“I haven’t run away. I will be in Pakistan for the anniversary of the death of my brother Shahbaz”: Paul Bhatti
Ever since Paul Bhatti decided to carry on the work of his brother Shahbaz, the Minorities’ Minister assassinated on 2 March 2011, he has received many “threats”, but he has never thought of abandoning the Christians of Pakistan. “To run away now would mean an end to the mission of Shahbaz – a cause to which he dedicated his entire life and for which he was killed. Moreover, it would mean leaving my country, which I love dearly.” Following the “martyrdom” of his brother, Paul decided to leave Italy, where he had been living for some years, in order to carry on the legacy of the murdered Minorities’ Minister.
“I have not run away at all. I love my country and I will be in Pakistan for the third anniversary of the death of my brother.” The words are those of Paul Bhatti, in a recent interview he denies the newspaper allegations that claim he is in Italy because of the recent threats against his life.
As Special Adviser for the Religious Minorities to the Pakistani prime minister and president of the All Pakistan Minorities’ Alliance, he is currently in Italy in fulfillment of certain undertakings agreed previously and will be returning to Pakistan next week. However, since last Saturday some Pakistani tabloids have been claiming that he has sought refuge in Pakistan for fear of possible attacks on his life. “It is true that I have received threats”, he explained “But this is nothing new. These attempts at intimidation will not prevent me from continuing my work.”
In a few days’ time Paul will be returning to Pakistan, where he will be participating in a number of different events in memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, organized to mark the third anniversary of his death, and where he will also continue his own work in defense of the religious minorities. It is a task that last year brought about the acquittal of Rimsha Masih, the 14-year-old mentally retarded girl accused of blasphemy. Paul attributed this victory to the invaluable work of his brother. “I am continuing his mission, which he created, and helping it to grow. And if we achieve results, then the success is his alone.”
Paul Bhatti is not afraid for his own life, but if anything he is more concerned for that of his family members. For the threats were directed against his family too. Following the assassination of Shahbaz, one of his sisters and their mother Marta were forced to take refuge in Canada, where his brother Peter had already been living for some time. But another of his brothers, Sikandar, is still living in Khushpur, the village where they were born, in the district of Faisalabad.