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HYDERABAD, Feb 3: Demonstrations were held in some districts of Sindh on Thursday in protest against the murder of federal minister for minorities' affairs Shahbaz Bhatti. Processions were taken out and rallies were held to condemn the incident.

In Hyderabad, Christians and civil society held separate protest demonstrations outside the press club.

A large number of Christian community members, including women, led by Father Daniel Fiaz, senior vicar of the Church of Pakistan, Hyderabad, and Father Samson Sakardin, vicar-general of Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad held a demonstration outside the press club. They described the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti as a national tragedy.

They said that the Christian community worked for the welfare of people and development of the country. They said that it was not an isolated incident; such incidents had also occurred in the past but preventive measures were not taken.

They appealed to the government and international community to adopt strict measures to check such incidents to restore the confidence of Christians because they were feeling insecure.

They also appealed to the president, prime minister and chief justice of Pakistan and the chief of the Army Staff to arrest the murderers of Shahbaz Bhatti and award exemplary punishment to them.

They demanded that supremacy of law should be restored and practical steps should be taken to ensure equal rights to minorities. CIVIL SOCIETY:

A large number of civil society members staged a protest march from the press club to the district and session courts under the banner of “Movement for Peace and Tolerance” to condemn the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti.

Zulfiqar Shah, Punhal Sario, Suleman Abro, Zulfiqar Halepoto, Amar Sindhu, Mustafa Baloch and other leaders led the protest march.

In his speech, Punhal Sario said that the peace of the country had been destroyed because fundamentalism was being strengthened and the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi had been converted into a slaughterhouse. He said that whoever raised voice against terrorism and barbarism was eliminated.

Mustafa Baloch stressed the need for spreading the message of Sufis to fight fundamentalism.

Advocate Hussain Bux Thebo stressed the need for unity among peace-loving people.

Leader of the Women Action Forum Amar Sindhu said that the state had miserably failed to restore the supremacy of law in the country.

SUP leader Dr Dodo Mehri called upon all the political and social welfare organisations to launch an organised movement against extremism.

Zulfiqar Shah said that killings had become a routine in Pakistan and even governors and ministers were not safe. Suleman Abro also spoke on the occasion.

Activists of “We Journalists” led by Jafar Memon participated in the rally.

Coordinator of Special Task Force for Sindh, HRCP, Dr Ashuthama in a separate statement has condemned the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti and demanded arrest of the murderers.

Awami Jamhoori Party leaders Abrar Kazi, Noor Nabi Rahujo and Karam Hussain Wassan condemned the murder at a meeting of the party held on Thursday.

Awami Tahreek president Ayaz Latif Palijo has also condemned the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti. Our Nawabshah correspondent adds:

Members of the Christian community held a demonstration outside the press club against the assassination.

Their leaders Iqbal Masih and Yousuf Masih said that the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti was a conspiracy against the country because enemies wanted to weaken Pakistan through such shameful acts.

They also demanded security for the Christian community.

Meanwhile, all the Christian school remained closed on Thursday in Sindh and special prayers were held in the churches for Shahbaz Bhatti. Our Mirpurkhas correspondent adds:

On the call of the Catholic Bishop Council Pakistan, Christian missionary institutions remained closed in mourning to protest against the killing.

The Christian community announced three days mourning.

Spokesman for Saint Teresa Hospital Naeem Chughtai termed the murder of the minister a big loss for the country and demanded immediate arrest of the culprits.

Meanwhile, activists of an NGO led by Asghar Narejo, Kanji Bheel advocate and Sarwan Kumar took out a procession from the railway station chowk and marched on main roads.

They condemned the murder of federal minister and termed it a conspiracy to damage the country.

They said that it appeared as if religious extremism had taken over the country.