WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today made the following statement on news that Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister of Minority Affairs, has been assassinated. Bhatti, Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet member, met with Inhofe on February 3, 2011. During that meeting Inhofe and Bhatti discussed religious freedom and other important issues in Pakistan.
“Shahbaz Bhatti was a man of great strength, courage, and faith whom I admired,” Inhofe said. “His life was cut short by the cowardly acts of those who wish to further oppress the people of Pakistan. Bhatti was a life-long advocate for Civil and Human Rights for all, including women and minorities. He was an ardent defender of religious freedom, and his stand against Pakistan’s blasphemy law, a measure often used to smother the free practice of religion in Pakistan, was the motive for his assassination. The heinous act by a few has robbed the country of a true and dedicated leader. His loss is a blow to freedom that must not be tolerated. The Pakistani government must track down those responsible for his death and hold them accountable. Bhatti’s family and the Pakistani people deserve nothing short of complete and total justice.”
More about Bhatti
Shahbaz Bhatti was sworn in by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on November 3, 2008 as the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs. After election to Pakistan's National Assembly, Mr. Bhatti was appointed to the Federal Cabinet position.
In July 2010, Mr. Bhatti established a National Interfaith Council to promote understanding and tolerance among the different faiths. The concluding statement calls for increased tolerance and denounces terrorism, and was signed by Pakistan’s leading religious leaders -- the four principal Imams of Pakistan, the heads of its principal madrassas, the leading Catholic and Protestant Bishops, and the leaders of the Ahmadi, Buddhist, Farsi communities.
Mr. Bhatti believed that promoting interfaith understanding can help win the hearts and minds of Pakistanis and therefore pull them away from extremists groups.