Following the murder of Pakistan Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti on March 2nd, Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Congressman Heath Shuler (D-NC), co-chairs of the Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus, introduced a resolution calling for the U.S. to take a definitive stance in protecting religious freedom and condemning the intolerance that sanctioned these murders in Pakistan and continue to threaten freedom everywhere.
In a press statement just released by the co-chairs, Congressman Franks stated, “It has been said that no one is truly free when there remain others who are being oppressed.” In Pakistan today, those who want freedom have been silenced. Franks implored the Obama Administration to take an “offensive approach” approach against religious intolerance and “draw a line in the sand to distinguish who is for and who is against religious freedom.”
For years Ahmadiyas, Christians, Hindus, and Muslims have been denied justice under the blasphemy laws which both Taseer and Bhatti worked to amend. Tina Ramirez, Director of Government Relations at the Becket Fund, who collaborated with Congressman Franks’ office on House Resolution 141 said, “Congress is finally recognizing the dangerous nexus between Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and their international advocacy for ‘defamation’ resolutions that defend their harmful effects on innocent lives. It is inexcusable that the international community has allowed these deaths to occur instead of standing behind the men who were willing to die for the freedom their country and the UN system was intended to protect.”
Ramirez continued, “Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, held that the state doesn’t need to get involved in an individual’s religious decisions, yet since the blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiya laws were introduced, that is exactly what the state has done. Sadly, now two of the people who most personified Jinnah’s beliefs have been senselessly murdered and religious intolerance is inflaming the entire nation.”
In the statement released today, Congressman Shuler also condemned the attacks and recognized Taseer and Bhatti’s courage for sacrificing “their lives to fight injustice and defend religious freedom for all.” Shuler stated, “These horrific acts of violence are an attack on the values of tolerance and respect that people across Pakistan and the world hold dear.”
House Resolution 141 calls for a UN Human Rights Council resolution in honor of Taseer and Bhatti’s “courage in defense of core principles of Pakistan’s democracy, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”