“The memory of Shahbaz Bhatti and the results he achieved cannot be lost”, Minister for Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini underscored as he met at the foreign ministry in Rome with Paul Bhatti, brother of the Pakistani Minister for Religious Minorities assassinated last month, who has taken his brother’s place in the government as special advisor. Paul Bhatti, Frattini explained, has “agreed to carry on the courageous work of the brother martyred in an act of terrorism”, and “we spoke today of the importance of pursuing his aims”.
Frattini assured Bhatti that Italy “confirms its support” for the Pakistani government’s promotion of interfaith dialogue and to “defending minorities, such as Christians” who have suffered very “serious crimes”. Italy’s support, the minister continued, proceeds through projects aimed at educating young people in tolerance, promoting encounter between different communities and helping the poorer segments of the Pakistani population. “Cooperation projects and credit programmes are already under way, that we confirm”, Frattini added, asking the Pakistani government to “carry on in its efforts” against terrorism and religious intolerance.
For his part, Bhatti recalled how lose Italy had been after the “tragic assassination” of his brother to his family, and to the Pakistani people and government. Frattini’s support was “fundamental” for his brother and will continue to be: “It will give me greater strength”, Paul Bhatti said. And when asked whether he was afraid, Bhatti responded: “We all are, but given the importance of the challenge and the fact that the people have been left without a leader, fear goes on the back burner”.