US religious panel awards Pakistan's Minorities Minister

Published 21 September 2009  |  
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has awarded Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, a first-of-a-kind medallion for fighting for the rights of minorities.

According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Shahbaz Bhatti visited Washington at the invitation of the USCIRF and was conferred with a medallion for championing the rights of Pakistani Minorities.

"The stand of the Pakistani government is to review, revisit and amend blasphemy laws so it will not remain a tool in the hands of extremists," Mr Bhatti told commissioners from the bipartisan US government agency.

"They are using this law to victimise minorities as well as Muslims of Pakistan. This law is creating disharmony and intolerance in our society."

Mr Bhatti said he had received threats for his work.

"I personally stand for religious freedom, even if I will pay the price of my life,' he was quoted saying by the AFP. "I live for this principle and I want to die for this principle."

Bhatti, the Chief of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), has been in the forefront to promote national unity, interfaith harmony, social justice and human equality.

Last week, the minister had vowed to amend blasphemy laws used to target non-Muslims and said he was ready to die fighting.

Also, during the recent sporadic incidents of violence against Christians, the minister had voiced his discontentment and promised to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice.

He has also ensured that the victims of violence have been justly compensated by the government.

Minorities in Pakistan hugely suffer from backwardness, illiteracy, social marginalization, religious discrimination, financial deprivation and political incapacity. Christians form the largest religious minority in that country.

In a very remarkable decision, the Federal Cabinet of Pakistan recently sanctioned a job quota of five per cent for minorities in all government departments.


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