Pak minister blames militants for attacks on Christians

The Taliban and Al Qaeda militant groups are partly to be blamed for recent violent attacks on Christians in Pakistan, visiting Pakistani Minority Rights Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who is a Catholic, told reporters here.

Updated: Sep 15, 2010, 14:39 PM IST

Rome: The Taliban and Al Qaeda militant groups are partly to be blamed for recent violent attacks on Christians in Pakistan, visiting Pakistani Minority Rights Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who is a Catholic, told reporters here.

"The responsibility for violence against ethnic and religious minorities is connected to independence movements and foreign terrorist groups like the Taliban," Bhatti said Tuesday.

"These are groups that are trying to destroy the domestic balance" of Pakistan.

Two people, including a policeman, were injured last Sunday in a bomb blast at a Christian church near Mardan in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Two Christian brothers accused of writing a blasphemous pamphlet critical of the Prophet Mohammed were shot dead in July outside a court in eastern Pakistan.

In August 2009, eight Christians were burned alive after being accused of blasphemy.

Sectarian assaults have especially targeted Pakistan`s minority Shia Muslims. Earlier this month, more than 70 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a Shia rally in the western city of Quetta.
Of the 95 percent of Pakistanis that are Muslim, 75 percent are Sunni and 20 percent Shia, according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book.

The remaining five percent are mainly Christians and Hindus.

Bhatti has been in Rome meeting with Italian government officials about aid to Pakistan in the wake of devastating floods that killed at least 1,800 people and affected another 21 million.
Following a meeting with Bhatti, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini Monday announced that his government would present a resolution to the UN that protects the rights of Pakistan`s religious minorities.

IANS