Bilawal pledges to protect minorities in Pakistan



Islamabad: Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday pledged to protect the country's minority communities, saying it was a tragedy that Muhammad Ali Jinnah's vision of a pluralist country had been distorted to spread an "ideology of hate".

In a message issued to mark the first anniversary of the assassination of Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was gunned down by militants in Islamabad last year, Bilawal said the PPP will continue to stand by Pakistan's religious minorities and support them against bigotry in the tradition of his slain mother, former premier Benazir Bhutto.

"Pakistan was conceived as a homeland for Muslims where all religious and ethnic groups would live in peace and harmony. It is a tragedy that (Jinnah's) ideal of a pluralist nation has been distorted under dictatorship to spread an ideology of hate," he said.

"It is this ideology of hate that took away a great public servant like Shahbaz Bhatti from us," Bilawal said.

The assassination of Bhatti, soon after the killing of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, "reminded us of the great obstacles we face in rebuilding Pakistan in accordance with the vision" of Jinnah, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, he said.

"The forces of darkness will not give up easily but neither will we. The blood of martyrs and those committed to a tolerant, democratic, pluralist Pakistan that respects rather than allows the murder of its minorities will not go in vain," Bilawal said.

He lauded Bhatti, who was the only Christian member of the cabinet, for his dedication to democracy and the ideal of a "more tolerant and inclusive Pakistan".

During a meeting this week with Sindh Minister for Minorities Mohan Lal Kohistani, Bilawal said the PPP had condemned the massacre of 18 in Kohistan, abduction of two Christians in Karachi and killing of an 80-year-old Ahmadi in Benazirabad.

Bilawal sought a report on what could be done to protect the most vulnerable segments of society. The Sindh government will make concerted efforts to provide complete security to minority communities of the province.

PTI