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Thursday, 10 March 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Pakistan - murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities

  Rui Tavares, author. (PT) Mr President, there is often only so much we can achieve here in the European Parliament in our resolutions on urgent matters, but, in cases like these, where there are at least two issues concerning freedom of speech and religious freedom in countries like Pakistan, there at least two things we need to achieve to make our voice heard.

First of all, I should like to say to the defenders of tolerance in Pakistan and to the defenders of religious freedom in Pakistan that they are not alone. This is a very modest aim, but I believe that it is a first step towards some dignity and respect in the debate, and this message will reach those in Pakistan supporting religious freedom, so the first thing I should like to do is tell them that they are not alone.

The second thing I should like to do is make it very clear to the Pakistani Government that it cannot stop the extremists in Pakistan from thinking that they speak on behalf of everyone because this is the vicious circle countries often fall into when it comes to blasphemy laws, as is the case now in Pakistan, or as was the case, for example, in Indonesia. We are dealing with a minority of very vocal extremists who speak very loudly and who eventually start to believe that they are speaking on behalf of everyone because they manage to intimidate the rest of society. Consequently, in this case, if governments are not first in line to defend freedom in their own countries and fight against impunity, and if governments do not impose a bastion of dignity, the whole country will run the risk of being plagued by intolerance.

The Pakistani Government must therefore fully investigate Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder and must carry out investigations until conclusions have been reached as it did in the case of the Governor of Punjab. What it certainly cannot do is allow the investigations to be corrupted by the kind of practices the police and the Pakistani secret services have been using in investigations, which have destroyed investigations, including even those relating to the murder of the former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. It is therefore vital that the Pakistani Government ensures that the extremists do not take charge of public discourse and, for our part, that we maintain our solidarity with the defenders of tolerance in the country.

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