Shahbaz Bhatti, Defender of Religious Minorities’ Rights, Remembered

With Elections Looming in Pakistan, Religious Minorities Remain at Center of Debate

With Pakistani elections looming ahead this month, Shahbaz Bhatti is being remembered as religious minorities remain at the center of the nation’s political, religious and social debate.

According to Fides, a formal election procedure remains a point of contention among political parties, but the proposed changes do not affect religious minorities. So far, the Election Commission of Pakistan has not ruled on the possibility of replacing the term minorities with ‘non-Muslim’ citizens.

Professor Shahid Mobeen, a Pakistani professor at the Pontifical Lateran University, said, “It would be a betrayal for them, for a man, Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, who made the history of Pakistan.”

In March 2, 2011, Bhatti, a defender of religious minorities’ rights, was killed in Islamabad. Yesterday, in Pakistan and other parts of the world, his anniversary was commemorated.

“Bhatti fought for the rights and the development of religious minorities. The term is recognized and used internationally: minorities, so understood, are recipients of assistance programs and development by Western countries.”

“By changing the term, as well as betraying the identity, would mean losing those contributions,” the professor said, who joins all those intellectuals who ask to keep the expression “religious minorities.”

Director of the NGO “Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement,” Nasir Saeed, said, “Nothing will change for religious minorities: Currently, there is only one Christian senator out of 104 members.”

“Under current law, senators and representatives of religious minorities are included in the lists in special places reserved for them by the parties, and are required to follow the instructions of the party.”

“Often, they are not free to speak of discrimination and the rights of Christians,” Saeed said, adding, “Today, it is urgent to grant equal rights to religious minorities in Pakistan.”

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