02 March 2011
The Socialist International is once more appalled and saddened by the cowardly and reprehensible assassination of a leading politician in Pakistan. Shahbaz Bhatti, minister for minorities and member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was shot dead when two gunmen attacked his vehicle as he left his home. The International utterly condemns this hateful act, for which those who are responsible must be brought to justice.
This second killing of a high-profile advocate of minority rights and religious tolerance this year, following the assassination of Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer in January, is an affront to democracy and the principles of freedom of speech and religious expression. As in the case of Taseer, the opposition of Bhatti to Pakistan’s draconian anti-blasphemy laws made him a target for those who seek to spread intolerance in that country.
It will now become even more difficult for voices of moderation and tolerance to make themselves heard in Pakistan, and the risks associated with taking a stand against extremism have become ever clearer. The courage shown by people like Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, in standing up for their beliefs and the rights of minorities is an example to all democrats, and only great courage by Pakistan’s politicians will ensure that the sacrifice they have made is not in vain.
The SI expresses its sincerest condolences to Shahbaz Bhatti’s family, friends and colleagues and reiterates its support for efforts made by the PPP to overcome religious and political intolerance. These efforts must continue.
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