UK

Pakistan Christian minister Shahbaz Bhatti 'a martyr'

  • 7 March 2011
  • From the section UK
Dr Rowan Williams
Shahbaz Bhatti died a martyr, says the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on the government of Pakistan to do more to protect its minorities.

Dr Rowan Williams said the murder of Pakistan's only Christian cabinet minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, could not be "managed or tolerated".

Writing in London's Times, he said Mr Bhatti was a martyr and Pakistan was being blackmailed by extremists.

Mr Bhatti was killed in an ambush by Taliban gunmen as he drove away from his mother's home on 2 March.

He had been the Pakistan government's only Christian cabinet minister until his assassination in Islamabad.

The minister was an outspoken critic of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws which Dr Williams, who leads the Church of England and the senior bishop of the worldwide Anglican Church, also attacked in his article.

Death sentence

The law carries a death sentence for anyone who insults Islam. Critics say it has been used to persecute minority faiths.

Those who supported Mr Bhatti's killing, said Dr Williams, "inhabit a world of fantasy, shot through with paranoid anxiety."

Dr Williams claimed there was a faction in Pakistan "wholly uninterested in justice and due process of law, concerned only with promoting an inhuman pseudo-religious tyranny."

And he called for a debate in Pakistan about the blasphemy laws, because "part of the problem is the weakening of properly traditional Islam by the populist illiteracies of modern extremism."

Mr Bhatti died "for all practical purposes as a martyr," said Dr Williams.

"Not simply for his Christian faith, but for a vision shared between Pakistani Christians and Muslims."

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