Shahbaz Bhatti: First Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs

4498

Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, popularly known as Shahbaz Bhatti, was the first Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs from November 2008 until his assassination on 2 March 2011 in Islamabad. Bhatti, a Roman Catholic, was an outspoken criticizer of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and the only Christian in the Cabinet .Pakistan Tehrik-i-Taliban accepted the charge of his murder and entitled him a blasphemer of Prophet Muhammad.

Shahbaz bhatti

Bhatti was born to Catholic Christian parents who belonged to the village of Khushpur, Faisalabad. His father, Jacob Bhatti, worked in the army. Afterwards he worked as a teacher before becoming chairman of the board of churches in Khushpur. Shahbaz Bhatti had four brothers, one sister and unmarried.

As a student, served his own formed Pakistan’s Christian Liberation Front as a head in 1985. In 2002, he afterwards helped to found the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and was solidly appointed as its chairman. He met with President Pervez Musharraf as supporter of a group of minority rights advocates. In 2002, Bhatti joined the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) but remained separate from politics until becoming a minister in 2008.

On November 2008, Bhatti was elected as Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs when, for the first time, the post was raised to cabinet level and an autonomous ministry was created. At the time, he told that he accepted the position for the sake of the “oppressed, down-trodden and marginalized” people of Pakistan. In addition, he said that he had devoted his life to the “struggle for human equality, social justice, religious freedom, and to uplift and empower religious minorities’ communities.” He further added that he desired to send “a message of hope to the people living a life of disappointment, disillusionment and despair”, and also indicated his commitment to reforming the Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

During his period as federal minister, he initiated various steps to religious minorities. These included

  1. 1- Launch of a national campaign to promote interfaith harmony,
  2. 2- Proposal of legislation to prohibit hate speech and related literature,
  3. 3- Planned introduction of comparative religion as a curriculum subject,
  4. 4- Introduction of quotas for religious minorities in government posts and the reservation of four Senate seats for minorities.

In July 2010, Bhatti also led the organization of a National Interfaith Consultation which helped bringing together senior religious leaders of all faiths from across Pakistan and resulted in a joint announcement against terrorism.

Since 2009 Bhatti had been receiving death threats when he spoke in support of Pakistani Christians attacked in the 2009 Gojra riots in Punjab Province. These intimidations increased in number following his support for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death in 2010 under blasphemy law. The United States had attempted to obtain increased safety for him and get him an armored car but was failed. Bhatti himself predicted his death and recorded a video, which was to be released in case of his death in which he stated “I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us, and I am ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community … and I will die to defend their rights.”
Bhatti was travelling to work through an inhabited area when his vehicle was attacked with bullets, according to BBC. At the time of the attack he was alone without any security. Bhatti was rushed to a nearby hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival. The group Tehrik-i-Taliban told the BBC that they carried out the attack, because Bhatti was a “known blasphemer, and he had criticized Pakistan’s blasphemy law.