatening] letter and reached Italy,”said Sardar Mushtaq Gill, director of Pakistan-based Christian advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).
“We pray for his safety amid renewed threats from these Taliban [linked groups],” he explained.
In a statement attributed to him, Paul Bhatti said the letter contained “a warning not to pursue the Shahbaz Bhatti murder case against the arrested militants.” The letter, he said, “holds us responsible for the killings of several militants in the recent past, adding that we are set to face the same fate as suffered by Shahbaz.”
Paul Bhatti had been actively involved in supporting the prosecution of Islamic militants suspected of having killed his brother. Shahbaz Bhatti, 42, was shot dead on March 2, 2011 while traveling in a car near a market of the capital Islamabad, BosNewsLife reported at the time.
In leaflets left at the scene, terror group al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban Movement in Punjab province claimed responsibility.
They blamed the government for putting Bhatti, an “infidel Christian,” in charge of an unspecified committee, apparently in reference to his support for changing the blasphemy laws.
Under the legislation several Christians have been detained across the country for allegedly making blasphemous remarks about Islam or its Prophet Muhammed.
The legislation has also contributed to an atmosphere of hatred towards attacks against churches and individual Christians in Pakistan in which many believers were killed, rights groups say.
Besides Bhatti, the the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was also killed in 2011 for criticizing the country’s blasphemy law.
Pakistani media quoted Islamabad police officials as saying that the latest threatening letter sent by militants was meant “to pressurise the complainants in the case following the arrest of all the four [alleged] killers” who were publicly identified as Taliban-linked militants Omar Abdullah, Hammad Adil, Tanveer and Abdul Sattar.
The death threats also underscored concerns expressed by Gill, who told BosNewsLife earlier he had been threatened by armed militants on several occasions. Following coverage of BosNewsLife, authorities have offered him protection, he said.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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