A second politician who sought reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws has been killed.
Back in January when I posted here about Salman Taseer, a man I’d never heard of until his murder by Islamic extremists angry at him for championing the cause of a CHristian woman. Taseer was a Muslim politician who was sympathetic to the rights of Christian and other minorities in Pakistan. Today the Christian cabinent minister charged with protecting those same minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also murdered. AlQaeda and the Pakistani Taliban Movement in Punjab province have taken responsibility for his killing. Bhatti, 42, was a Roman Catholic and Pakistan’s only Christian cabinent minister. According to media supports, he was travelling without security the day of his killing.
Here is an excerpt from the Globe and Mail’s coverage:
With the death of Mr. Bhatti, Pakistani Christians lost their most prominent advocate. Christians are the largest religious minority in the country, where roughly 5 per cent of 180 million people are not Muslim. They have very little political power and tend to work in lower-level jobs, such as street sweeping.
“We have been orphaned today!” wailed Rehman Masih, a Christian resident of Islamabad. “Now who will fight for our rights? Who will raise a voice for us? Who will help us?”
The assassination drew swift condemnation from Christian leaders elsewhere.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the slaying was an act of “terrible gravity.” He noted that Mr. Bhatti had met with Pope Benedict XVI in September and affirmed his commitment to peaceful relations among the religious communities in mainly Muslim Pakistan. The Vatican said the killing shows the pope’s warnings about the danger to Christians in the region were justified.
In Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, expressed shock and sorrow over the killing. “This further instance of sectarian bigotry and violence will increase anxiety worldwide about the security of Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan,” they said in a statement.
They urged Pakistan’s government to protect Christians and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, also condemned the assassination, calling Mr. Bhatti “a Pakistani patriot.”
BBC coverage can be found here.
In Mad Padre’s opinion, these two murders underscore the quandary of the West’s relations to Pakistan. We spend billions of dollars on what we think is an ally against radical Islam, and yet this ally is either unwilling or unable (or both) to protect the rights of its non-Muslim minorities. Going beyond platitudes and trying to extract guarantees from Pakistan for the reform of its blasphemy laws and security of is minorities would likely only destabilize the regime further. It looks we have a losing hand here.
Please pray for the soul of Mr. Bhatti and for all religious minorities in Pakistan.