Thousands of Christians on Thursday took out agitational rallies in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Layyah, Khushpur and other Christian population areas to protest the brutal assassination of Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti in Islamabad.
The protesting Christians were holding banners and placards and they also chanted anti- terrorism slogans. In Islamabad, Father Anwer Patras Gill started with a prayer for Shahbaz Bhatti and the grieving family. He announced that a formal prayer mass will be held on Friday morning 9am at the Lady Fatima Catholic Church located in F-8, Islamabad. The Christian community blocked the road towards Islamabad, burnt tyres and demanded immediate arrest of the culprits, they had banners stating "Anyone who speaks the truth is unsafe", " Bhatti your blood is the begining of a revolution." Addressing the rally APMA (All Pakistan Minority Alliance) senior member and MPA ( member Provincial Assembly) Pervaiz Rafique said, "Shahbaz Bhatti said he would defy islamist militants and would go ahead to reform pakistan’s blasphemy laws, he gave his life for the cause, we will carry on his mission." Another APMA member Khalid Gill condemning the assassination said "APMA will observe official moaning for 40 days. The Government has announced that the seat of the federal minister for minority affairs will be given to someone from Bhatti`s family."
In Lahore the major protest was organized at the Lahore press club, Human Rights organizations leading the protest included National Commission for Peace and Justice director Emanuel Mani, Masiha Millat Party leader Aslam Sahotra, Centre for Human Rights Education director Samson Salamat and Life for All spokes person Kashif Mazhar
The protesters demanded immediate arrest of those involved in the murder of the minister and chanted slogans against the Taliban, extremist clerics, terrorists as well as the assassin of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer.
The Joint Committee of Fathers (JCF) issued a statement saying: “We the Church leaders in Pakistan express our deep grief on the assassination of Mr Shahbaz Bhatti. We believe that the country has lost in him a patriotic statesman and a campaigner for interfaith harmony. The government needs to go beyond the rhetoric of ‘minorities enjoying all the rights in the country. If the country becomes a killing field for liberal individuals who exercise their freedom of conscience and expression, it will only embolden the criminals trying to take charge of Pakistan”
Mr. Rizwan Paul from LFA said,“This incident has spread fear among all minorities living in
Pakistan. It means that no one is safe. Our ancestors did not vote for Pakistan for this day.
Tomorrow if I say something that someone doesn’t agree with, I will also be killed? When people can kill with so much impunity in the capital, no one is safe. Our villages are being burnt, our people killed. What justice is this? I am afraid, a worst type of ‘extremism’ is developing across the globe. So called ‘moderate’ and ‘enlightened’ people also fall in this category. If you expect tolerance from people who have different belief, please learn to show tolerance towards them too."
Gerrard Bhatti ( Shahbaz Bhatti`s elder brother) said, " the FIR ( First Information Report) No. 94/11 has been registered under section 302 of CrPc and ATA-7. Our Whole family is devastated over the huge loss. Bhatti since his childhood was passionate to fight for the rights of the minorities, he wanted to raise the voice for the persecuted and the discriminated. He mentioned to me once about the life threats, I asked him to leave the country for a while, but he refused saying that he doesnt fear death. He was willing to sacrifice himself for the cause."