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Thursday, 10 March 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Pakistan - murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities

  Eija-Riitta Korhola, author. (FI) Mr President, Shahbaz Bhatti and all his family are an astonishing example of what brave, principled, loyal people can achieve. He had only held office for six months when the Pakistani Parliament adopted a significant reform that guaranteed a 5% quota to the country’s minorities in public positions. That was just one of the numerous democratic reforms which Bhatti pushed forward and of which the Pakistani Government should be very proud.

Most significant of all is perhaps the ‘Interfaith Harmony Dialogue’, which he began at local level, and which aimed to diffuse tensions and tackle the problems that give rise to terrorism. I saw in the idea the ingredients for the Nobel Peace Prize and I hope that the work to promote human rights and democracy in Pakistan will not cease, even though extremist elements gained a temporary victory when they disposed of the country’s most strategic human rights activist. If dialogue succeeds in a country which is a centre of radical Islam, the positive effects will radiate everywhere in the world.

Only about a month ago, I met Mr Bhatti. We talked about his possible death. He was not naïve. He understood very well what bravery could lead to. I will die before too long, he said, but meanwhile I will try to change unjust legislation as much as I can. I will die, but the law will remain and it will affect the lives of millions.


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