Pakistan urgently wants Shahbaz Bhatti to be forgotten, along with the injustices he fought against. Speaking of his murder carries the risk of bringing up the blasphemy law, and criticism of it, for which Bhatti and others have died or incurred death fatwas.
Authorities have been busily sweeping his case under the rug, blaming “internal squabbles” among Christians, and then “a property dispute among relatives,” revising the official account in a story which the local bishop said changes virtually every day.
Ultimately, they want him erased. The political establishment finds it too much of a liability to have him remembered as a martyr, and for having died unjustly for a just cause. And so to protect themselves, they have to kill him twice by rewriting the circumstances of his death. “Islamabad: no civil award for “martyr” Shahbaz Bhatti,” by Jibran Khan for Asia News, August 18:
Islamabad (AsiaNews) — For the Pakistani government, “martyr” Shahbaz Bhatti, who was murdered on 2 March by Muslim fundamentalists, does not deserve an official civil award. The name of the Catholic minister in fact is not on the list of 185 government officials issued by President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday. The award ceremony is scheduled for 23 March 2012.
Punjab Governor Salman Taseer will be among the people honoured that day. He too was slain, in January, for his opposition to the blasphemy rules and for his defence of Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five, who was sentenced to death on the basis of rules also known as the “˜black law”. But unlike Bhatti, Taseer was Muslim. Thus, in Pakistan, even after death religious minorities do not have the same rights as the followers of Islam.
The government’s decision to exclude the Catholic minister from its list has been met by criticism within Pakistan’s Christian community and civil society leaders.
Shahbaz Bhatti and Sherry Rehman, a lawmaker who had suggest changes to the blasphemy law, put their lives on the line to defend the country”s minorities, change unfair laws and protect those, like Asia Bibi, who are in danger.
For Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad/Rawalpindi, “it is surprising that just a few days ago, on Minorities Day, the president stressed the principle of equal rights and highlighted the role minorities played in the growth of Pakistan. Today, when it was time to honour an individual who fought for minority rights” and “gave his life for the cause, he ignored Shahbaz Bhatti.”
The government’s action was “unworthy”, the prelate said. In his view, the authorities should “include Bhatti and Rehman in the list.”
Meanwhile, Pervez Rafique, a member of the Punjab provincial assembly, called for a change to the preamble of the Pakistani constitution to ensure the full implementation of the ideals laid down by Ali Jinnah, the founder of the nation, in his famous address to the country”s constituent assembly in which he insisted on the principles of “equality of rights” for non-Muslims and religious freedom in a secular state (Pakistan is today an Islamic Republic)
Pakistan named itself the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in its first post-colonial constitution of 1956, reiterating its Islamic character more strongly in the constitution of 1973. Well before its founding, however, its identity has always depended on Islam. The presence and enforcement of Sharia has only become more severe over the years, as with the Hudud ordinances that came into force in 1979.
That is only natural. The moment a territory declares itself “Islamic,” it takes on an inherent instability: Sharia encompasses all areas of life, public and private, and does not lend itself to compartmentalization by those who believe it to be Allah’s own law. The fundamental aim of jihad is to impose Islamic law, and someone will always want more Sharia — itself an inherently defective system of laws whose contents are abusive of human rights — and be willing to kill for it. Even in the absence of violence, political credibility depends on Islamic piety, and there is thus a built-in gravitational pull toward more Sharia.