NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The only Christian in Pakistan's government was assassinated March 2 after pushing for reform of harsh laws that mandate death for people who leave or "insult" Islam.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's minister for minorities, had declared he was prepared to die for his convictions after Salman Taseer, governor of the country's Punjab province, was killed Jan. 5 by a bodyguard who said he was angry that the politician opposed Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
Bhatti was on his way to work in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, when unidentified gunmen sprayed his car with bullets, according to news reports. A radical Islamic group associated with the Taliban terrorist movement reportedly claimed responsibility for the assassination in a note left at the scene.
Bhatti had been campaigning to reform the blasphemy laws, which had been in an international spotlight since a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, had been sentenced to death for "insulting" Islam.
Taseer, the Punjab governor, had publicly advocated a pardon for the woman, also called Asia Noreen in press reports, before he was murdered. In February, Bhatti acknowledged he was receiving death threats and told the London Telegraph newspaper he would not stop speaking out against the blasphemy law.
"I have been told by pro-Taliban religious extremists that if I will continue to speak against the blasphemy law, I will be beheaded," Bhatti reportedly said during a trip to Canada. "As a Christian, I believe Jesus is my strength. He has given me a power and wisdom and motivation to serve suffering humanity. I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe."
Bhatti knew he was "living on borrowed time," said the president of an international Christian organization focused on human rights.
"It is heartrending to receive this news but is unfortunately not unexpected," Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, said in a press statement. "The last time I was with Shabaz in 2010, I asked him about his security and if the Islamists were closing in. He had lived under the cloud of this eventuality for many years and he knew he was on borrowed time." Read More