The National Assembly failed to come up with a joint resolution condemning the murder of minorities affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti on Thursday, repeating its failure to formally condemn the murder of Salmaan Taseer two months ago.
The house was meeting a day after the minister’s coldblooded killing in the heart of Islamabad, allegedly by homegrown Taliban from Punjab for his support for reforming the blasphemy law.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani did announce a three-day period of mourning for Bhatti, a Roman Catholic, but only after emotional speeches demanding this were made by a couple of Christian members and a token walkout by all parties.
Pakistan’s parliament has previously been swift to pass condemnation resolutions concerning perceived blasphemy incidents in Europe, though not the murder of government officials only a few miles away.
That there was no attempt made to introduce such a resolution, even by the so-called liberal parties, will be seen by many as a sign that legislators fear antagonising the extremists.
“I announce three days of national mourning,” the prime minister said on the floor of the house. “The national flag will fly at half mast.”
Earlier, Asia Nasir, a Christian member of the National Assembly from Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), set the tone for the day when she addressed the portrait of Quaid-i-Azam, overlooking the house, and pleaded for him to notice the state of minorities in his country.
“At the time of the creation of Pakistan, we (the minorities and the Muslims) were all one. But today, we feel we are out,” said Nasir. She said the Christian community would give its reaction after the funeral of Bhatti.
Akram Masih Gill of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, quoting a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) about the protection of minorities, held the government responsible for Bhatti’s murder. “He was not provided adequate security despite his repeated requests,” said Gill.
“We pay equal taxes yet we are discriminated against. No one from the minorities can become the president or the prime minister. Today, our children want to leave this country as they feel more insecure than ever,” he added.
Abdul Qadir Baloch from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz played down an attempt by certain members of religious parties, including Maulana Attaur Rehman of JUI-F, to link the killing to the Raymond Davis case or a foreign hand.
“I fail to understand why it is being associated with the Davis case. These are our own failings and we should admit it,” said Baloch, a retired army general.
After others gave a range of views about who was behind Bhatti’s murder, Bushra Gohar of the Awami National Party, supported by many members, demanded the formation of a judicial commission to probe the killing.
Additional reporting by Umer Nangiana
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2011.