Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Muhammad Imran, a man charged with blasphemy in April 2009 and later released for lack of evidence, was gunned down in the Danada, a village near Rawalpindi. He had been accused of making insulting remarks about Prophet Mohammed during a discussion in a village cafe. However, he and another defendant were eventually set free by a court order after prosecution failed to produce evidence.
Imran was in a shop when two attackers came in and shot him dead. A third accomplice stayed outside. According to the victim’s brother Muhammad Akramm, Imran was killed by the same man from a nearby village who had originally accused him of blasphemy.
The murder comes two days after Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was killed by militants for opposing the controversial blasphemy law. The Minority Affairs minister was laid to rest yesterday next to his father’s grave in the village of Khushpur in a ceremony attended by more than 15,000 people.
“We will continue Shahbaz Bhattit`s struggle for minority rights,” said Pervaiz Rafique, a leader of the All Pakistan Minority Assembly (APMA).
“Extremists can kill a person, not his thoughts. Shahbaz Bhatti wanted Pakistan to become Quaid-e-Azam`s Pakistan, we will carry on his mission," he added. Quaid-e-Azam or Father of Nation refers to Ali Jinnah, founder of modern Pakistan.
Police have arrested 15 people in connection with Bhatti’s murder. Police also said that it would interrogate Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.
Every aspect of the case is under investigation. Eyewitness accounts and the testimony of Bhatti’s driver present different aspects, said IG Islamabad Police Wajid Durrani.
The Russian Orthodox Church has joined the chorus of condolences sent to Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani for Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination.
“Many Christian Churches” were “encouraged by the appointment of Mr. Bhatti” to the “cabinet [. . .]. As a politician, he managed to do a lot” to reduce “religious tension in Pakistani society and courageously spoke out against initiatives of religious extremists,” said Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.
This crime “is not the only act of violence against Christians in Pakistan. Neither simple believers, nor high-ranking officials are [. . .] protected today from aggression on the part of people who disguise their evil deeds under religious convictions.” (J.K. and N.A.)