Christians will be remembering slain Christian minister Shahbaz Bhatti on his fifth death anniversary on March 2, 2016.
The only Christian in Pakistan’s government, Bhatti was assassinated on March 2, 2011 outside his mother’s home in Islamabad.
Bhatti was the first Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs from November 2008 until his assassination. The ministry was later dissolved.
Bhatti had received death threats since 2009, when he spoke in support of Pakistani Christians attacked in the 2009 Gojra riots in Punjab Province. These threats increased following his support for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy.
The United States had tried to obtain increased security for him and get him an armoured car but was unsuccessful.
Bhatti himself foretold his death and recorded a video, which was to be released in case of his death, where he said “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 a residential district, having just left his mother’s home, when his vehicle was sprayed with bullets. At the time of the attack he was alone, without any security. His driver reports having stopped the car and ducked when he saw armed men approaching rather than attempting to evade the threat. Bhatti was taken 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.”
The death of the minister stirred a lot of political movement among the Pakistani Christians with the Christian member of the Nation Assembly criticising the government boldly for failing to provide security to minorities in Pakistan.
On the first anniversary of his death Pakistani Catholic priests called for the Pakistani Catholic bishops to open the cause of canonisation for Bhatti. Afterwards Pakistani bishops sent a formal request to the Pope to officially name Bhatti a martyr.