Shahbaz Bhatti, the minority affairs minister, is the second top official to be killed after opposing a blasphemy law.
The assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the country's minority affairs minister, underscored the reach of extremism in a Muslim, nuclear-armed country founded on the principles of minority inclusion, as well as the government's inability to protect its minorities.
Bhatti was an outspoken opponent of
Ali Dayan Hasan, South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, called Bhatti's slaying "a grave setback for the struggle for tolerance, pluralism and respect for human rights in
Bhatti was leaving for work when the midmorning attack took place. Witnesses and police said three or four gunmen in a white Suzuki car drove up and sprayed Bhatti's black sedan with bullets. The attack lasted several minutes, and witnesses said more than 50 shots were fired.
Before escaping, the gunmen scattered pamphlets on the wet pavement that stated Bhatti was assassinated because of his opposition to the country's blasphemy law. The pamphlets said the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda were responsible for the slaying.
The driver survived and rushed Bhatti to
Wajid Durrani, inspector general for
On Jan. 4, Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was assassinated in
Robinson Asghar, a close friend of Bhatti's, said Bhatti had repeatedly asked the federal government for a bulletproof car after the Taseer assassination, but was never given one. Asghar, whose office is across the street from Bhatti's house, rushed out of his building when he heard gunfire and found Bhatti slumped in the rear seat of the car, covered in blood.
"This is something our minority community never deserved," Asghar said. "This event today has brought shame upon the whole nation."