Pakistan: Catholic Minister Assassinated

Source: FSSPX News

Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister of Religious Minorities in Pakistan, was assassinated on March 2, 2011, “because he was a Christian, an infidel and a blasphemer”, can be read on the reclamation flyers of the assassins, the movement Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a federation of different Islamic organizations, known to be close to Al-Qaida.  This execution of an “infidel” by the Muslims is part of a “religious war that aims at eliminating those who wish to modify the law concerning blasphemy,” claim the assassins.  “By the grace of Allah, all those who are members of the Review Commission will go to hell.”  Member of the Pakistani Peoples Party, and a Catholic, Shahbaz Bhatti was named Minister of Religious Minorities in the government of First Minister Youssou Raza Gilani after the legislative elections of February 2008.

The law on blasphemy was promulgated in Pakistan in 1986 under the dictatorship of General Zia Ul Haq, who is largely responsible for the Islamization of the country in the 1980's.  This law punishes with prison for life the authors of a profanation of the Koran, and with the death penalty those who utter insults against Mahomet.

The only Catholic in the Pakistani government, Shahbaz Bhatti, was on his way to work in the capital, Islamabad, when armed men dragged him from his car, relates a police officer.  The assassination took place near a market in the capital.  The Minister of Minorities was dead when he arrived at the hospital Shifa and his chauffeur was seriously wounded, adds the hospital's spokesman Asmatullah Qureshi.

This is the second political official to be killed this year for having spoken against the law on blasphemy.  Already on January 4, Salman Taseer, Muslim governor of Punjab, the richest and most populated province of the country, had been killed by one of his bodyguards.  This new assassination should thus dissuade politicians from realizing any reform.

“This is a perfect and tragic example of the unbearable climate of intolerance that we are experiencing in Pakistan,” declared Bishop Lawrence Saldanha, archbishop of Lahore and president of the Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, to the agency Fides.  The assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the first Catholic to serve as Minister of Minorities of Pakistan, is “a new case of terribly seriously violence,” claimed Fr. Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See.  Shahbaz Bhatti had been received by Benedict XVI, on September 12, 2020, in Castel Gondolfo (Italy), to “testify to his commitment to a peaceful life in common between the religious communities of his country.”

Shahbaz Bhatti's seat in the National Assembly (the Pakistani parliament) was officially attributed, on March 7, 2011, to Javed Michael, a Catholic and official of the Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP), by the electoral Commission, reports the agency Fides.  Javed Michael, 50 years old and native of Karachi, known for having led contesting movements and protests in favor of religious minorities, was elected in the past to the provincial Assembly of Sindh.

On March 8, Bhatti's family (his mother, his four brothers and his sister) was received by the President of Pakistan, Ali Zardari.  This latter declared that Bhatti's sacrifice for the country, for the religious minorities, to promote inter-religious harmony and tolerance “will not be in vain” and “that it will be remembered for a very long time”.  The President also revealed that, at the request of the Pakistani Peoples Party, Paul Bhatti, Shahbaz' eldest brother, has been named the government's “special consultant” for religious minorities.

The surgeon Paul Bhatti has been living in Italy for six years.  Upon his return to Pakistan for his brother's funeral, on March 4, 2011, he has just been elected director of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), the network founded by Shahbaz Bhatti in 2002, for the defense of religious minorities.  The APMA's delegates esteem that he is “the right man to continue Shahbaz' mission”.  During these last few days, Ali Zardari expressed his personal desire to see the still vacant ministerial post occupied by a member of Shahbaz Bhatti's family. (Sources: apic/fides/imedia – DICI #232, March 19, 2011)

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