Friday, January 09, 2009

Bhatti taken out of context?

This afternoon I received a phone call from a Mr. Masih, a representative from the International Christian Voice, an organization that claims to work on behalf of persecuted Christians in Pakistan. I was aware of the group when it was still called Christian Liberation Front. Led by Peter Bhatti, brother of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's minister of minorities affairs, I gradually came to realize a few years ago that IVC (or CLF) also served as a front for the the Pakistan People's Party and the links between the two have certainly not diminished since the PPP took power.

So I was not surprised when Mr. Masih proceeded to inform me that Shahbaz Bhatti had been taken out of context when newspapers reported that he had said that Pakistan's minorities now enjoyed "equal opportunities." He was also concerned that my earlier blog was being circulated in Pakistan in which I had republished a letter that I sent earlier this week to Shahbaz (which I have received no reply to, by the way). Masih continued by emphasizing all of the good things that the PPP and Shahbaz had been doing for Christians, at which point I interrupted him and suggested that he sounded very much like an apologist for the PPP. I asked him if the PPP was truly doing enough for Pakistan's Christians, to which he mildly admitted that more action was needed. Not to be be thrown off message, however, he then continued to try to convince me that Bhatti was doing all that he could and that Muslim militants were out to destroy his reputation by misquoting him. I pointed out to Mr. Masih, however, that the criticism that I was reading was mostly coming from other Pakistani Christians, to which he had no response.

The discussion was civil and polite. And I wanted to be fair. So, at that point I offered to receive any information that he could provide that would prove that Shahbaz had, indeed, been misquoted. I invited ICV to send me any information they had that would demonstrate this. We'll see what, if anything, comes of it.

I admit that it is possible that Shahbaz Bhatti was misquoted. If it can be shown that such was truly the case, I will gladly retract my letter. But, as I said in response to a comment to my earlier blog, if these comments were taken out of context and Mr. Bhatti is truly concerned to clear his name (as today's phone call would seem to suggest), I am still waiting for him to send out a press release stating clearly that Christians in Pakistan do NOT enjoy equal opportunities. If he was misquoted, he should clarify what he did say and mean.