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  • » 02/12/2011, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Islamabad confirms Catholic Shahbaz Bhatti as Minister for minorities

    Jibran Khan

    Government reshuffle took place yesterday. Bhatti has struggled in recent years to amend the blasphemy law and has recently requested a pardon for Asia Bibi.

     Islamabad (AsiaNews) - President Asif Ali Zardari confirms Shahbaz Bhatti as Minister of minorities, after the cabinet reshuffle that took place yesterday following the resignation of the staff of the federal cabinet presented in recent days by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.

    Bhatti, who is a Catholic, was the first parliamentarian to take up the post of Minister for Minorities. His Christian predecessors were offered only minor portfolios. In recent years he has fought to amend the blasphemy law and has recently launched an initiative to seek pardon for Asia Bibi. In fact because of his positions Bhatti has received death threats from Islamic extremist groups that still do not want to change the law. Bhatti told AsiaNews: "I thank God for giving me this opportunity to continue my struggle for the oppressed minorities in Pakistan." "Christians and other minorities - he adds - are citizens of Pakistan and have the same rights as any other citizen, because our ancestors sacrificed their lives for this country".

    According to sources close to the presidency, the government has confirmed Bhatti only after strong pressure from the international community concerned about the recent cases of violence against minorities because of the blasphemy law. A young Christian man was killed in recent days in Ghakkar Mandi (Punjab), while Asia Bibi, the young Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy who is still waiting for her appeal to be heard in the Court of Lahore.

    Bishop Anthony Rufin of Islamabad emphasizes that confirmation of Bhatti "is a positive sign for the minorities." The bishop hopes that the minister will help the government to realize the increasing oppression of Christians and Hindus and followers of other religions, often forced to leave the country in order to survive.

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    See also

    30/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Shahbaz Batthi killed by a "mafia" of fundamentalists holding the government hostage
    The minister for minorities, Salman Taseer and other victims of the "organized movement" fighting for power. The violence has raised such fear that that any discussion about the law on blasphemy has been dropped. But Christians must cultivate the hope and with the help of the universal Church, build a better future.

    11/02/2011 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani Priest warns Christians are at risk. A young man tortured and killed
    Incidents against the faithful, especially in central Punjab, increasing at an alarming rate. The police and the judiciary "cover" crimes and abuses for fear of the local Muslim lords. A young man killed by his employers, and the police would not accept the father’s report.

    07/12/2010 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi:battle continues to change the blasphemy law
    High court lawyers unanimously ask the law not be modified, while Islamic and Christian scholars propose amendments or its abolition. The protest of Punjab’s Christian MPs. Fears for the life of women: 46 extra-judicial deaths for blasphemy cases from 1990 to 2010.

    10/02/2011 PAKISTAN
    Shahbaz Bhatti: with or without the ministry, I will fight for minorities in Pakistan
    At risk – because of public debt - the Ministry for minority groups, headed by a Catholic. Bhatti recalls the contribution of Christians to the birth of the nation. And he warns: we will work to remove discriminatory and inhuman laws, such as blasphemy.

    05/01/2012 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani Christians remember Salman Taseer as extremists celebrate his assasin
    A year after the death of Governor of Punjab prayer vigils and demonstrations in many parts of the country. The family worried about the fate of his son Shahbaz, for over six months in the hands of his kidnappers. Bishop of Islamabad: "milestone" in the confessional killings. Fundamentalists offer 100 million rupees for the "holy pistol."



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