‘Shahbaz Bhatti murder led by Ilyas Kashmiri’



Islamabad: The assassination of Pakistan's Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was organised by al-Qaeda-linked militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri and the perpetrators of the crime are currently in Dubai, his brother Paul Bhatti has said.

"The investigations into the murder of my brother Shabhaz are finally on the right track, it is the work carried out by the Taliban and Islamic fanatics. Now we are waiting for the capture of the perpetrators of the crime, who are in Dubai," Paul said.

An inquiry commission set up by Interior Minister Rehman Malik had concluded following investigations that the murder was organized by al-Qaeda’s 313 Brigade, also known as the "ghost army" and led by militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri, he told Agenzia Fides, a Catholic news agency.

According to the commission's report, the 313 Brigade commissioned a Taliban commander from Punjab province, Asmatullah Mawaia, to eliminate Shahbaz.

The plan was then executed by elements of the Tehrik-e-Islami extremist group along with a faction of the Ghazi Force, Paul said.

The Interior Minister had "announced an international arrest warrant" for the perpetrators, said Paul, currently Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for religious minorities.

Shahbaz was gunned down near his residence in the heart of Islamabad on March 2 as he was driving to work.

He was the second senior leader of the ruling 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 313 Brigade is the military organization of al- Qaeda in Pakistan and has been blamed for numerous attacks.

It includes elements of the Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Harkat-ul- Jihad-al-Islami, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

The Ghazi Force was set up by followers of the clerics of the radical Lal Masjid in Islamabad.

Paul, the brother of Pakistan's assassinated Minority Affairs Minister, said, "After the sidetracking of the inquiry and attempts of reducing the charge of murder due to personal enmity, slinging mud at my brother, the truth is emerging."

He said he was convinced that his brother was killed "for his commitment to human rights, the rights of Christians, for the brave denunciation against the blasphemy law."

"Now the investigation proves us right. We are hoping for a rapid conclusion, with the capture of the perpetrators of the crime. It would be a good sign for the health of the state of law in Pakistan," said Paul.

He said he would honour the memory of his brother by continuing "his work and his mission, working for the protection of religious minorities throughout the country".

PTI