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Dr Paul Bhatti, the former Pakistani Minister of National Harmony and Minority Affairs, has received death threats from the Islamic militant groups believed to be responsible for the assassination of his brother, the politician Shahbaz Bhatti.
Dr Bhatti, a Catholic, received a letter warning him to drop the murder case against terrorist organisations Fidayaan-e-Mohammad, Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Pakistani press reported yesterday.
Other lawyers and eyewitnesses involved in the case have also received death threats, the charity Christian Soildarity Worldwide (CSW) reported today.
Dr Bhatti is currently in Italy fulfilling prior travel arrangements but is due to return to Pakistan, contrary to reports yesterday that he had fled. He told CSW: "I have a huge community there, and I cannot leave them this way."
Paul’s younger brother Shahbaz was assassinated in March 2011. He was country’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs and at the time the only Christian in the Pakistani cabinet.
Shahbaz had frequently spoken out against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and in support of Pakistani Christians, in particular for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010.
The charity’s South Asia Team Leader David Griffiths said: "There is a clear threat of vigilante justice here, and the Government of Pakistan must act swiftly to provide protection for all those under threat, and ensure that the law is able to take its course. Shahbaz Bhatti was murdered at a time when he had no protection at all, and the threat posed by Islamist militants is real and severe. We therefore urge the Pakistani government to act now to avert any more tragedies, and ensure that the rule of law is upheld."
Above: Pope listens as Pakistan's minister for minorities speaks during Pentecost prayer vigil at Vatican Photo: CNS