My soul finds rest in God alone;

My salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation;

He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 62-2 

By:Brig. Samson Sharaf (R)

While the choir of Catholic Nuns and Seminarians sang this Psalm of Prophet David in a slow chant, the casket of the slain minister draped in national colours slowly moved towards the alter. The mood inside the church was sad and sombre reflecting the misery that we Pakistanis go through each day inasmuch as the denial that cocoons us. The presence or absence thereof of the diversity of congregation in the church reflected both the empathy and fissures in our society and the insensitive obliviousness we live in day after day. 

A tryst with Jinnah and living up to the traditions of Faisalabad to produce one outstanding Pakistani Christian after another, I was overtaken by emotions. Clement Shahbaz Bhatti was a Pakistani who envisioned Jinnah’s Pakistan and remained an ardent human rights activist for over two decades in the best traditions of pacifists and non violent social prime movers. He was a diehard Pakistani who happened to belong to a fringe minority of political activist who believed in the human dignity of equality, justice and law, his home turf both in terms of Pakistani nationalism and Christian values. Having risen from the ranks of a fringe community that lives in social exclusion, he was much above the social inbreeding that plagues fringed deprived groups and rose as a symbol of human dignity. In the past 25 years, he brought hope to bonded labour, kiln workers, child labourers and destitute, irrespective of religion; a devotion that earned him a prized appointment in the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.  

He never was a politician who could construe two wrongs to make a right. To accomplish his mission, it was his decision fatale and inevitable that he someday walk into the mainstream politics as a lamb amongst wolves. His objective was to carve the best out of the worst. 

Heading a nationwide movement of All Parties Minorities Alliance, he chose Benazir Bhutto as closest to his ideals. As destiny would have it, he was pre ordained to meet the same fate at the hands of similar intolerance and intrigue amidst the throes of a party that no longer lived by that spirit. Many friends requested him on security grounds to reject the ministerial portfolio offered to him in the new cabinet. Yet he made that fateful decision despite knowing that he was a Lamb marked for slaughter.  

The speech of the Prime Minister was well short of pertraying the true mood of the nation. It also reflected his helplessness and sense of drift. His frequent reference to protection of MINORITIES was a slur and poor reflection of his knowledge of Pakistani society envisioned by Jinnah; a nation he had been elected and selected to lead. His demeanour suggested his innate perception that minorities indeed are extra terrestrial aliens. Rehman Malik’s stare at the dead body says it all.  

Glimpse ahead and I saw Chaduary Shujjat Hussain of PMLQ wiping his eyes. Politics aside, at least this gentleman had the moral courage to be there on every occasion when Christians were grieved; enough to bust the dam in me.  I wept as much for Shahbaz as for the plight that Pakistan was headed in. The foreign dignitaries outnumbered the government functionaries and politicians. Missing were all political bigwigs who chose to stay away for fear of branding or political apathy. For them it did not matter that Clement Shahbaz Bhatti represented the conscience of the nation and not the infidel Christian branded as such by the extremist who killed him or those who refuse to sympathise his death. Leaders after all are a disposable commodity. 

Bhatti was a soft and honest face of Pakistan. Internationally, he earned Pakistan a good name to the extent that the Canadian Government sent a special ministerial delegation to join his family in mourning. He was someone the world wanted to see in Pakistan. He was soft spoken, clear and persuasive. At every function of the Christian community I attend with him, he always emphasised Pakistan our Country, Jinnah our Leader and readiness to sacrifice his life for the vision of Jinnah’s Pakistan.  

I had a first glimpse of him in 1992, when he was interviewed in GHQ for a ministerial post. His idealism was enough to convince the military panel that he was not one who would play second fiddle to a dictator. They viewed him as too young, immature and emotional; traits that are anathema to dictators and that were to endear him to Benazir and many parliamentarians of Pakistan. 

When Gojra was gutted, he spent many a night at the compound of the local church tediously working through the political differences of PPP and PMLN, to secure the safety and compensation of his people. Throughout his tenure, he had to contend with a political minefield of  PPP versus PMLN, sadly a time when most crimes against Christians were committed in Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Sialkot and Kasur.   

