Blasphemy law: Minorities minister fears he is “highest target”

Published: January 13, 2011
Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti says he has been receiving death threats since the Bibi case. PHOTO: AFP

Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti says he has been receiving death threats since the Bibi case. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Following the recent debate in Pakistan about the blasphemy law and the subsequent assassination of late Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer for speaking out against the law, Minorities Minister Shabhaz Bhatti, a Christian, who first spoke out against the blasphemy law, believes he is “the highest target right now”.

“During this Bibi case I constantly received death threats. Since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer… these messages are coming to me even publicly,” Bhatti told AFP.

Bhatti and his allies say the law against defamation of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) is often used to settle petty disputes, and human rights activists say the act encourages extremism in a nation already besieged by Taliban attacks.

But in the face of huge public support for the law, the government has said it has no plans to change it.

Bhatti said fatwas, or religious decrees, had been issued calling for him to be beheaded, by extremist clerics in the country who were allowed to publicly spread messages of violence with impunity.

“The government should register cases against all those using hate speeches,” said Bhatti, who insists he will work as usual despite the threats.

“I’m not talking about special security arrangements. We need to stand against these forces of terrorism because they’re terrorising the country.

“I cannot trust on security…. I believe that protection can come only from heaven, so these bodyguards can’t save you.”

During a visit to Pakistan to meet senior leaders in Islamabad Wednesday, US Vice President Joe Biden expressed concern over the widespread support for Taseer’s killing.

Offering condolences, he said: “The governor was killed simply because he was a voice for tolerance and understanding. To state the obvious, there is no justification, none, for such senseless acts. …Societies that tolerate such actions end up being consumed by those actions.”

Members of the main ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), to which Punjab provincial governor Taseer belonged, have slammed security failures that led to the shooting, after police apparently failed to try to overpower the gunman.

Police investigators say that Qadri had previously been screened over security concerns and banned from working in the elite protection force used to protect Taseer.

“We are investigating how he got deputed again for this special duty. Punjab police is also separately investigating this issue,” senior police official Haroon Joya told AFP.

Intelligence officials told AFP that public bodyguards are screened every three years by several agencies, with religious views checked as part of the process.

Following the assassination of the governor, the officials said that all departments involved in public protection are reviewing security measures and rescreening anyone working with high profile officials and national leaders.

Liberal politicians in fear

The killing of a provincial governor by his bodyguard has heightened security fears among Pakistan’s political liberals who say their voices are being drowned out by rising religious extremism.

Former information minister Sherry Rehman initiated the current controversy when she introduced a bill in November calling for an end to the death penalty for blasphemy.

“I’m sure everyone at the top is worried about this and concerned about the level of security we all have,” said Rehman, speaking to AFP from her heavily-guarded home in Karachi, where 50,000 people rallied on Sunday hailing Qadri as a hero.

She said she uses her own private security company instead of public protection, and said they had advised her to stay at home and not to travel to the capital Islamabad.

“I’m not being foolish but I’m going to be rational,” she said.

“I don’t plan to turn away… I have put the bill in, it’s not an extreme position like a repeal bill. They (extremists) can’t decide what we think or speak.”

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Reader Comments (30)

  • SUB
    Jan 13, 2011 - 11:55AM

    Bhatti sb should have been the minister of law since he is so very versed in this matter. Utter Nonsense. People 1st have their own feet in their month and then complain about it

    This govt. is a bunch of hypocrites part of it saying the law would not change and part of it advocating a change or abolishment of it

    No surprise a hypocrite nation deserves itRecommend

  • myra
    Jan 13, 2011 - 12:15PM

    As I recall, we were a nation built because of the injustices to minorities – WE were once the minority. Yet, we have little or no sympathy towards those who are in that position now.

    Pakistan will never learn.Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Jan 13, 2011 - 12:24PM

    Its not the high spiritual station of the holy Prophet (saw) that is being protected by the clerics, its their bread and butter being secured.Recommend

  • Noreen Shams
    Jan 13, 2011 - 1:10PM

    The Religious clerics who chanted slogans like Go America Go US our enemy , those American are killing us bla bla …. they should regain some senses ….we as a nation do not need any enemy to destroy us …. we are alone enough capable to destroy our own selves.. Recommend

  • bvindh
    Jan 13, 2011 - 1:26PM

    poor guy. even the reader’s comments are nil.Recommend

  • Eeman
    Jan 13, 2011 - 1:35PM

    It’s time to take that “white” portion out from our flag and make it fully Green. Recommend

  • PA
    Jan 13, 2011 - 2:11PM

    Mr. Bhatti – you will be protected IA. In Pakistan, No one has the right kill another person for their views or religion. It will not be tolerated anymore — this is a warning to all those who think they can use religion as a weapon to kill their countrymen/ women. Let this serve as a warning that your acts will be punished ‘mercilessly’ and ‘ruthlessly’ where your plea for pardon will carry no weight. We have woken up and will guard fellow like-minded/patriotic Pakistanis with utmost resolve. To the traitors, fanatics and hijackers of Islam: You will notice a change soon and fear us not because we have weapons, fear us because of our anger and merciless mindset – we are coming in full force.

