08/17/2011, 00.00
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Shahbaz Bhatti Memorial Trust: equality and justice for Pakistan’s minorities

by Ashraf Zamani
On Minorities Day, President Zardari recognised the trust set up by Paul Bhatti to continue the work of his brother, a Catholic minister murdered by Muslim extremists. The government says it will defend minorities; yet, anti-Christian violence continues across the country.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Minorities Day saw the official inauguration of the Shahbaz Bhatti Memorial Trust, a charitable organisation created last April by his brother Paul to promote the ideals of “equality and justice” that were behind the work of the Catholic minister, slain on 2 March by Muslim fundamentalists because of his fight against the blasphemy law.

During a meeting between Paul Bhatti and Asif Ali Zardari, the president formally inaugurated the charity as a space for interfaith dialogue and respect for basic human rights (see the Shahbaz Bhatti Memorial Trust website). Meanwhile, anti-Christian violence continues in the country.

On 11 August, Minorities Day was celebrated across Pakistan. It had been established by Shahbaz Bhatti in 2009. The government held a formal ceremony in the presidential palace in Islamabad where President Zardari met representatives of minority groups, including Paul Bhatti, currently an adviser to the prime minister. The latter thanked the government for its “efforts” on behalf of Pakistan’s minorities. He also stressed his late brother’s fight for “equal rights of religious minorities”

In his address, President Zardari said that the government was committed to “equal rights” for non-Muslims as enshrined in the constitution and as proclaimed by Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in a speech in August 1947 to the country’s constituent assembly.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani echoed the words of the president. “It is our moral, religious and social obligation to strengthen the bond of love and promote culture of tolerance in the country,” he said.

However, Pakistan’s religious minorities continue to be marginalised and endure acts of violence.

Last Sunday, a Christian man, Ashfaq Munawar, was attacked and wounded by six Muslim extremists who chided him for celebrating Independence Day even though he was not Muslim.

“How can you celebrate when you are Christian?” the attackers shouted before hitting him. “Convert to Islam if you want to join the celebration!”
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