06/30/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Islamabad abolishes Minority Affairs Ministry, as Bhatti murder could go unpunished

by Jibran Khan
The chief of the team investigating the death of the Catholic minister wants to close the case for lack of evidence. Islamabad police points the finger at the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The federal government plants to close Bhatti’s old ministry. Christian garbage collector is murdered by Muslim merchant.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic Minister for Minority Affairs, on 2 March in Islamabad, could go unpunished. Investigators are divided over the case with some in the Islamabad police pointing the fingers at the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In recent weeks, an attempt was made to shift the blame to “internal squabbles” among Christians. Meanwhile, the government has decided to abolish the Federal Ministry of Minority Affairs, shifting responsibilities to the provinces, this in a country where Christians continue to die from abusive behaviour and personal vendettas.

Joint Investigation Team Chief Tahir Alam said that the file should be closed for “lack of evidence”. After interrogating 519 suspects, including Mumtaz Qadri, who killed Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, Alam said that he had nothing to go on to find the culprits.

Likewise, Muhammad Hafiz Nazar was released by a judge. He had been recently arrested under suspicious circumstances—some observers suggesting that his detention was an attempt to divert attention from the case by hinting that Bhatti’s murder was somehow connected to “internal squabbles” in the Christian community.

Backed by the Interior Ministry, Islamabad Inspector General Police Bin Yameen insists that Bhatti’s murder leads to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. For him, Ilyas Kashmiri and his 3131 Brigade are to blame.

Kashmiri carried out various attacks against sensitive sites in the country, and may have died several weeks ago during a US drone attack.

“We have reasons to believe that the group carried out the operation” that led to the death of the Catholic minister, Nazar said.

Meanwhile, the federal government has announced its intention to abolish the Minority Affairs Ministry as part of a decentralisation plan that would see powers in this area transferred to the provinces.

For federal government leaders, this is an “historic step” to empower provinces. However, for many, it is also symptomatic of the climate of indifference and loss of control now prevailing in Pakistan, where Christians continue to die for the most futile and trivial motives.

The latest example dates to 21 June, when a Christian municipal sanitation worker in Lahore was stabbed to death by a Muslim merchant.

Muhammad Ilyas savagely attacked Abas Masih, a 40-year-old father of four, because the latter did not immediately heed his demand to clean the area outside his shop.

Initially, city authorities tried to prevent charges from being filed; however, pressured by local residents, police opened a first information report and arrested Muhammad Ilyas.
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