10th October, 2012
An evangelical Pakistani pastor was recovering from his injuries this week after he was shot by suspected Islamic militants who oppose his Christian activities, an advocacy group said.
Pastor Babar Bhatti of the Presbyterian Church in the eastern city of Faisalabad was attacked by two "Muslim extremists" on 30th September following death threats from banned Islamic organisations "because he is working among non-believers," said the Pakistan-based World Vision In Progress organisation (WVIP).
"Two bullets hit his left leg...whereas one just touched the leg, piercing the flesh of the leg," the group explained. Medics and police reportedly took Pastor Babar to nearby Allied Hospital, where doctors took one bullet out. Surgeons planned another operation for the other bullet, deeper in his leg, WVIP said.
A photo obtained by BosNewsLife showed the pastor clearly injured in hospital.
The attack allegedly happened after a church service and dinner, when Pastor Babar Bhatti went walking with a youth member of the church. Police reportedly detained one suspect, publicly identified as Nabeel Hussain, but another unidentified attacker remains at large.
WVIP complained however that police was showing "negligence and a biased attitude" towards the pastor.
The attack came two years after a local Muslim clerk allegedly tried but failed to launch legal procedures against the pastor on charges of blasphemy against Islam.
Rights groups have complained that Pakistan's blasphemy laws have been misused to settle personal disputes and to make evangelism more difficult.
Militant Muslims have made clear they support the blasphemy laws. Last year, Punjab province governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by his bodyguard for suggesting the law be reformed. Taseer had been defending a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was jailed on blasphemy charges. She is still in jail on death row.
Two months after Taseer's murder, Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, was killed by the Taliban for demanding changes to the law.
In 2009, 40 houses and a church were set ablaze by a mob of 1,000 Muslims in the town of Gojra, in Punjab province and at least seven Christians were burnt to death. The attacks were triggered by reports of the desecration of the Koran.
Critics of Pakistan's leaders say they are too worried about an extremist backlash to speak out against the law in the heavily Islamic nation.