Killing linked to blasphemy issue that claimed life of Taseer

Pakistan's Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was gunned down near his residence here on Wednesday morning.

The assassination is being linked to the blasphemy issue that consumed the life of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in the federal capital itself just two months ago as Mr. Bhatti advocated changes in the blasphemy law.

Pamphlets of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan were found at the site of the assassination in the I-8/3 residential area. They referred to the blasphemy issue, lending further credence to the belief that the Minister — a Christian by faith — was assassinated for supporting the amendments to the blasphemy law proposed by Pakistan People's Party legislator Sherry Rehman.

Mr. Bhatti himself had voiced fears for his life, stating that threats had increased ever since Taseer's assassination.

The Minister was on his way to a Cabinet meeting when his car was intercepted by a vehicle and the assailants opened fire. Initial reports suggested that the driver was pulled out of the car before the Minister was fired upon. However, Inspector-General of the Islamabad Police Wajid Durrani quoted the driver as saying that three assailants first aimed at him before pumping bullets into Mr. Bhatti.

At the time of the incident, Mr. Bhatti had no security cover. Though he was assigned two escort vehicles — one manned by the police and the other by the Frontier Constabulary — Mr. Durrani claimed they were told to wait for Mr. Bhatti at his office.

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