03/02/2011, 00.00
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Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic defender of the weak and marginalized

The minister for minorities came from a Catholic family deeply committed to justice. Of his work he said: "I only want a place at the feet of Jesus. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ."

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani minister killed by the Taliban, was born September 9, 1968, to a Christian family from the village of Kushpur. His father Jacob, served in the army before entering the field of education as a teacher and later chairman of the board of the Churches of Kushpur. In the Autumn of 2010 he was hospitalized in Islamabad. According to local sources, his condition deteriorated significantly after the news of the assassination of the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, on January 4, 2011. He entered into a form of mental and physical depression that ultimately led to cardiac arrest, and his death on Jan. 10, 2011.

Jacob Bhatti was of fundamental importance in his son's life. One testimony of this appeared in newspapers in Pakistan at the time of death describing him thus: "He was a brave man and was the main source of strength for his son. He encouraged him and helped him to deal with the most risky and precarious of situations".

Shahbaz Bhatti, after completing his studies, started his political career in Pakistan People's Party, the most progressive political group for the reform of the nation. He was quickly noted by party executives, and especially Benazir Bhutto, with whom he worked closely until the assassination of the charismatic leader of Pakistan. In an interview with AsiaNews he had called for the creation of “an independent UN commission” of investigation into the murder of Benazir Bhutto.

Shahbaz was on the train along with Bhutto at the time of the attack and suffered only minor physical injuries. He described what happened to AsiaNews: "At a certain point, around the area of Karsaz, there were two huge explosions, right next to the carriage carrying Ms Bhutto, at head of the procession. The former premier had just gone down into the lower compartment of to rest, when there was an explosion. The windows of the vehicle were shattered, the door was destroyed, all around there were dead and injured. When I got off the train, there was blood and bits of bodies everywhere. This vile act of cowardly terrorism offends us deeply and saddens all the people of Pakistan. These are days of mourning and sorrow. "

Bhatti always paid special attention to the situation of the country's most discriminated against. He was chairman of the APM (All Pakistan Minorities Alliance). This is a representative organization of marginalized communities and religious minorities in Pakistan, working on several fronts in support of the needy, the poor, the persecuted. Speaking of the reason for his commitment, he would simply say: "I just want a place at the feet of Jesus I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am following Jesus Christ."

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