Pakistan has abdicated its responsibilities

Analysis, posted 03.04.2011, from Pakistan, in:

Pakistan has lost another brave heart. Two months after the Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, my father, was assassinated for speaking out against Pakistan's cruel blasphemy laws, Shahbaz Bhatti was shot dead by unknown assailants. Bhatti was one of Pakistan's progressives.

Under his guidance, the government introduced affirmative action for minorities – 5% of all federal employment – and designated 11 August a holiday to celebrate minorities. He banned the sale of properties belonging to minorities while law enforcement authorities took action against them. He launched a national campaign to promote inter-faith harmony through seminars, awareness groups and workshops and was initiating comparative religion classes into schools and universities.

Bhatti introduced a prayer room for non-Muslims in the prison system, and started a 24-hour crisis hotline to report acts of violence against minorities. He began a campaign to protect religious artefacts and sites that belong to minorities. This is the man we have lost.

The majority of Pakistani dignitaries fell silent after my father's murder, but Bhatti spoke out and condemned it. Many times. I will never forget that. He continued to support the revisions to the blasphemy law knowing he was up against a clerical tsunami. I salute his bravery. But the frontiers of free expression have shrunk drastically. In a country that calls itself a democracy, one wonders if there is space any more for dissent and debate.

Taseer and Bhatti's murders are a grim warning to those who dare to speak out against injustices.


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