￼On 2nd March 2011 masked men sprayed Shahbaz Bhatti’s car with bullets as he left his mother’s home. Shahbaz, a Catholic, was a brilliant lawyer and the only Christian Minister in the government of Pakistan, was murdered for opposing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
In his role as Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz frequently criticised the abuse of the blasphemy laws, saying they were used as a pretext to persecute innocent Christians. He knew that he was endangering his own life by speaking out. Pakistani law can impose execution or life imprisonment for offences against Islam. Shahbaz had received death threats since 2009. He predicted his death in a video, in which he said bravely: “I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us… I’m living for my community… and I will die to defend their rights.”
In August 2009, after reports of a Koran being desecrated in the Punjab province, anti-Christian mobs killed eight people. Shahbaz called for better civil and legal protection for the Christian community. He was also the most vociferous speaker in defence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was on death row because she was found guilty of insulting Mohammed. As of February 2015, she has spent almost five years on death row. (For more information, CLICK HERE
Shahbaz only served 28 months in government, but from the beginning he took several courageous approaches in support of religious minorities, Baha'i, Christian and Hindu. He launched the national campaign for interfaith harmony and proposed to make hate speech illegal, as well as proposing the introduction of quotas for religious minorities in government posts.
Shahbaz also pioneered the establishment of a National Interfaith Consultation in July 2010, which was the impetus for bringing together senior religious leaders from all religions and from all over Pakistan and resulted in their signing a joint declaration against terrorism.
Shahbaz was the recipient of many prestigious awards, from the Human Rights Award in 2004 to the International Freedom of Religion Award in 2009. He was also awarded a PhD by South Korea University in recognition for his interfaith work.