Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Pakistan - murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities

Delivered in Plenary - 10th March 2011

Mr President

One by one in Pakistan the voices of reform and progress are being extinguished. Shahbaz Bhatti knew he was in danger, both as a Christian in a country where religious intolerance is rife, and as Minister for Minorities who fearlessly denounced his country’s draconian blasphemy laws. However, he refused to be cowed by the Islamist fanatics who threatened him with death.

Only two months earlier the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, had been assassinated by his own bodyguards, but Bhatti was not even provided with bodyguards and, therefore, presented the easiest of targets to the heavily armed terrorists who cut him down on his way to a cabinet meeting.

Why was Mr Bhatti not shadowed by armed close protection officers? This is one of the many questions we must ask President Zardari. I hope he can answer. I hope the Vice-President/High Representative will press him to set more of an example in opposing the alarming radicalisation of Pakistani society.

Above all this is a human tragedy. A man of great courage and principle has lost his life and we as democrats honour his name and salute his life’s achievements today in this debate. We send our condolences to his loved ones in their hour of grief.