“Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was the only senior Pakistani government official to attend.” The others didn’t want to be seen in any context that might suggest they oppose the blasphemy law. “Slain Cabinet Minister Is Buried in Pakistan,” by Jane Perlez and Waqar Gillani for the New York Times, March 4 (thanks to The Religion of Peace):
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan “” Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian cabinet minister who was assassinated this week, was honored Friday at a Roman Catholic service here attended by thousands and then buried in his impoverished village, a bastion for over 100 years for the rights of minorities.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was the only senior Pakistani government official to attend. There was a phalanx of foreign diplomats, including the American ambassador, Cameron P. Munter, who sat in a pew near Mr. Bhatti”s coffin.
Mr. Bhatti had served as the minister for minorities and dedicated his life to religious tolerance in this increasingly radicalized Muslim country. His killing on Wednesday underlined the anxieties among Western governments that extremists were using targeted killings as a way to move Pakistan toward an Islamic state and were doing so with impunity.
Mr. Bhatti”s assassination followed the killing in January of an even more prominent politician, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab. The men campaigned for the reform of draconian blasphemy laws that are often used to persecute minorities, particularly Christians. Mr. Taseer was killed by his government bodyguard, who was widely hailed in Pakistani society after he confessed.
Diplomats at Mr. Bhatti”s funeral at Our Lady of Fatima Church said they feared that the minister was killed on information provided by his government security detail. A branch of the Pakistani Taliban based in Punjab, where militants control many of the schools and mosques, claimed responsibility for the killing….
Another diplomat said that the government, which so far has proved unwilling or unable to take a strong stand against the killings, would try to offer compensation to Mr. Bhatti”s family and then close the case.
The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, which was founded on secular principles but is now under pressure from religious conservatives, announced recently that it opposed efforts to amend the blasphemy law.
But the dismay of Mr. Bhatti”s family and the angry atmosphere at the funeral, in Khush Pur in Punjab, indicated that Pakistan”s Christians “” about five million out of a total population of 180 million “” were unlikely to let the matter rest.
“We feel that Pakistan is our country, but it seems there is no government in the country, ever, which gave us shade and protected us and fully respected our rights,” said the Rev. Andrew Nisari, one of the Catholic clergymen at the burial. “Will we be living in this hostile, harassed and fearful environment forever?”…