PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate Release

CONSERVATIVE PARTY HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CALLS ON PAKISTAN TO REDOUBLE EFFORTS IN SHAHBAZ BHATTI MURDER INVESTIGATION ON FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF ASSASSINATION

02 March 2012

The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission today called on the Pakistani Government to redouble its efforts in the murder investigation of Shahbaz Bhatti, the late Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs.

Mr Bhatti was assassinated in Islamabad on 2 March 2011 by an unidentified gunman claiming to belong to the Pakistani Taliban.  His killers cited his opposition of Pakistan’s ‘blasphemy laws’ and his support for Christian blasphemy defendant, Asia Bibi, as the motive for the shooting.

Mr Bhatti, a prominent Catholic and human rights activist who previously served as President of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, was in the process of negotiating amendments to the controversial laws.  Before entering politics, he had long been an outspoken critic of the laws, which are widely abused and have contributed to religious tensions and violence in the country.

Robert Buckland MP, Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, said:

“We pay tribute to the work and memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, a lifelong advocate of justice and equality in Pakistan, who was killed because he would not be silenced in the face of violent opposition.

“We urge the Pakistani Government to take all necessary measures to ensure that Shahbaz Bhatti’s killers are brought to justice, and to consider launching a judicial commission of inquiry if the existing investigation does not yield credible results in the near future.  We also urge the Government to act swiftly to bring to account all who misuse freedom of expression to publicly incite violence.

 “We encourage the British Government, the European Union and the international community to support Pakistan in strengthening democracy and the rule of law and in tackling the root causes of terrorism and vigilantism in the country.”

Notes to Editors:

1. On 5 April, 2011 Robert Buckland MP raised Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination in the House of Commons, asking the Church Commissioners: “It is likely that Mr Bhatti, who was a Christian himself, was murdered because he had suggested reforms to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Is not now a time for us to remember that article 18 of the universal declaration of human rights, which enshrines the right to freedom of religion and belief, should be truly of universal application?”.
See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110405/debtext/110405-0001.htm

2. Benedict Rogers, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, published a personal tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti, headlined “Yesterday Pakistan lost its Martin Luther King,” the day after his assassination. Mr Rogers was a personal friend of Mr Bhatti.  http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2011/03/benedict-rogers-yesterday-pakistan-lost-its-martin-luther-king.html