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article imagePakistan's Minorities Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, shot dead

By Leo Reyes     Mar 2, 2011 in Politics
Pakistan's Minorities Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti has died of gunshot wounds after a group of armed men sprayed bullets on his car in a residential area of Islamabad.
"Three or four armed men riding in a white Suzuki car intercepted his official vehicle," city police chief Wajid Durrani told reporters.
"The attackers were clad in shawls and fired bursts on him, and he died," Durrani said. The minister's driver was wounded.
Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, had been a vocal opponent of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law. His death comes two months after the governor of Punjab province, who also campaigned against the law, was assassinated.
The blasphemy law holds a death sentence for anyone who insults Islam. Critics say it has been used to persecute minority faiths
Mr Bhatti, 42, a leader of the ruling Pakistan's People Party (PPP), had just left his home in the I-8/3 area of the capital when at least two gunmen ambushed his car, police official Mohammad Iqbal said
Before his death, Bhatti said he has been threatened by Islamist militants for his efforts in reforming the blasphemy law in the country.
"I was told that if I was to continue the campaign against the blasphemy law, I will be assassinated. I will be beheaded. But forces of violence, forces of extremism cannot harass me, cannot threaten me," he said.
The anti-blasphemy law has been in the spotlight since November when a court sentenced a Christian mother of four to death, in a case that has exposed deep rifts in the troubled Muslim nation of more than 170 million people, Reuters reports.
The assailants have not been identified but police theorized Bhatti's death may have something to do with his campaign to reform the law.
Police said Bhatti is provided with government security but no one was present during the attack. The minister's driver was wounded.
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