Pakistanis bury slain minister; warn of extremism

Slain Pakistani minister Shahbaz Bhatti was buried in his hometown in Punjab province.

Updated: Mar 05, 2011, 10:31 AM IST

Islamabad: Slain Pakistani minister
Shahbaz Bhatti was on Saturday buried in his hometown in Punjab
province after a memorial in a Roman Catholic Church in the
federal capital that was attended by Prime Minister Yousuf
Raza Gilani and top politicians.

Over 10,000 people attended the funeral at Khushpur
village in Faisalabad district, including Bhatti`s four
brothers and other members of his family and priests of
several churches.

Black flags fluttered on houses and people gathered on
roofs as the coffin bearing Bhatti`s body was driven to a
church for a memorial service.

Many women broke down and wept while others in
Khushpur, a predominantly Christian village, shouted slogans
and hailed Bhatti as a martyr.

They demanded that the government should punish the
killers of Bhatti, who was lauded for the development projects
he had started in the area.

Bhatti, 42, was assassinated by militants a short
distance from his home in Islamabad on Wednesday.

The banned Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility
for the killing, saying he was assassination for challenging
the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

Prime Minister Gilani was among hundreds of mourners
who attended the memorial service at the heavily guarded
Fatima Church in Islamabad.

"I consider this day as a black day. All the
minorities have lost a great leader. I assure you, we will try
our utmost to bring the culprits to justice," Gilani said
while speaking at the service.

"I always remember him (Bhatti). He was an ambassador
of Pakistan and he (did a lot) for the rights of minorities,
he fought for the rights of minorities," he said.

Peter Bhatti, one of the brothers of the slain
minister, said: "We will take forward the cause of Shaheed
Shahbaz Bhatti till the last member of our family is alive."
A large number of Christians who gathered outside the
church offered prayers for Bhatti and condemned his
assassination.

They asked Christians to protest peacefully and
demanded that the government should conduct a speedy probe
into the incident and punish his killers.

Apart from Bhatti`s family, the memorial service was
attended by several federal ministers, parliamentarians,
foreign envoys, including the US Ambassador and British High
Commissioner, and leading members of the minority Christian
community.

Bhatti`s body was then flown in a helicopter to his
native village of Khushpur, 290 km south of Islamabad.

Many Muslims attended the memorial service and funeral
at the village.

Announcements made on loudspeakers asked the thousands
of people who had gathered for the funeral to be careful about
possible terror attacks.

Several mourners carried large posters of Bhatti while
others had banners with slogans like: "Shahbaz Bhatti`s blood
will lead to revolution."

People organized protests and the demanded the arrest
of Bhatti’s killers.

The protestors, including dozens of women, marched in
procession in Khushpur and Faisalabad. Protests against the
assassination were organised for the second day today in
Faisalabad, Sargodha, Multan and Hyderabad.

During a debate on Bhatti`s assassination in the
National Assembly or lower house of parliament, Jamshed Dasti,
a lawmaker of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, joined the
opposition in criticising the functioning of Interior Minister
Rehman Malik.

Dasti said if he had been the Interior Minister, he
would have quit after the assassination.

Any politician would have quit the post after such an
incident, he said.

PTI