Almost three years have passed since the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani MP who drew the ire of Islamists by lobbied against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. Now, his elder brother faces death threats. Paul Bhatti was living in Italy when his brother was murdered on March 2, 2011, but soon returned to Pakistan to assume the chairmanship of the All-Pakistan Minorities’ Alliance founded by his late brother.
He says his desire is to speak on behalf of the country’s marginalized and oppressed people, and to fight for improved education and opportunities for the poor and those facing discrimination. In Pakistan, this often means speaking on behalf of Christians, who comprise around 2.4 % of the population.
After he received court summons to testify at the ongoing trial of those accused of his brother’s murder, both he and other family members began receiving death threats. These threats have prompted him to delay his return from a pre-arranged visit in Italy and to demand police protection for his family.
Bhatti failed to appear as a witness in court on Feb. 19, instead sending his lawyer to provide evidence of the threats against him. However, he told World Watch Monitor that he sees little point in testifying.
“According to my point of view, they don’t need even our witness,” he said by phone from Italy. “They can just charge them because they have confessed. We have not filed a case against them, because we didn’t see these people, so we don’t know really if they are the real criminals or not.” Bhatti had planned to return to Pakistan sometime last week, although he was first seeking assurances of security from the police.
When asked whether he could continue his work from abroad, Bhatti insisted he must return to Pakistan. “You have to stay with your own people and most of these people need our support,” he said. “It’s not only me or my organization [in danger]. Every day there is bomb blast; there are a lot of innocent lives lost every day.”
And Bhatti, a Catholic, says he is particularly concerned with protecting Christians, whom he identifies as the most vulnerable group. “In this situation of instability in Pakistan the minorities suffer more, especially the Christian minority, which belongs to the poorest sector of Pakistan,” he said. “The country is burning, and in this case the weak people, the oppressed, marginalized people, suffer more. Firstly, they are easy victims; secondly they are victims of discrimination due to their faith, and there is caste discrimination too.”
Bhatti said that though he could not predict how long it would be before his brother’s murderers are brought to justice, he planned to return in time for the third anniversary of the late PM’s death on March 2.
Father, how we thank You for the courage of Shahbaz and Paul Bhatti and for their desire to protect Christians and other minorities in Pakistan. Protect Paul and his family and empower his work to bring about justice and protection for Christians and other minorities. Encourage and strengthen Christians to live godly lives before their Muslim neighbors, with wisdom and courage, even in the face of danger. Cause a mighty work of Your Spirit to move across the land of Pakistan. In the name of Jesus whom we serve, Amen.
Source: World Watch Monitor