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Anniversary of Shahbaz Bhatti Goes Unrecognised in Pakistan due to Mourning for Islamic Hero Mumtaz Qadri


Bishop Richard Cheetham, Wilson Chowdhry and Shahbaz Bhatti

Today (2nd March 2015) marks the 5th anniversary of the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, a prominent political leader and a former federal minister in Pakistan (the only Christian ever) who was slain by assassins in Islamabad.

Despite Mr. Bhatti's huge ultimate sacrifice of his life for the people of Pakistan, it is his killers that will more likely receive praise by the majority of the country. Yesterday 30,000 people took the streets to condemn the choice of Pakistani Authorities to follow through on the death sentence laid on murderer Mumtaz Qadri (click here), who assassinated Salman Taseer a Muslim Governor of the Punjab 'for his vocal opposition of the blasphemy laws'. The world’s media is so focused on the erupting protests and violence in Pakistan have forgotten the special importance of today's date.

Shahbaz Bhatti was known for his tireless campaign to bring justice and equality into the lives of millions of Christians in Pakistan. He was a senior politician in the ruling party of the time Pakistan Peoples Party and often had to limit his openness on the cruel oppression of Pak-Christians due to the need to toe party lines. However, he eventually demonstrated his love for others through the sacrifice of his life, never giving up his convictions and clamour for change even in the face of mass death threats.

Bhatti was 42 when he died. On the day of his death he had just left his mother's home in a suburb of the capital when several gunmen surrounded his vehicle and indiscriminately perforated his vehicle with their bullets. Images of the bullet-ridden vehicle shocked the globe and brought to light the hardline approach to Islam pervading in Pakistan. This country has since been referred to as a nation that exports terrorism.

In a secret video that Shahbaz Bhatti filmed and asked to be released after his death, he said:

“I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of ‘cross’ and I follow Him to the cross. Pray for me and for my life.”

Shahbaz Bhatti founded and served as head of Christian Liberation Front, which he formed in 1985.

Bhatti was appointed as Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs on 2 November 2008, when, for the first time, the post was elevated to cabinet level and an independent ministry created. During his inauguration he explained that he accepted the post for the sake of the "oppressed, down-trodden and marginalized" of Pakistan, and that he would dedicate his life to the "struggle for human equality, social justice, religious freedom, and to uplift and empower religious minority communities." He also stated that he would dedicate his life to opposing the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan.

He also helped to found the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) in 2012 and was unanimously elected as its chairman.

Whilst in post as federal minister, Mr. Bhatti worked diligently to improve the lives of Minorities. Some of his achievements include:

  • launch of a national campaign to promote interfaith harmony,
  • proposal of legislation to ban hate speech and related literature
  • the proposed introduction of comparative religion as a curriculum subject
  • introduction of quotas for religious minorities in government posts reservation of four Senate seats for minorities.
  • Bhatti also spearheaded the organisation of a National Interfaith Consultation in July 2010, which brought together senior religious leaders of all faiths from across Pakistan and resulted in a joint declaration against terrorism.
To commemorate the life and sacrifice of Shahbaz Bhatti a memorial event will be held in the House of Commons under the banner of the All Parliamentary Party Group for Pakistani Minorities, presided over by MP Jim Shannon. Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association has been invited to speak for 10 minutes.

Wilson Chowdhry, said:

"I had the privilege of meeting Shahbaz Bhatti twice when he visited the UK. He was a warm compassionate man who had great love for people of all diversities. His faith in Christ was his bastion, a badge of honour he wore proudly despite the threats to his life. The legacy he leaves behind is increased global awareness of the persecuted Christian minority of Pakistan. This awareness I believe will one day result in a more egalitarian nation through the prayers and campaigning of a growing international support base."

He added:

"There can be no worse indictment on Pakistan then the current mass support for a known murderer Mumtaz Qadri, whilst heroes who have sacrificed their lives to improve the lives of all citizens have achieved an unjust pariah status. Britain and the US must ensure that the foreign aid money they are ploughing into Pakistan is utilised to remedy the ongoing minority disenfranchisement as a priority."

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