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Shahbaz Bhatti laid to rest in Pakistan

Over 30,000 mourners and protestors from many different religions in Pakistan, gathered on Friday, March 4, 2011, in Khushpur – whose name means “the dwelling of the happy” – for the funeral of Mr. Clement Shahbaz Bhatti 42, the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs.

Mourners carrying the coffin of Shahbaz Bhatti
(Photo: Ahsan Sadaqat, ANS-Pakistan)

His native village, Khushpur, is in the central plains of Punjab – 267 miles from the nation’s capital Islamabad — and is called the “Pakistani Rome” because of the large number of Catholic clergy that it has produced.

The BBC reported, “Shahbaz Bhatti’s funeral was not the usual, quiet and somber affair. There was plenty of sound and fury as members of Pakistan’s second largest religious minority, the Christians, mourned the death of their most popular leader.

“One of the few remaining voices speaking out against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, Shahbaz Bhatti, was silenced when he was shot dead by four gunmen near his mother’s residence in Islamabad on Wednesday.

“The courageous voice of Mr. Bhatti, one of the few remaining voices speaking out against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, was silenced when he was shot dead by four gunmen near his mother’s residence in Islamabad on Wednesday.”

I was there to witness the caravans of people from across the country who traveled to Khushpur after hearing of the death of Mr. Bhatti.

By early morning, the village was packed with people waving Pakistani and All Pakistan Minorities Alliance Flags. Each villager hoisted black flags on their homes to observe their mourning for this much-loved and respected Christian leader.

Snipers were posted on surrounding roof-tops and roads were shut down. President Asif Ali Zardari did not attend the service because of security concerns.

Helicopter arrives with Mr. Bhatti’s body
(Photo: Ahsan Sadaqat, ANS-Pakistan)

Before his body was flown to his home village, a funeral service was performed early afternoon in Islamabad’s Cathedral which was attended by Prime Minister, Syed Yousaf Raza Gillan, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, and many diplomats from other countries attended. The Most Rev. Bishop of Islamabad, Bishop Rufin Anthony, led the Eucharistic Mass.

On this occasion, Prime Minister, Syed Raza Gillani, assured the nation that culprits will not be spared and soon they will be put on trial. Government shall not allow anybody to misuse the blasphemy law.

At 3.00 p.m. the body of Mr. Bhatti was flown from Islamabad to his village by helicopter. When the dead body wrapped in Pakistani the All All Pakistan Minorities Alliance flag – he was the leader of this group –reached the local convent girl’s high school, thousands of mourners began shouting slogans.

In English they said things like “Death of a martyr is a life of the nation,” “How many more people like Shahbaz Bhatti’s will you kill?” and “The martyrdom of Shahbaz Bhatti will bring revolution.”

Mourners beating their chests
(Photo: Ahsan Sadaqat, ANS-Pakistan)

I observed young men and women beat their chest and heads in protest against the murder, while some boys even injured themselves with sharp blades.

A local choir sang the Pakistani National Anthem and the Most Rev. Bishop Joseph Coutts, Bishop of Faisalabad Diocese, along with Bishop Samuel Azria, Bishop Alexander John Malik, and Fr. Khalid Rasheed prayed for “the departed soul.”

Speaking to mourners, Bishop Alexander John Malik condemned the government of Pakistan, and other forces, who he said had twisted the facts of Mr. Bhatti’s death and had connecting it with Raymond Davis, a U.S. diplomat who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore on January 27, 2011 in what he has described as “self-defense”

The Rev. Fr. Parvez Emmanuel, first cousin of Mr. Bhatti, read out the last message of Mr. Bhatti to the nation.

Prayer scene
(Photo: Ahsan Sadaqat, ANS-Pakistan)

The main points of the message was that Christians should respect the Holy Prophet Muhammad and that they are “not against the law” but “are concerned and demanding that under this blasphemy law, innocent Christians are trapped in false cases.”

He also quoted Mr. Bhatti as saying, “They are killed brutally. Those who are convicted, they are killed and given no chance to prove their innocence.”

He also said that Mr. Bhatti had stated that Christians are taught love, peace, hope and to promote life in their churches.

“Churches do not declare anybody infidel or issue decrees to kill others,” he quoted Mr. Bhatti as saying. “Stop the killings of Peaceful Christians. Let us work for a prosperous and peaceful Pakistan.”

The last message of Mr. Bhatti to the nation can he found at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iezifoRzcc This YouTube link has been developed by Ahsan Sadaqat of ANS-Pakistan.

Women from Toba Tek Singh marching towards funeral place
(Photo: Ahsan Sadaqat, ANS-Pakistan)

Fr. Khalid Rasheed, Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Faisalabad, urged Christians to “remain peaceful” and also to “carry on doing well for Pakistan.”

He called upon youth to “show love and patience and work for better Pakistan” and he invited people to learn from the courage and bravery of the “martyrs of Khushpur”, Bishop John Joseph, who shot himself to death in protest against the misuse of the blasphemy laws, and Clement Shahbaz Bhatti “who laid the lives to protect the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan.”

Main Muhammad Rafique Member Punjab Assembly (Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz) was among the few politicians who attended the funeral amd he expressed solidarity with Christians at the time of grief. He suggested “enhancing inter-religious dialogue”

ANS has learned members of ruling and opposition parties have held responsible Mr. Rehman Malik, the Federal Minister of the Interior, for the murder of Mr. Bhatti and have demanded that he should resign for his failure to provide him the necessary security and bullet proof vehicle to Mr. Bhatti.

We at ANS in Pakistan have discovered that Mr. Bhatti had requested that the Minister for Interior, the Prime Minster and President, provide him with a bullet proof car and a house in the minister’s colony but they were never been provided to him.

Asif Khana, nephew of Mr. Bhatti told ANS, “Three days before his death, Mr. Bhatti told me that has been receiving death threats continuously on his cell phone”

Please go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6LgzicvYec (YouTube link to view the funeral procession by Ahsan Sadaqat, ANS-Pakistan)


Ashfaq Fateh, 38, studied civic and human rights, at Pakistan’s leading University, the Aga Khan University in Karachi. He has been working to promote peace, human rights and particularly for Christian’s rights. He has also been working against the discriminatory laws prevailing in Pakistan. His wife, Rafia Salomi, is serving as deputy director for Society for Human Development, popularly known as Human Development Center, an icon of Christian’s rights in Pakistan since 1984.


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