Shahbaz Bhatti was so sure that he would be assassinated for his work defending Iran’s minorities that he videotaped a statement in anticipation of an assassination he believed was inevitable. The 42 year old Roman Catholic was a cabinet minister in charge of defending Pakistan’s minorities, a task that consumed his life.
Bhatti’s car was riddled with gunfire in an attack that was tied to his opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which are so loosely interpreted that any non Muslim who explains his faith to a Muslim could be charged under the laws. Already, Punjabi governor Salman Taseer, has been assasinated for his opposition to the same blasphemy statutes. Pakistan was founded as a country in which Muslims would not be discriminated against. Even Itself is divided between Sunni and Shia, as well as other smaller sects. Although Pakistan has a Sunni Muslim majority, it has a significant minority of Shiites. If one adds secular and more modern Muslims to the picture, the need for religious tolerance becomes self evident, as it was to Pakistan’s first President, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who stated as follows.
“If we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor… you are free- you are free to go to your temples mosques or any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state… in due course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to Muslims- not in a religious sense for that is the personal faith of an individual- but in a political sense as citizens of one state”
The attack upon Shahbaz Bhatti is an attack upon Pakistan’s founding principles and upon the memory of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s first President. Even those who have no respect in their hearts for the faiths of others can recognise the practical need for a common ground of society within which people can differ peacefully. The G-d who remains silent as people argue about His real intentions should be emulated in his patience. The assassins of Shahbaz Bhatti have murdered a Pakistani patriot. They have killed a man created in G-d’s image and have the audacity to do it in His name. Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassins are the true idolaters. May they be speedily brought to justice.