Bhatti case: Pak minister dissatisfied with probe

Pakistan`s interfaith harmony minister wants a judicial commission to probe the assassination.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s minority affairs minister has expressed his dissatisfaction at the probe into the assassination of federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti even as police told a parliamentary panel that they had not found any clues about the assassins.

Expressing dissatisfaction at the investigation, Interfaith Harmony Minister Akram Masih Gill said the ministry will ask Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to set up a judicial commission to probe the assassination.

Gill told reporters at Parliament House yesterday that his ministry intended to write a letter to the Prime Minister for the formation of a judicial commission to carry out a "proper and speedy investigation".

The minister was speaking after a meeting of Parliament`s standing committee on minority affairs, which too expressed concern over progress in investigations being carried out by a joint investigation team comprising police, Inter-Services Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau.

Though the standing committee did not declare "distrust in the investigation" being conducted by the joint investigation team, there was broader consensus among its members about the working of the team, The News daily quoted its sources as saying.

Gill openly showed his concern over the investigation and said a judicial commission would be the most appropriate forum to undertake the probe.

Islamabad Police officials told the standing committee that despite the passage of over three months since Bhatti`s assassination, no clues had been found about the killers.

The police officials briefed the committee, presided over by parliamentarian Mahesh Kumar Malani, about the investigation. SSP Tahir Alam told the committee that police arrested one Hafiz Nazer, who had given a relative of Bhatti some information about the killers.

Hafiz Nazer claimed two members of Lashker-e-Jhangvi, Hafiz Ziaur Rehman and Malik Abid, were linked to the killing, Alam said.

Rehman, who belongs to Faisalabad, left the country on April 01 on a PIA flight, Alam said.

The information given by Nazer was incorrect though he knew about the killers, the SSP said. Nazer is also known as John Alexander and was married to a Christian woman.

Days after his arrest, Nazer was acquitted and freed by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi last Friday. Police said they had investigated a man named Hameedullah, a resident of Miranshah, who used to visit Bhatti and had exchanged harsh words with the slain minister at their last meeting.

There was no record of Bhatti receiving any threatening call though he had received a threatening letter, police officials said.

Members of the committee expressed concern at the delay in completing the investigation. Police officials said they had interrogated a large number of suspects and members of religious parties but there was no concrete evidence against the killers.

Bhatti was gunned down near his residence in the heart of Islamabad on March 02 as he was driving to work.

He was the second senior leader of the Pakistan People`s Party to be assassinated for opposing the controversial blasphemy law.

Earlier in the year, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was killed by a police guard. The parliamentary panel said Bhatti`s assassination should be dealt with as a special case as it had earned disrespect for Pakistan.