Moving Pakistan Minority Day Event to Canada is illogical. By Sheraz Khan
10 Aug 2013
Dr. Paul Bhatti, the man who now runs a deeply fragmented All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), a minority rights group which was founded by his brother Shahbaz Bhatti, the former federal minister for minorities who was assassinated in March 2011 for speaking against Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, has decided to observe Minority Day at an event in Canada on August 11 this year.
Minority Day was acknowledged as an official day for the minorities in Pakistan in 2009 by the then government during Mr Shahbaz Bhatti’s term in office.
The rationale behind observing Pakistan Minority Day as far afield as Canada is totally incomprehensible to me. It would have been surely more logical if the ceremony was held in Pakistan. The choice of a home venue for such an event would have allowed minority people to better plug into it. An event staged in Pakistan would have given them an opportunity, sadly often denied to them, to converge and reiterate their demands for equality, impartiality and fairness and an opportunity also to vent their bottled up emotions against the perceived injustices against them.
A Minority Day held in Pakistan would, at the very least, have given minorities’ communities a momentary pride and a feeling of being important, no matter how fleeting, that a day is being marked for them at place which in terms of accessibility is open to them and where they do not need to obtain a Canadian visa to attend it.
Some amongst Pakistan minorities are highly dismissive of the idea of observing a Minority Day. They argue the pointlessness of marking such a day in view of the on-going human rights abuses against them. They have in the past observed August 11 as Black Day to underline their point.
In my view Mr. Bhatti has shot himself in the foot in reaching this decision to hold Minority Day in Canada. A post-Shahbaz Bhatti APMA is in disarray and given Mr. Bhatti’s growing unpopularity as the head of the alliance which is clearly evident from the gradual defection and exit of its senior members all of whom were diehard Shahbaz Bhatti loyalists.
He has missed an opportunity to communicate to the disgruntled elements within the alliance as well as to the powers that be in Pakistan that he is capable of carrying forward the mission for which his brother, Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, gave his life. Likewise he has lost an opportunity to let the minority people see that he is as zealously committed to fighting for their rights even though he no longer holds a government portfolio.
According to media reports Mr. Bhatti, who is affiliated to Pakistan Peoples’ Party, decided to hold Minority Day in Canada because he thought the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz wouldn’t allow the event to be staged in the President’s House. Assuming it was true the choice of Canada as a venue for Minority Day is still unjustifiable.
The movements for peoples’ rights cannot be effectively fought from presidential houses or from prestigious venues on foreign lands but by standing side by side with the people lending them credence, effectiveness and real chances of success.
The rhetoric can take Dr. Paul Bhatti so far but it is his actions that would vindicate him as a true successor of Shahbaz Bhatti.
(Mr. Khan is a Pakistan-born journalist, who did his apprenticeship in journalism with Pakistan’s South Asian News Agency (SANA). He later served the Online International News Network in Pakistan from 2003 to 2005. In December 2005 he started contributing news stories and feature articles to the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and the Pakistan Christian Post. He was appointed as Special Correspondent for ANS at the end of December 2005. He moved to the United Kingdom in 2008, and has continued writing the occasional article for ANS since that time. He lives in Scotland and can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)