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  • » 02/21/2012, 00.00


    Police in Rawalpindi clears Abid Malik of charges in the Bhatti murder case

    Jibran Khan

    After issuing an international warrant that led to his arrest in the United Arab Emirates, police decides there is a "lack of evidence" against the Malik, who should be released shortly. The other suspect, Zia ur-Rehman, is still at large. For Islamabad bishop, the police is using "delaying tactics". For him, "justice delayed is justice denied."

    Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Abid Malik, one of the two suspects in the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, was cleared of the charges laid against him and is expected to be released shortly. In today's hearing before the Anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, police said they had no evidence of his guilt. He had been arrested on request of Pakistani authorities a few days ago in the United Arab Emirates with the help of Interpol and then repatriated to stand trial. The other suspect, Zia-ur-Rehman, is still at large. For Catholic leaders, it is increasingly clear that investigators are trying to delay things and do not intend to punish the authors of the crime.

    The assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's Minority Affairs minister and a Catholic, is still shrouded in mystery. He was shot 30 times on 2 March 2011 in Islamabad. Muslim fundamentalist groups are suspected because they had threatened his life in the past for his fight against the country's blasphemy legislation.

    Since the murder, several attempts have been made to mislead the investigation, with suggestions that Bhatti was killed in a personal vendetta or a family feud, not in connection with his political activity, something that Catholic leaders have always denounced (see Jibran Khan, "Assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti: new falsehoods from the police," in AsiaNews, 17 July 2011, and "Smoke screen and false news to hide Shahbaz Bhatti's assassins," in AsiaNews, 9 August 2011).

    In today's court hearing, police said that, following Malik's interrogation, no evidence emerged about his responsibility. He was not involved in the murder, a charge he always denied, and should be released shortly. Others previously held in connection with the case were equally freed.

    The two suspects, Zia-ur-Rehman and Abid Malik, are thought to be former Faisalabad Christian converts to Islam who had a monetary dispute with the Bhatti family.

    Hafiz Nazar, a former Protestant clergyman, had accused them. He was detained after his phone was wiretapped and he was heard talking about their "involvement". However, during his interrogation, Nazar turned out to be "mentally unstable" and not a reliable witness.

    Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad and a personal friend to Shahbaz, said, "This is another delaying tactic". In the end, "Justice delayed is justice denied".

    For the prelate, the police are to blame. They are just toying with people, spreading rumours and arresting people in order to show that they are not involved.

    "We demand the arrest of the real culprits," the bishop said. Instead, the "Police is letting Malik off the hook."

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    See also

    05/05/2011 PAKISTAN
    Long-term “surgical intervention” needed in Pakistan, Paul Bhatti says
    Special advisor talks to AsiaNews about his first weeks working with the ministry of his slain brother. Interfaith meetings and education to promote confessional coexistence are his goals. As Minority Affairs minister, the government appoints a Muslim who says, he has “strong ties” with minorities, and pledges to work for everyone’s security.

    18/08/2011 PAKISTAN
    Islamabad: no civil award for “martyr” Shahbaz Bhatti
    President Zardari releases a list of 185 officials recipient of civil awards but the name of the slain Catholic minister is not on it, that of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer is. For the bishop of Islamabad, the omission is “surprising” given the fact that Bhatti “gave his life” for the country’s minorities.

    09/08/2011 PAKISTAN
    Smoke screen and false news to hide Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassins
    For a Catholic lawyer and politician, the media are misleading the public. Closely monitoring the investigation into the murder of the Minority Affairs minister, he rejects the family dispute claim, insisting instead on the initial focus, namely “death squads” close to Islamic extremism. On Thursday, Minorities Day, Masses and prayers will be held for Bhatti in Pakistan and around the world.

    23/06/2011 PAKISTAN
    Doubts and surprise among Christians over the first arrest in the Shahbaz Bhatti murder case
    After a long period of silence, it is “odd” that the one person who is arrested is an employee of the slain minister who worked for him for ten years, the bishop of Islamabad noted. A Catholic activist finds the direction of the investigation “surprising” and full of oddities. The job of the minister’s brother Paul is at risk, but for the latter it is “premature” to say anything about the probe, urging everyone to wait for the end of the interrogations.

    21/11/2011 PAKISTAN
    Faisalabad: accused of blasphemy, woman freed thanks to help from Christians and Muslims
    Catholic priest expresses gratitude to Muslim community for conducting “an in-depth investigation” before condemning the Christian woman. He hopes that “a culture of peace and religious harmony” will always prevail. The accused in the case after was charged under the black law over a legal dispute.

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