Murdered Christian politician's brother carries on the fight against Pakistan's blasphemy laws

Shahbaz BhattiWikimedia

The brother of a high profile Pakistani Christian who was murdered for standing up for his faith has announced he is carrying on the campaign.

Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated by extremists in March 2011 following his repeated attacks on the country's blasphemy laws, which are sometimes used to persecute Christians. In his role as Minister for Minority Affairs, the politician had supported Christian Asia Bibi – who is currently still imprisoned on charges of blasphemy. Bhatti had even said he expected to be attacked for standing up for his fellow believers, and at the time of his death was the only cabinet minister who was a Christian.

Now, his brother Paul says he has been inspired by Shabbaz's example and is fighting to continue his legacy.

"My life and profession changed after the assassination of my brother," he told RNS. Having previously practiced as a surgeon, Paul Bhatti founded a trust in memory of his brother and has now followed his footsteps into politics.

Paul is the national Minister for Harmony and Minority Affairs and is using his voice to fight against the blasphemy laws, which have caused such misery for his fellow Pakistani Christians. Human rights groups say that the laws are frequently misused by extremists, and false charges brought against Christians in order to settle personal scores or to seize property or businesses. Accusations can carry heavy sentences – even including the death penalty.

Bhatti is among those who are calling for the laws to be repealed and for justice and equal treatment for all of Pakistan's citizens. It's thought that fewer than two per cent are Christians – but they are still a significant minority in a country of 300 million people.

Bhatti is careful not to blame all Muslims, saying: "Some of the innocent Muslims who don't have the possibility of engaging with Christians or other minorities genuinely believe that Christians or other religions are their enemy, because they're told by some people."

In a hopeful note, he indicates that his destiny has already been marked out. "I was not aspiring to be a politician, but it happened," he said. "I think God's ways are different, and it happened."