Some 300 people attend funeral of Christian “blasphemer” who died in prison, prayers for Bhatti
The funeral of Qamar David, killed by heart attack according to the authorities but poisoned according to the family, was held at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Lahore. Mgr Sebastian Shaw, auxiliary bishop, and Fr Emmanuel Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church celebrated the memorial service before a congregation of more than 300 people, including priests, relatives and human rights activists. At the end of the service, David was laid to rest in one of the city’s cemetery.
Fr Andrew Nisari, vicar general of Lahore, highlighted “The shock and sadness of the Christian community, mourning once again a victim of blasphemy”. For him, Pakistani Christians now “have another martyr”, so soon after the wound inflicted by the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti. The authorities, he said, should “guarantee protection to religious minorities”.
Qamar David’s lawyer reiterated that the charges that led to the conviction of the 55-year-old were “specious”, due to “business rivalries” and his conviction “was the result of pressures from religious leaders and their supporters”.
In the meantime, prayers and Masses have been held for Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic and Minority Affairs minister, who was assassinated by gunmen on 3 March. The All Pakistan Minority Alliance (APMA) held a service in Quetta, as well as the dioceses of Karachi and Baluchistan, in the presence of many civil society leaders.
The Christian Khidmat Tehreek handed out flyers calling on politicians and mass media to describe Bhatti as a “shaheed”, a martyr. The Anglican Church as well as members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) also held Masses and said prayers in Punjab and Sindh in tribute to Bhatti’s selflessness in politics.
However, the investigation into his death continues to be marred in contradictions and omissions. Police had initially tried to pin the murder on personal enemies, but Catholic leaders immediately rejected the claim, calling it a diversion. More recently, police announced that it had arrested someone in connection with the murder, but few details have emerged so far. Nevertheless, police stated that they would soon have startling news.
Despite such claims, the whole process is full of contradictions. At a press conference yesterday where the arrest of a man involved in the murder was announced, Inspector General Wajid Durrani stated, on the issue of Bhatti’s security, that the minister’s home “in the I-8/3 [sector] was not a secret because he often took his security detail with him there.” Yet, on 3 March, the day after the assassination, the chief investigator had said, “no one among the security officials knew about his residence”.
For many concerned Christians, such contradictions, omissions and cover-ups are just a way to protect the real culprits. Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, shares their fears. Announcing a memorial service for Bhatti this Sunday, the prelate noted “that the murder investigation has raised serious concerns” as police and the Interior Ministry try to pass the buck to avoid taking responsibility for the minister’s death and the failure to arrest the culprits.
“The statements issued at the time of the murder contradict the statements that have been given now. This raises more concerns about the Bhatti’s case, suggesting that it might end up unsolved, like other high profile murders,” the bishop said. More importantly, “We are concerned about the safety of the minorities in Pakistan.”