People mourn over the body (bottom right) of provincial lawmaker Handery Masih at a local hospital in Quetta, Balochistan, yesterday. Image Credit: AP

Quetta: A Christian lawmaker from Pakistan’s troubled southwestern Balochistan province was gunned down by his own bodyguard on Saturday as he tried to prevent him from shooting his nephew, police said.

Handery Masih, a provincial member of parliament for the governing National Party, was leaving his home in a suburb of Quetta when a policeman who had been his bodyguard for 13 years shot him, Akbar Hussain Durrani, a senior government official told AFP.

Abdul Razzaq Cheema, the city’s police chief, said: “The bodyguard had some personal dispute with Handery Masih’s nephew and both had a brawl outside the residence of the lawmaker.

“The bodyguard opened fire on the nephew as Masih came out of his home to stop him. He was hit in the neck and died on the way to hospital.”

Cheema added that the bodyguard was “loyal” and bore Masih no personal enmity.

Another police official in Quetta confirmed the killing and added: “Masih’s nephew was also wounded in the attack.”

It was the latest killing of a serving lawmaker in Pakistan.

Punjab province governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti — also a Christian — were assassinated within months of each other in 2011 for speaking out against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but least developed and most sparsely populated province, is racked by a separatist insurgency, Islamist militants, banditry and sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Christians make up some 300,000 of the province’s more than 6.6 million people but have rarely been targeted by attacks in the past, unlike in other regions of the country where attacks have risen over recent years.