Canada shocked over Pakistani minister’s assassination

March 3rd, 2011 - 11:06 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, March 3 (IANS) Expressing his shock over the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minister of minorities, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wednesday asked Pakistan to prevent the misuse of anti-blasphemy laws.

Bhatti, a Roman Catholic, was killed for speaking out against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws which have been misused against the country’s minorities, mostly Christians.

Harper said Pakistan should “prevent the abuse of its blasphemy laws, which restrict freedom of religion and expression and have disproportionately targeted religious minorities, and to protect individuals who choose to speak out on these issues.”

Calling upon the Pakistani authorities to bring those responsible for Bhatti’s killing to justice, the prime minister said his killing is “a loss to the people of Pakistan and all those who shared his commitment to the promotion of tolerance and religious freedoms in that country.”

Harper said, “I had the honour of meeting Minister Bhatti last month and was greatly inspired by his courageous work in support of minority communities and human rights in Pakistan. Canada also shares a unique link with the Bhatti family, as Shahbaz’s brother, Peter Bhatti, is a Canadian citizen. Canada will remember and honour Minister Bhatti’s legacy of working for a peaceful, tolerant Pakistan.”

Praising Bhatti for his brave fight against Islamic extremists and sacrificing his life for freedom and religious rights, Toronto-based South Asians for Human Rights Association (SAHRA) slammed the Pakistani government for surrendering to terrorists by not amending blasphemy laws.

SAHRA, which had honoured Bhatti in May 2009 in Toronto, said Pakistan’s only non-Muslim minister made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting extremists.

“The government of Pakistan has been reluctant to repeal the blasphemy law despite its callous misuse to settle animosities and oppress minorities and must now repeal the law to honour the heroes who gave up their lives trying to repeal this draconian law,” said SAHRA chair and filmmaker Roger Nair.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at

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