Islamabad (AsiaNews) - President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani, cabinet members, lawmakers, diplomats, public figures, Christians and Muslims and ordinary citizens took part in a conference organised by Paul Bhatti and the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) in Islamabad to honour the memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic Minority Affairs minister slain by Muslim extremists on 2 March 2011. Among the many speakers, Premier Gilani said that the government was committed to the welfare of minorities. To that effect, he announced that a number of steps had been taken in that direction. Minorities now have four seats reserved in the Senate and a 5 per cent quota in government jobs. These are some of the achievements we owe to Shahbaz Bhatti.
In a message to Paul Bhatti and the APMA, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari pointed out that Shahbaz Bhatti spent his life fighting for the cause of the downtrodden and marginalised sections of society, particularly the minorities.
The president noted that Shahbaz Bhatti would be remembered as a man of great personal courage and conviction, adding, "in the pursuit of this struggle Shahbaz Bhatti refused to be deterred despite threats to his life."
"Today, while we pay homage to the late Shahbaz Bhatti, we also reiterate our resolve to [follow] the principles and guidelines of our religion, the Constitution and the teachings of the Founder of the Nation (Ali Jinnah)" so as to ensure "the protection of the rights of minorities and marginalised sections of society," Zardari said.
"The blood of martyrs and those committed to a tolerant, democratic, pluralist Pakistan that respects rather than allows the murder of its minorities will not go in vain," Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is the son of the late Benazir Bhutto.
On the first anniversary of the assassination of the 32-year-old Minority Affairs minister four days ago, Masses and prayer vigils were held in Faisalabad, his home village of Khushpur (Punjab), Lahore, Multan, Karachi and elsewhere.
In the capital Islamabad, where Shahbaz Bhatti fell, his body riddled with 30 bullets, memorial services ended with a torchlight procession that passed by his home, the scene of the crime.
Since then, the authorities have tried to cover up the affair, blaming the murder on a family dispute and later, on financial matters.
So far, it is unclear who carried out the attacks, but few doubt Pakistani extremists were involved. Despite claims to the contrary, the government has not really pushed the investigators to find the culprits.