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Politician Under Death Threat from Taliban Thanks Canada

ICC Note

Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian Pakistani government official, has been fighting for the rights of Christians and other religious minorities. He  said, “I’m told by the extremists that if I will continue to speak out, I can be killed. I will be beheaded.”

By Brian Lilley
02/08/2011 Pakistan (The Toronto Sun)-He knows that he is a target for the Taliban and other extremists but, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani cabinet minister says he will continue to speak up for freedoms of religion and expression, and against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

“I’ve faced assassination attempts; I’ve been in prison,” Bhatti told QMI Agency in an exclusive interview.

Bhatti is Pakistan’s minister responsible for minorities and says he is the first Christian ever appointed to a cabinet position. He’s taken up the cause of repealing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which prohibit speaking out against Islam and even wounding religious feeling.

Bhatti became the leading voice in calling for the blasphemy laws to be repealed after Punjab’s governor, Salmaan Taseer was assassinated in early January.

“I’m told by the extremists that if I will continue to speak out, I can be killed. I will be beheaded,” Bhatti said.

Despite the threats, Bhatti says he will speak out in favour of important principles, which he thinks find favour not only with Pakistan’s Christian and Sikh minorities, but also with the majority of the Muslim population. And he thinks Canada can be an example of how to integrate diverse backgrounds.

Bhatti, 39, part of Pakistan’s minority Roman Catholic population, has been fighting the blasphemy laws since they were first proposed in the 1980s.

“Nobody in Pakistan speaks against Islam. Nobody has intention to insult the prophet of Islam or the holy books,” Bhatti said. “This law is used to actually take revenge.”

Asked about the unrest throughout the Middle East and fears it may spread, Bhatti said he’s not worried.

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