Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) – With special prayers in churches in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Khushpur and Sargodha and in many other places, Pakistan commemorated Shahbaz Bhatti on the 5th anniversary of his assassination by a terrorist on 2 March 2011. Pakistani politician and elected member of the National Assembly from 2008, he was the first Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs from November 2008 until his assassination in Islamabad. Bhatti, a Roman Catholic, was an outspoken critic of Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the only Christian in the Pakistan Cabinet. Today the press in Pakistan carries several editorials and commentaries recalling the dedication of the Catholic member of parliament, murdered for his defence of a Catholic mother Asia Bibi condemned to death for blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed.
The anniversary coincided with another event: the funeral of Mumtaz Qadri, who killed the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, shot dead like Bhatti.
Mohammad Sherani, head of the Islamic Ideology Council, a consultative body of the Pakistani government, declared: “I respect religious sentiments but I respect the Constitution of Pakistan and no one is above the law”. While the number of reports for blasphemy in the country is on the rise, in recent weeks Sherani has spoken of blasphemy laws being wrongly used, opening to possible preventative changes in the law.
In a message to Fides, Life for All Pakistani NGO says: “We are proud to call Shahbaz Bhatti a son of our land. He never gave up the cause of the poor. He had no time for luxury. He sacrificed his personal and family life to dedicate himself to his community. We will carry his mission forward”.
LEAD a similar organisation of which Christian lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill is head, on occasion of the anniversary of Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination calls for “justice for the murder”, for which a group called Tehrik-i-Taliban claimed responsibility. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 2/3/2016)