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Assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti: Statement by Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians (CPPC)

7 March 2011

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It is with great shock and sadness that the CPPC heard the news of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the prominent Christian leader and Minister of Minority Affairs in Islamabad by Islamist extremists organized into terrorist groups. We offer our deepest condolences to the family members of Shahbaz Bhatti and of all those who have lost their lives in such similar acts.

The Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians strongly condemns the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti and deplores the failure of various governments of Pakistan, including the present one, to bring an end to the blatant abuses of the Blasphemy Law formulated during the reign of military dictator Zia-ul Haque – whose regime, we might add, was supported by the U.S. and other Western powers.

Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination for openly criticizing the Blasphemy Law and its rampant misuse against Pakistan’s minority communities comes on the heels of the murder of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, for taking a similar stand. We feel that instead of taking strong measures against such killings, the authorities have capitulated to those who openly incite murder and violence against political dissent. The Prime Minister’s repeated assurances that his government has no intention of repealing the Blasphemy Law amounts to nothing except abject surrender to organized violence – especially that of religious fundamentalist forces - as a tool of political repression in Pakistan.

It is worth noting that acts of terrorism by fundamentalist elements and/or those linked to security agencies of the state against Christians and churches in Egypt were carried out to both sow disunity amongst the masses and to divert their attention from the real issues facing them. Scenes of Christians and Muslims jointly holding the cross and the Quran in their common protests to replace dictatorial rule and unjust social conditions was, on the one hand, a firm rejection by the Egyptian people of such schemes and, on the other, an inspiration to all of us who believe that inter-religious unity – even in religious societies – is not only desirable but possible.

We believe that bloody violence and political instability will continue to plague Pakistan so long as religion has a place in the affairs of the state. Equality of all citizens, regardless of their beliefs is a core value of any democratic society. The CPPC supports this principle – and a secular society - here in Canada as well as in Pakistan. We join all those Canadians – with origins in Pakistan or otherwise – who have condemned the killings of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer and encourage them to openly and publicly register their disapproval of these dastardly acts.

Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians

March 5, 2011