Date: March 3, 2016
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
PAKISTAN (ANS – March 3, 2016) – Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016, marked the tragic 5th anniversary of the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, a prominent political leader and a former federal minister in Pakistan (the only Christian ever to hold that post) who was slain by assassins in Islamabad.
Yet, according to Wilson Chowdhry, Founder and Chairman of the UK-based British Pakistani Christian Association (http://www.
On Tuesday, March 1, 2016, some 30,000 people took the streets to condemn the choice of the Pakistani Authorities to follow through on the death sentence laid on murderer Mumtaz Qadri, who assassinated Salman Taseer a Muslim Governor of the Punjab “for his vocal opposition of the blasphemy laws.”
Chowdhry went on to say that the worlds media is “so focused on the erupting protests and violence and have forgotten the special importance of this date.”
Shahbaz Bhatti was known for his tireless campaign to bring justice and equality into the lives of millions of Christians in Pakistan, including Asia Bibi, the Christian mother-of-five who is, at present, appealing her death sentence for alleged blasphemy.
Bhatti was a senior politician in the ruling party of the time, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and often had to limit his openness on the cruel oppression of Pakistani Christians due to the need to toe party lines. However, he eventually demonstrated his love for others through the sacrifice of his life, never giving up his convictions and clamor for change even in the face of mass death threats.
“Bhatti was 42 when he died,” said Chowdhry. “On the day of his death, he had just left his mother's home in a suburb of the capital when several gunmen surrounded his vehicle and indiscriminately perforated his vehicle with their bullets. Images of the bullet-ridden vehicle shocked the globe and brought to light the hardline approach to Islam pervading in Pakistan. A country which has since been referred to as a nation that exports terrorism.”
In a secret video that Shahbaz Bhatti filmed and asked to be released in the result of his death, he said: “I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of ‘cross’ and I follow Him to the cross. Pray for me and for my life.”
Shahbaz Bhatti also founded and served as head of the Christian Liberation Front, which he formed in 1985, and was appointed as Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs on November 2, 2008, when, for the first time, the post was elevated to cabinet level and an independent ministry created. During his inauguration he explained that he accepted the post for the sake of the “oppressed, down-trodden and marginalized” of Pakistan, and that he would dedicate his life to the “struggle for human equality, social justice, religious freedom, and to uplift and empower religious minorities' communities.” He also stated that he would dedicate his life to opposing the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan, singling out the case of Asia Bibi who was on death row at the time.
He also helped to found the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) in 2012 and was unanimously elected as its chairman.
Chowdhry stated that whilst in his post as Federal Minister, Bhatti “worked diligently to improve the lives of Minorities.” Some of his achievements included:
The launch of a national campaign to promote interfaith harmonyProposal of legislation to ban hate speech and related literatureThe proposed introduction of comparative religion as a curriculum subject in schoolsThe introduction of quotas for religious minorities in government postsThe reservation of four Senate seats for minorities.Bhatti also spearheaded the organization of a National Interfaith Consultation in July 2010, which brought together senior religious leaders of all faiths from across Pakistan and resulted in a joint declaration against terrorism
To commemorate the life and sacrifice of Shahbaz Bhatti, a memorial event is to be held in the British House of Commons in London under the banner of the All Parliamentary Party Group for Pakistani Minorities, presided over by MP Jim Shannon, and Wilson Chowdhry has been invited to speak for 10 minutes at the gathering.
Wilson Chowdhry said: “I had the privilege of meeting Shahbaz Bhatti twice when he visited the UK. He was a warm compassionate man who had great love for people of all diversities. His faith in Christ was his bastion, a badge of honor he wore proudly despite the threats to his life. The legacy he leaves behind is the growing awareness globally of the persecuted Christian minority of Pakistan. An awareness that I believe will one day result in a more egalitarian nation through the prayers and campaigning of a growing international support.”
He added: “There can be no worse indictment on Pakistan then the current mass support for a known murderer Mumtaz Qadri, whilst heroes who have sacrificed their lives to improve the lives of all citizens have achieved an unjust pariah status. Britain and the US must ensure that the foreign aid money they are ploughing into Pakistan is utilized to remedy the ongoing minority disenfranchisement as a priority.”
Note: On Saturday, March 5, 2016, International Christian Voice will hold a 5th Anniversary Event of Shahbaz Bhatti’s Martyrdom at the Coptic Christian Center, 1245 Eglington Avenue W, Mississauga, Ontario, at 6:00 PM, which will be attended by many local Christian leaders including Peter Bhatti, the brother of the slain Christian leader.
Photo captions: 1) Shahbaz Bhatti with the husband of Asia Bibi and two of their children. 2) Mumtaz Qadri after his arrest. 3) Bishop Richard Cheetham, Wilson Chowdhry and Shahbaz Bhatti during a visit he made to the UK. 4) Dan Wooding pictured with his BPCA award.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. Dan has been a given award by the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) for his reporting on the plight of Christians in the country.