    May Allah guide us to the right path. AA

    Pakistan Zindabad.Recommend

  • moeed rizvi
    Jan 13, 2011 - 2:20PM

    may GOD protect mr.bhatti .i pray 4 ur long life. these self-proclaimed mullahs have become such an embarassment 2 our noble religion , islam. Holy Prophet(P.B.U.H) once said ; a time will come on my UMMAH that the worst people among my followers would be the AALIMS (preachers) of that time.” unfortunately we r living in that horrible time.Recommend

  • neutral
    Jan 13, 2011 - 2:37PM

    don’t change this law but its investigation procedure must be strickly
    and only those people (muslims/nonmuslims) fear this law who are real blasphemerRecommend

  • KM
    Jan 13, 2011 - 2:49PM

    What Islam are we preaching? The one under which the minorities used to live happily 1400 years ago? The one under which even the majority used to live in peace and happiness during the mughal rule? Feel ashamed, that the people who should be impressed by a muslim, are now wanting to run away from them.Recommend

  • IZ
    Jan 13, 2011 - 3:20PM

    “Former information minister Sherry Rehman initiated the current controversy”

    Um. No. The call for reforming the blasphemy law has been on since the earlier 90s and at various times the Islamic Ideology Council and even members of the religious parties have said that it needed alterations to prevent misuse. The controversy started when unscrupulous leaders and media figures started blowing the issue out or proportion and misrepresenting the facts.

    As for Mr Bhatti, I pray to Allah that he remain safe and sound amidst this sea of intolerance.Recommend

  • Shuaib
    Jan 13, 2011 - 3:31PM

    Mullahgardi at workRecommend

  • 007
    Jan 13, 2011 - 3:46PM

    Emaan please!
    the minorities r also Pakistanis! thay also deserve to live with full rights.
    And if anyone is accused of blasphemy, he or she must be brought to court and put on trial to decide if (s)he is innocent or guilty.
    These murders by common man just shows the incompetence of Pakistan’s police and judiciary.. and this must be rectified before things get even uglier! Recommend

  • Waqas
    Jan 13, 2011 - 4:45PM

    Mr. Bhatti

    Its not only you whose life is in danger, these extremists with their narrow interpretations even consider people like myself as non-muslims

    We support you totally. This is a battle to for the soul of Pakistan, and all of us are hand in hand against these obscurantist forces.

    Pakistan Zindabad!Recommend

  • Jan 13, 2011 - 5:59PM

    People who think they know Arabic written 1400 years are like Hindus who think they know Sanscrit.
    People should be tolerant of each other’s belief. In so many countries we have seen all religone existing side by side in peace. What on earth happened here?

    Intolerance has taken over us. There is another word for it. Madness! Atleast this way we will get rid of excessive population!Recommend

  • Vin
    Jan 13, 2011 - 9:10PM

    Mullahs are following the Quran word by word !! There interpretaion is accurate and just doing what prophets and his followers did .. Why are you guys trying to re-invent a new kind of Islam here? Is it the calling of your Indian Cultural blood ? :).. Your women wear Saris, people Sing Songs that are Ragas derived from Vedic culture, All Gharanas have an image of Ma saraswati installed in their house which is mandatory for swar sadhana), Your urdu is a mixture of Sanskrit and Arabic…. Yet your minds are corrupt cause the seed of hatred is sown in your hearts by your own holy book.. the moment it differentiates amongst humans in the name of Kafir and his going to hell for not being a muslim your souls are doomed… as opposed to Hindu/Buddhist believes that say “Kan Kan mein Bhagwaan Virajmaan” = “Every Atom is manifetsed with God” .. that includes all humans, animals, stones, rivers etc etc as God manifested, hence everything becomes holy….

