09/02/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Bhatti murder: focusing again on Islamic extremism

by Jibran Khan
Court issues arrest warrants for two Pakistani nationals who fled to Dubai. Pakistan plans to demand the extradition of Ziaur Rehman and Malik Abid, both from Faisalabad. Move closes the chapter on allegations that the murder was due to a family feud or intra-Christian disputes. Now police are back investigating circles close to the Taliban and Islamic fundamentalism.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistan’s anti-terrorism court has issued an international arrest warrant against two people in connection with the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic Minority Affairs Minister who was assassinated on 2 March. The order was signed by Special Judge Pervez Ali Shah against Ziaur Rehman and Malik Abid, both from Faisalabad, who fled to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Now Pakistani authorities will be able to demand their extradition so that they can be put on trial.

This development opens a new chapter in the death of the Catholic political leader, a ‘martyr’ for Pakistani Christians because he gave his life for the country’s minorities and development.

The gunmen who killed Bhatti left a note at the scene of the crime, claiming the murder on behalf of the Taliban. Eventually, rumours began circulating, pinning the murder on intra-Christian disputes, and later on a family feud over property.

Pakistani Christians and international human rights groups rejected such claims. The government and the police (not to mention some Pakistani newspapers that picked such stories) were thus forced to refute the rumours, focusing again on terrorism and Islamic extremist movements.

In fact, Islamabad’s most senior police officer, Inspector General of Police Bani Amin Khan told a Senate standing committee on home affairs that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was behind the murder.

Among Christians, initial reactions to the police chief’s statement were positive. Still, many want quicker action to shed light on Shahbaz Bhatti’s death.

For Mgr Lawrence Saldanha, archbishop emeritus of Lahore, “now the investigations are going in the right direction”. Hopefully, “the culprits will be brought to justice,” he said.

In the words of Islamabad’s own bishop, Mgr Sebastian Shah, the slain minister “was the voice of the voiceless”. Now, “We hope,” he said, “that those responsible are arrested and that it [recent revelations] does not turn out to be the usual tactic to divert the investigations.”

Pervez Rafique, head of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), agrees. For him, the Joint Investigation Team report must be released and a commission of inquiry must be set up.
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