Christians in Shock over Pakistani Minister's Murder

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Pakistani officials announced a national three-day mourning period for slain Minorities Minister Shabaz Bhatti, who was shot dead in his car on Monday morning as he traveled near the Islamabad market.

"Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has announced three days of official mourning for the late Shahbaz Bhatti, federal minister for minorities' affairs," a government statement read.

Bhatti, Pakistan's sole Christian minister, was on his way to a cabinet meeting when three or four gunmen opened fire on the car.

One eyewitness saw three gunmen begin firing at the car. Two opened the door and tried to pull him out, while a third opened fire with a Kalashnikov rifle, The Associated Press reported.

CBN News devoted the entire first segment of Christian World News, Friday, to analysis of the situation surrounding Bhatti's death.  Click play for comments from CBN News' George Thomas and Gary Lane, as well as Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute.  The trio discuss Pakistan's blasphemy laws, issues of religious freedom in the country, and the growth of Pakistan's church. 

Also, watch more analysis below from CBN News' Chris Mitchell, Gary Lane, George Thomas and Lahore University professor Asher Imtiaz.

Pakistani television showed the minister's bullet-ridden Toyota, its windows shattered.

"This is concerted campaign to slaughter every liberal, progressive and humanist voice in Pakistan," said President Asif Ali Zardari's aide, Farahnaz Ispahani, according to AP.

"The time has come for the federal government and provincial governments to speak out and to take a strong stand against these murderers to save the very essence of Pakistan," he said.

The attackers left signed Taliban pamphlets in the car, leading police to suspect the minister was killed for his stance against sharia's blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for speaking against Islam.

Bhatti is the second senior official to be murdered for challenging the blasphemy law. Two months ago, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, suffered a similar fate when his bodyguard killed him for opposing the law. Taseer died just a few miles away from where Bhatti was slain.

Both men had spoken out on behalf of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death in November allegedly for blaspheming the name of Islam's prophet Muhammad. Her plight has prompted appeals from around the world, including one from Pope Benedict XVI. The government has not intervened, saying it is waiting for the court's decision on her appeal.

Pakistani Christians, a small minority in the predominantly Muslim country, mourned Bhatti's loss.

"We have been orphaned today," said a Christian from Islamabad. "Now who will fight for our rights? Who will raise a voice for us? Who will help us?"

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