    Namaste derived from “Namo Astute/Narayan” = “I bow to the God within you”

    Which teaching do you find more peaceful? You folks have to choose the future of Pakistan….Recommend

  • Disco Molvi
    Jan 13, 2011 - 10:24PM


    only those people (muslims/nonmuslims)
    fear this law who are real blasphemer

    I’m fearful of this ‘man-made’ law being used against me. Are you suggesting that make me a blasphemer?Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jan 13, 2011 - 11:18PM

    I cant blame the guy. The Country created for the Minorities cant protect its Minorities. Recommend

  • Rehan
    Jan 13, 2011 - 11:35PM

    @myra, well said my friend…Recommend

  • Sonam Malik
    Jan 14, 2011 - 3:22AM


    Very Acceptable Solution:


    Minorities and majorities must respect each others religious’ faith(s). There must be approved law by the both to define their own receptive limits. If anyone from minority or majority crosses such approved limits then honorable’ courts must sentenced that criminal after providing ample evidences.Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Jan 14, 2011 - 5:14AM

    in a country where you can be persecuted for blasphemy after throwing someones business card whose name is Muhammad then this minister for minorities does not stand a chance.

    Unless we take on the extremists ourselves they will take more and more ground. We need to fight fire with fire. Recommend

  • Malik
    Jan 14, 2011 - 7:00AM

    Brave Mullah threatens 21 years old Shehrbano;

    ISLAMABAD: The leader of an Islamic
    political party in Pakistan has warned
    the daughter of a murdered politician
    to ”remember her father’s fate” and
    to stop supporting his cause.

    Taseer’s daughter warned to back off

    Another Ghazi in the makingRecommend

  • Fawzia
    Jan 14, 2011 - 2:13PM

    We need to have a powerful Minority Minister with strong point of View.Mr Bhatti you need to pull up ur socks. First make up ur mind as to what should be your role in protecting minorities and fighting for their rights.Recommend

  • Mubarak
    Jan 14, 2011 - 8:35PM

    “It’s time to take that “white” portion out from our flag and make it fully Green.” I would suggest let us make our national flag only one colour and the best colour should be totally dark black. This colour will beautifully reflect our current state of affairs.Recommend

  • bvindh
    Jan 14, 2011 - 9:20PM

    “What Islam are we preaching? The one under which the minorities used to live happily 1400 years ago?”
    –if it was all so happy for minorities 1400 years ago, why was Umar-bin-Khattab murdered by a Farsi?Recommend

  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson
    Jan 14, 2011 - 11:44PM

    Yes his life is in danger and so is of other minorities. Better to rename our country “Islamic Republic Of Mullahs”. Perhaps time for Exodus. The Producers of these Strategic Assets must control them before they also become victim which is now being witnessed at every level in KP, Punjab, Balochistan and some areas in Sind.Recommend

  • Terrorizing Mulana
    Jan 15, 2011 - 10:55AM

    We need to respect everyone’s point of view, Illiterate and mulana shahiban with biased opinion should be kicked out of this country, Suppose if i say that we need to change this law then what?
    i mean this is insanity to kill someone just because he is liberal. We should respect point of view of everyone. Recommend

  • Azman
    Jan 15, 2011 - 1:44PM

    Each and every hindu, christian, buddhist, parsis do not accept the four pillars of islam. Is not therefor they are insulting islam ? Therefore guilty of blaphemy ? Should not they all be off with their heads ?Recommend

  • Sonam Malik
    Jan 16, 2011 - 1:41AM

    Minorities are undoubtedly part of this Pakistan. Islam equally protects the rights and cares the worthy-prestige, of all minorities as well as their respective Prophets. But I, on a very concrete terms, am in the favor such a Blasphemy Law with its emphatic, enforced and institutionalized implementation which equally safeguards the worthy-respect(s) of all Prophets.

    Why we aren’t in favor of such a law (i.e. barrier) which discourages / limits / bounds each individual regardless he / she be a Muslim or Christian or Hindu etc form the act of disrespecting for Prophets.

    Government should ensure a barrier (i.e. law) to stop more critical circumstances. And we all should being a Pakistani, obey it so that all minorities and majorities can live and worship in at their respective prestigious places with peace.

    It is an undeniable truth, “Each individual loves own faith / mindset”. There is no religion in the world which allows anyone to disrespect others’ religion / faith / their respective Prophets. Hence, government should compel each Pakistani just to concentrate / follow only own religion rather to criticize others’ religions because no power in this world can control such a thrust which is created thereafter by the destruction of cleric emotions.


  • christian
    Jan 27, 2011 - 2:15PM

    I would like to say jst one thing all of you shared your own opinion but sorry to say there is no future for christians in pakistan i dont what is going to happen in future with christians but what ever it is its very terrible.Recommend

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