Monday, March 2, 2020
Ewelina U. Ochab
Nine years ago, on March 2, 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, a prominent Christian politician elected as a member of the National Assembly from 2008 and the first Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, was assassinated in Islamabad, Pakistan. Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the Cabinet at that time, was vocal on the issue of discrimination and persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan and the problematic blasphemy laws. This work became his death warrant. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for his murder. The group justified the crime claiming that Shahbaz Bhatti was guilty of blasphemy, a crime that, according to the Pakistani Penal Code (§ 295C) and until this day, carries the death penalty.
Shahbaz Bhatti was a powerful advocate against the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, the very laws that have led to his murder. Among others, he also promoted interfaith harmony and the introduction of quotas for religious minorities in government posts and championed proposals to ban hate speech.
The memory of Shahbaz Bhatti and his contribution to the protection of religious minorities in Pakistan continues to be tarnished as the Pakistani government does little to ensure that religious minorities in Pakistan are granted basic human rights in equality with others, their human rights are protected and implemented adequately. And so, in the words of Lord Alton of Liverpool, the protection of religious minorities in Pakistan remains Shahbaz Bhatti’s “unfinished business.”
Indeed, nine years after the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan remains dire. Over the years, several international bodies have shed light on the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan. For example, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination highlighted the high incidence of hate crimes (including harassment and killings) against persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, particularly Hazaras, Christian Dalits, Hindu Dalits and Ahmadis. These are hate crimes that would rarely be investigated and prosecuted. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination further stressed other severe issues faced by minorities in Pakistan, including of Christian and Hindu Dalit women and girls facing forced conversion and forced marriage. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Human Rights Committee also raised the issue of the early age indoctrination in that “some school curricula and textbooks, including those of madrasas, had content that had the potential to incite hatred against religious and ethnic minorities.” The UN Universal Periodic Review report, in 2017, emphasized that religious minorities were being marginalized in political engagement including that “the minority quota in the national and provincial parliaments and in public services was applied only to religious minorities.” The Human Rights Committee “was further concerned at the removal of Ahmadis from the general electoral list and their registration on a separate voting list, the low level of exercise of the right to vote by women and the continued obstacles to effective access to voting for persons with disabilities and persons belonging to minorities, including gypsies.” Last, but not least, the UN Committee against Torture has raised the issue of reports of violence against members of Shia, Christian and Ahmadiyya communities and individuals accused of blasphemy.
And indeed, nine years after the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, blasphemy laws, the very reason why Shahbaz Bhatti was murdered, continue to significantly affect religious minorities. The majority of those convicted under blasphemy laws are religious minorities, especially Ahmadiyya and Christian minorities. Ultimately, the laws are being used and abused to persecute religious minorities. Reports suggest that, since 1990, vigilante mobs have killed at least 65 people in Pakistan over claims of blasphemy.
Shahbaz Bhatti lost his life so that others could live in accordance with their religion or belief. Nine years later, renewed efforts to protect religious minorities in Pakistan are essential. We need to act now to leave a legacy for further generations in Pakistan. In pursuance of this goal, Lord Alton of Liverpool marked the ninth anniversary of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti at the UK Parliament with an event entitled “For a better future of religious minorities in Pakistan” and launched “the Declaration for A Peaceful Coexistence of Religious Minorities in Pakistan.” The declaration calls upon the Pakistani government but also all parts of the Pakistani society to ensure that they play their part in the protection and implementation of human rights for all, to ensure human dignity for all. The declaration received significant support but its impact is yet to be realized. However, this may be the catalyst to jump-start renewed efforts to protect religious minorities. The murder of Shahbaz Bhatti may have prevented him from finishing his work on protecting religious minorities in Pakistan. However, his “unfinished business” will be carried forward by others who will not be silenced.
SNEHESH ALEX PHILIP
Pakistani Shia mercenaries Pakistan have earlier fought in Syria on behalf of Iran, but this will be the first time its nationals collaborate with Turkey in the war-torn country.
Not the first time
By Syed Umarullah Hussaini
Addressing a news conference, Bilawal Bhutto lashes PTI and said, at this time political revenge was on the rise while “democratic struggle is everyone’s interest.
He said, “Today, attacks on democracy are being launched from all sides.”
“The government’s stance malfunctioned from the first day nobody is accepting that Nawaz Sharif went to jail or abroad due to corruption our leaders are in jail due to political revenge,” he said.
“Not even a political opponent’s late brother was sparred,” Bilawal added while referring to former PPP minister Khurshid Shah’s brother.
Bilawal further criticized the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for what he called “economic crisis”, and maintained that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the state’s economy could not function parallel to each other. “After traders’ claim, Imran Khan also admitted that NAB and economy couldn’t run together democratic forces are disunited for some reason.” The current government attacked the media and stopped payments. Not only the political people but the people belonging to different institutions are at the helm of the government. Imran Khan also said that the NAB and the economy could work along.He added Positive criticism is good for the country it should be tolerated.
Today political revenge is on the rise, said Bilawal; he said.
Bilawal Bhutto said that he was surprised to see Sheikh Rasheed still to be the Railways Minister after all the incidents happened.