Paul Bhatti’s hard work to bring justice for his brother, Shahbaz Bhatti could be let down by the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi extremist organizations.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs was killed on March 2, 2011, two months after Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, a Muslim, was executed. Militants targeted both men for their denigration of the country’s blasphemy laws and their defense of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy charges.
Extremist groups are demanding that the Government of Pakistan to liberate the four suspects in Bhatti’s murder as a prerequisite for peace talks.
Paul Bhatti comes forward as the complainant in the case when the government’s trials slowed to become idle.”I’ve been constantly threatened to withdraw the case, and just recently I received a letter from the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi warning me to stop trails of the case or else they will kill me,”
Riaz Gondal, the inquiry officer in the case, acknowledge that the suspects and their militant advocates cause a serious threat to the Shahbaz’s brother. “Indeed it is a serious matter — perhaps this is why [Paul Bhatti’s legal counsel] hadn’t been pursuing the case,” Gondal said, noting that Bhatti’s absence from hearings and reduced contact with investigators would damage prosecution. “We did our job and arrested the accused. It’s now up to the court to punish them. But if the complainant does not show up at the hearings, there’s little hope for the killers to be convicted.”
Bhatti, who left a medical practice in Italy to return to Pakistan after his brother’s murder, was named Minister for National Harmony and Minority Affairs, appointed to replace his brother. He also was selected as chairman of his brother’s party, the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance. When the public prosecutor assigned by the Punjab government refused to pursue the murder case in anti-terrorism court, he said, “I then hired a lawyer on my own although it was the responsibility of the Punjab government.”
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is trying to peace talks with the Taliban, and most political analysts believe the government might free some Taliban prisoners as a confidence-building measure with them.
Bhatti said it is the government’s responsibility to keep the slayer of a sitting cabinet minister from walking free. “The men themselves confessed to killing my brother,” Bhatti said. It also has been reported that two of the suspects confessed to killing Bhatti and named two partner in crime who were in custody shortly afterwards.
“It would be very unjust if the Government submits to the Taliban demand,” Paul Bhatti
Well-known human rights activist Asma Jahangir said the Taliban have killed thousands of innocent people and members of security forces in recent years. “How can the government even think of negotiating with such barbarians? The government must not accept the Taliban’s demand for release of hard-core militants, as the peace talks may turn out to be a Taliban ploy to get their friends released from prisons.”
Bhatti, saying he does not plan to stay put in Italy, noted, “I know we are potential targets, but we will not give up. Those threatening us are the same people who are responsible for the murders of my brother and countless other innocent people in Pakistan.”