Sad news with the death of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani Minorities Minister, who has been shot dead. Bhatti, who died after gunmen opened fire on his car in Islamabad, was the only Christian minister in the Pakistani cabinet and he had urged reform of the country’s dated blasphemy laws.
Taseer had championed the case of a Christian woman who had been condemned to death under the blasphemy laws.
His death follows that in January of Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer, who also opposed the law. Taseer was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards.
The Guardian reports that the assassins left behind Taliban-linked leaflets and they have since claimed responsibility.
Bhatti had joined Salmaan Taseer in championing the case of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced to death last November for allegedly committing blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad.
Human rights campaigners reacted with anger and dismay to the death of Bhatti, calling it a further sign of crumbling tolerance that highlighted the chronic failure of President Asif Ali Zardari’s government to safeguard liberal voices.
“Shahbaz Bhatti was one of the few people in the government who took a brave and principled position on the blasphemy law. It appears like Salmaan Taseer before him that he has been killed for espousing this position,” said Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch.