‘Concerned’ Obama administration tried to protect Bhatti from extremists

March 4th, 2011 - 5:34 pm ICT by ANI  

Taliban Islamabad, Mar 4(ANI): The Obama administration had ‘tried in the weeks before the assassination’ of Pakistan Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti to secure an armoured car and beef up protection for him due to safety concerns, an American official has revealed.

During his last month’s visit to Washington, Bhatti had told the State Department that his opposition to Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws had brought a stream of death threats, The New York Times quoted Leonard A. Leo, the chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, as saying.

Bhatti, the only Christian in the cabinet, was worried that his life would be in danger if he were reappointed in a government reshuffle. After considerable political jockeying, Bhatti was included in the smaller cabinet that emerged in mid-February, and extremists warned they would kill him, Leo said in a telephonic interview.

The State Department’s effort to provide an armoured car to Bhatti became mired in bureaucratic detail and was hindered by strained relations between Pakistan and the United States caused by the arrest of double murder-accused Raymond Davis in Lahore, Leo added.

Bhatti’s premonition of his death at the hand of extremists came true on Wednesday, when he was shot in his car as he left his Islamabad home with his niece on his way to a cabinet meeting.

The responsibility of the attack was taken by Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan, a militant outfit that is believed to be behind a string of terrorist attacks in the country.

Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik blamed Bhatti’s lax attitude toward his own security for his death, an argument that contradicted Bhatti’s requests for more protection.

Malik, who also called the assassination a conspiracy, said the minister had been supplied with a 15-member security team, which included four Christians.

In an effort to distance the killing from the Interior Ministry- the government office that oversees internal security- Malik said the responsibility for providing an armored car for Bhatti lay with the cabinet division, part of Pakistan prime minister’s department. (ANI)

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