03/20/2023, 18.21
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New mother and child facility in Punjab to honour Shahbaz Bhatti

The association set up to continue the work of the Christian minister slain in 2011 underwrites an initiative in the village of Khushpur that is backed by the Diocese of Treviso (Italy). For Shahbaz Bhatti’s brother, Paul, in 2022 the effects of COVID-19, floods and Pakistan’s political instability have had a serious impact on the poorest of the poor.

Treviso (AsiaNews) – A new mother and child health facility has opened in Khushpur, a village in Pakistan’s Faisalabad district; it is named after Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian activist who served as federal Minorities Minister until he was killed on 2 March 2011.

The project is designed to provide medical services in an area that lacks proper healthcare facilities, far from hospitals. The new medical centre will follow expectant mothers during their entire pregnancy, without ethnic or religious discrimination.

The initiative is the work of the Missione Shahbaz Bhatti, an Italian association, whose sponsors   include the Diocese of Treviso (Italy); the latter raised funds, in particular on the occasion of the ordination as bishop of Vicenza of Treviso-born Mgr Giuliano Brugnotto.

Shahbaz Bhatti was the first Pakistani Catholic to hold a federal cabinet post, working for social justice and against the so-called blasphemy law, which is often used against Christians in the Muslim-majority country.

Bhatti was closely involved in the Asia Bibi case, which saw the Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, who was released only in 2018, after nine years in prison.

Paul Bhatti, a medical doctor who practises in Treviso, is directly involved with the association named after his brother; like him, he was involved in several outreach activities in his native Pakistan.

Today, the Missione Shahbaz Bhatti is engaged in interfaith dialogue and education, promoting rural and crafts development to help poor families, also providing a voice to the most vulnerable whose basic rights are often violated.

It is currently present in seven different locations in Pakistan: Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Multan, Quetta and Karachi.

The new mother and child health facility in Khushpur now has some “basic equipment [that] was bought with funds from Treviso, like an anaesthetic machine, a power generator, and an ambulance,” Dr Bhatti explained.

“A gynaecologist, four nurses, two operating room assistants and other technical staff were hired. We work with the University of Faisalabad, which provides short training courses for midwives,” while the facility in Khushpur now “admit patients in case of emergency.”

Ultimately, “The goal is to offer financial support to the centre for three years, then make it self-sufficient with funding from fees for specialist exams and visits.”

The facility is open to everyone, especially given the country’s current situation.

For Paul Bhatti, “in 2022, post-Covid effects have had a major impact on everyone in Pakistan, in particular on poor people, like those who belong to religious minorities, who have suffered irreparable harm.”

To this “must be added the unprecedented flooding that hit Pakistan in August, claiming many lives and leaving thousands homeless and jobless,” not to mention the country’s “great political instability, which has progressively reduced economic resources, making the poor even poorer.”

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