Minister murdered in Pakistan
THE Pope has condemned the killing of a Catholic Pakistani government minister who had said he was the top target for Islamist hard-liners.
The assailants shot at least 25 bullets into the car of minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti in Islamabad.
Bhatti was dead on arrival at Islamabad’s Shifa hospital and a doctor said his body was riddled with at least eight bullets.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani gave condolences to Bhatti’s family.
‘‘ Such acts will not deter the government’s resolve to fight terrorism and extremism,’’ he said, pledging that the killers would be punished.
The Vatican condemned the assassination as ‘‘ unspeakable’’ and argued it underlined the ‘‘ dramatic urgency of the defence of religious freedom and Christians’’ in Pakistan.
No group has claimed responsibility, but Pakistan TV showed pamphlets at the scene that were attributed to the Pakistani Taliban warning of the same fate for anyone opposing the blasphemy laws.
Pakistan’s law against blaspheming Islam carries the death penalty.