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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

If it looks like a snake ..... it must be an eagle!

Shabbaz Bhatti

The old saying goes : 'If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck.... then it sure aint a sparrow!'
In Pakistan, by the looks of the increasingly farcical police investigation into the assassination of Shabbaz Bhatti of blessed memory, it might better be phrased 'If it looks like a snake, slithers like a snake, hisses like a snake.... then it must be an eagle!'.
When Bhatti was assassinated by killers wielding Khalashnikovs, the scene was littered with pamphlets by terrorist groups al-Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab, and the latter immediately claimed responsibility, telling the BBC Urdu service that '"This man was a known blasphemer of the Prophet, We will continue to target all those who speak against the law which punishes those who insult the prophet. Their fate will be the same". Minister Bhatti had in the preceeding months received many death threats from Islamicist groups.

The text of one of the pamphlets left at the murder scene

Now, suddenly, the police are blaming his death on a mysterious 'family vendetta' over property feuds, where un-named family members are said to have fled the country after his death, and some have converted to Islam, allegedly. The police plan to go to Interpol to get warrants for their arrest, but have not because they seem to lack 'definitive proof'.

The text of an article from Ecumenical News International follows :

Pakistani police claim Bhatti murder due to family dispute, story says


By Anto Akkara

Bangalore, India (ENInews)--Police investigators in Pakistan are developing a theory that the murder of Pakistani religious affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti was due to a "family dispute," not religious extremism, according to a story on 9 August in the Express Tribune English daily newspaper.

Quoting an unidentified official associated with the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the assassination, the Tribune said"Shahbaz's murder is said to be linked to a 'chronic rivalry' with relatives who lived in Faisalabad five years ago."
Bhatti, 42, was a Roman Catholic and vigorously campaigned forminority religious rights in Pakistan, which is 95 percent Muslim. He had criticized the country's blasphemy law, which makes it a capitalcrime to insult Islam, before he was ambushed and sprayed with bullets on 2 March as he was leaving for his office in Islamabad. Groups claiming ties with the Islamic Taliban and al-Qaida later claimed responsibility for the murder.
Christian groups criticized the police investigation, based on the news reports. "This is just another cover up. They want to show that Shahbaz was not killed by religious extremists," Victor Azariah,general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan (NCCP), told ENI news on 12 August from his office in Lahore.
According to the Tribune story, a member of the JIT team claims that two or three of the murderers converted to Islam and fled Pakistan.The report also quoted the official as saying that while names of the culprits have not been identified yet, "we will approach Interpol for their arrest."
Azariah said there is now no confidence in the Bhatti probe. "Nothing is going to happen with this investigation. The people have lost faithin the process," he said. The NCCP groups the country's four mainline Protestant churches. "The investigators seem to ignore even the claimof an Islamic party owning up to the murder," he added.
Cecil Choudhary, executive secretary of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), co-founded by Bhatti, told ENInews that the news represented "an extremely alarming twist" in the investigation. "It has deliberately been taken onto another track in order to clear the Islamic extremists, who categorically claimed responsibility for the murder," he said. APMA plans to organize street protests to demand a judicial enquiry into the assassination. "We want the truth to come out," he said.
Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Justice and Commission of theCatholic church, told ENI news that the "family feud" theory is unfounded. "Bhatti is my third cousin and I know him from childhood.We have the same relatives. The allegation of family and property feudis only to defame a bold champion of minority rights," he said.
The Express Tribune, based in Karachi, Pakistan, is published incollaboration with the International Herald Tribune.

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.
Ecumenical News International, PO Box 2100CH - 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
The original Express Tribune article, if you wish to read it in full, is here.

The bloodied martyrdom site

For a recap on the police 'investigation', after a long silence, with no arrests of anyone, and with the memory of the terrorists group's responsibility fading, in June, the police arrested one of Bhatti's former employees. Mysterious letters were sent to a lawyer associated with Bhatti's APMA (All Pakistani Minorities alliance) group alleging the man, who had worked with the minister for 10 years, was involved in the assassination and had nursed a grudge against Bhatti. The lawyer passed the letters to the police, which led to the arrest. But as stated at the time, church leaders expressed considerable surprise and scepticism.

After questioning by police, the suspect, Hafiz Nazar Muhammad, was released by the courts, denying the police request to detain him for another week for questioning. A week or so later, Bhatti's brother Paul, was expressing gratitude that the investigations were 'back on track', with the Interior ministry set to issue international arrest warrants for the perpetrators who were said to be in Dubai, and from al-Qaeda related groups.

But now, 5 or so weeks later, the same lawyer who received the mysterious letters is fighting against these latest allegations that it was a family feud, confirming that the prime suspects should be the terrorists who claimed responsibility. As this article says, the lack of names or any information about the alleged murderers means that 'there is strong suspicion that such rumours are a pretext to divert attention away from the real culprits. ' The lawyer, Tahir Naveed, the article goes on, says that 'newspapers are trying to mislead the public by dismissing “Shabhaz’s martyrdom” as the result of a domestic quarrel. This way, one part of the country can simply forget about the minister, his battles against the blasphemy law and his defence of Asia Bibi and all those who were victims of violence and abuses because of their faith.'
The lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhary

Evidently strong forces are at work repeatedly trying to bring about a miscarriage of justice and divert attention from the real murderers and the unjust blasphemy laws associated with the case. The repeated police flip-flopping seems to suggest that there is a power struggle going on around the case.

Could a clue perhaps be found, as one commentator at the time of the assassination observed, in the fact that the murder of this minister happened in a sector that ''also ‘happens to be’ the ISI officers’ residential colony"? After all, elements (at least) within the ISI have a long history of supporting the Taliban and related groups. And wasn't Bin Laden found slap bang in the middle of a top army officer residential area? Draw your own conclusions.

Disregarding these shadowy periphery issues, the fact is that there is a concerted effort, in typical Sharia mind-set fashion, to pin the blame on the victim community, enforce a miscarriage of justice, and divert attention from the Sharia-snakes who perpetrated the attack. It remains to be seen if the new spin (and that's an understatement!) will resonate with the nation, but the fact that newspapers saw fit to publish these dubious 'results' prima facie, without much if any comment on their tenuousness and vagueness does not exactly inspire confidence in that regard.

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