02/10/2011, 00.00
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Shahbaz Bhatti: with or without the ministry, I will fight for minorities in Pakistan

by Jibran Khan
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.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - "My primary commitment is to serve humanity, either I remain the Minister or not, I will continue my mission to raise the voice of the Christian community and oppressed minorities”, Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities, tells AsiaNews confirming his desire to defend the rights of the weakest, even though the cabinet reshuffle announced by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will lead to the cancellation of his department. He adds: "Pakistani Christians have always been loyal to Pakistan. They shed their blood for the birth of Pakistan. And the country has found a place in the world, thanks to the casting vote of the Christian leaders of the time. "

The Ministry of minorities - the first in Pakistan's history - was created on November 3, 2008, by the will of the executive led by the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Bhatti, a Catholic politician, President of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and executive director of the Council for Human Rights, was the first politician to take office. Previously, minority issues were entrusted to a Minister of the State, who operated under the guidance of a Federal Minister.

In two years of work Bhatti wanted to "raise the voice of the oppressed", the Ministry’s achievements include the 5% reserved for minorities in public offices, the reopening of the mission schools at the time seized by the government and some battles to protect the rights of the weakest. However, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have criticized the government of Pakistan of being too cumbersome - it is made up of 71 ministers, federal and state - and expensive. The number should be reduced and ministries also decreased, encouraging savings in public spending. And among the first to risk being "cut" is the Ministry for minority groups, which would become part of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Despite difficulties, death threats and the obstacles within his own party, Shahbaz Bhatti confirms to AsiaNews his intention to fight for the repeal of “all inhumane and discriminatory laws against minorities in Pakistan". Among these, the Minister outlines the blasphemy laws "used as a potential weapon to injure, subjugate, terrorize and exert pressure." "I received death threats from extremist groups," says Bhatti, and the party "did not guarantee my safety" because "of pressure from fundamentalist movements."

The Minister, however, wants to thank "all who have supported me in this battle" and ensures that he will continue "either I remain the Minister or not, I will continue my mission” working “in any capacity given to me by Pakistan Peoples Party."
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