This is a major U-turn on prior attempts to re-write the official account of Shahbaz Bhatti’s death to make him the victim of a random crime, or even a dispute between Christians, rather than the target for assassination for criticizing the blasphemy law.
It is all the more exceptional considering the source, the interior minister, Rehman Malik, who has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the blasphemy law and an enemy of any and all speech that could at all be construed as “un-Islamic.” Honestly, it seems too good to be true that this would be the end of the shell game in the “investigation” of Bhatti’s death, but time will tell. If anyone deserves a break for once, it is Pakistan’s Christians, by far.
“Muslim terrorists killed Shahbaz Bhatti, interior minister says,” by Jibran Khan for Asia News, December 27:
Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Those who murdered Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, belong to Sipah-e-Sahaba, a Muslim terrorist organisation, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said during a Christmas event at Islamabad’s Fatima Church. In cooperation with Interpol, Pakistani authorities are making all possible efforts to bring them back to Pakistan after they fled to Dubai. Paul Bhatti, brother of the slain minister and national harmony advisor to the prime minister, praised the Interior minister’s statement. “Rehman Malik`s statement will bring an end to the rumours that have been surfacing regarding Shahbaz Bhatti`s murder,” he said.
Police sources in Islamabad said the two suspects, Zia-ur-Rehman and Malik Abid, are already in Pakistan. Some local newspapers claimed instead that the murder was due to a dispute among relatives over assets and properties.
During some pre-Christmas events, Paul Bhatti called on the Water Ministry not to cut power to Churches during the Christmas period in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal and Jehlum, to allow Christians to celebrate christmas [sic] according to tradition without hindrance or problems. The ministry had planned a number of blackouts to save energy.
In Rawalpindi, the national harmony adviser visited disabled children at the St Joseph’s Hospice, bringing gifts. “I want to carry on my brother’s mission to serve humanity in order to create an atmosphere of peace, love and stability in the country since I do not seek political status or monetary benefits”, Dr. Paul said.
This development, of course, does nothing about the blasphemy law. The final paragraph is included below because it could be enough to get an ordinary Pakistani Christian hauled in for blasphemy. After all, all Asia Bibi did was defend her faith.
“The core truth that makes Christmas such an extraordinarily special time is that God became a human being and, precisely because in the limitless vastness of his glory, he became one of us, his experience of our limitations has changed our experience of what it is to be human or better, has revealed what it is to be truly and fully human,” Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Rawalpindi-Islamabad, said in his christmas [sic] message. “Because God became human, we can embrace our humanity fully, in ourselves and others. Because God became human, we can love without fear and forgive without recompense Because in becoming human, God has shown us that love is possible, that it works.”