Indeed, he had no security, a fact he had disclosed to his inner circles including me. When I questioned him three days before his death, he replied, “God is my Shepherd”. Despite being a Federal Minister, he slept his nights out at different places to evade his assassins. The government despite threats was reluctant to give him a house in the minister’s enclave. He went to the extent of calling Rehman Malik a liar over a question that a bullet proof vehicle has already been provided to him. While the blood was still oozing out of his wounds, the Interior Minister went on the floor of the Parliament to announce that there was no security lapse. It was all a déjà vu 

His funeral was a mass of emotions and the world saw it. The singing of the National Anthem during the High Mass must have embarrassed many Pakistanis and could serve an elixir to awake them from their slumber and denial. His memorial was a manifestation of grief, love of Pakistan and sadly, political bigotry. 

The entire controversy over Blasphemy Laws was created with a purpose to coalesce the forces of extremism. The Private Bill of Sherry Rehman was not consulted with minority leaders. There never was a committee headed by Bhatti to review the law. In a press conference at Holiday Inn he distanced himself from the Committee and Sherry Rehman’s Bill and clarified that the minority communities were not looking for amendments. They simply wanted justice and rule of law. The media rather that grab the occasion for reconciliation never gave it the publicity it merited. Meanwhile, at one hand the government continued to fuel the issue and on the other deny it. There never was an explicit clarification tantamount to deliberate negligence.  

Tough times lie ahead for sane, patriotic and charismatic political leaders of Pakistan. Assassination of national leaders will continue as will the widening of fissures, economic deprivation and rise in violence. It is time that the silent majority of Pakistan wakes up to the challenge. If they do not, Pakistan will continue the road to self destruction. Libya should be an eye opener. 

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army, a Political Economist and a spokesperson of PTI.

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  • Idrees  On March 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Succinctly put the state of our nation! But was Bhatti called to GHQ in 1992 or 2002? All that Samson has written speaks lucidly and voluminously of our IMPOTENCE & vacuous leadership and the consequent apathy of this great nation.

  • Ali Reza Qizalbash  On March 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Sir,
    I agree with your comments. We as Pakistanis are seeing a degeneration of our society centered around the religious bigots who claim to be saviours of Pakistan. We as sane Paskistanis stand by you and your brethren in this time of trial and pray that is still not too late to save Pakistan from these self styled saviours. Quaid e Azam had very rightly spelled out his priorities and we must stand firm on them. My Salute as a military person to Clement Shahbaz Bhatti and to his brothers. We must remain optimistic of the future of Pakistan. I for one stand firm and voice the same views as that of Clement Shahbaz Bhatti . Long live Pakistan. **** Taliban and all their supporters.

  • simon  On March 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Bhatti was called in 1999

  • Iltifat Lone  On March 8, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I think that Brig Simon has amply covered all qualities of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti and has stressed more for his cause for minorities. I differ with him on this aspect as I found him to be a very mature, educated, intelligent and a balanced personality. He was a promising leader of Pakistan who talked sense, remained calm under difficult situation and certainly was a brave person. Loss of such a great leader is an irreparable loss for Pakistan. Such brave leaders are difficult to produce. The country has paid a huge price and we pray to Almighty that one day we overcome from all these radical, illiterate, fundamentalists and have a prosperous Pakistan; a dream of Shahbaz Bhatti.

  • S U Turkman  On March 8, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    This is another proof that Elected Government of Pakistan is just a Show Piece staged by Pak Army to keep Pakistan qualifying for Charity of Aid, Loans, Commonwealth Membership and Export Concessions because its own rule had caused not only loss of all that but also UN Sanctions.
    Zardari has to get Ministers approved by Army GHQ or they can not be appointed. This is not Mr. Jinnah’s Pakistan. This is Punjabistan or Pak Army. Countries are supposed to have an Army. In Pakistan Army has a country.
    Army plays its games from behind the curtain and this is why its not controlling its irregular Army of Taliban and other JehaaDi Groups just to give an impression to USA and the West since it can not control them in its own country, how can it stop them from entering Afghanistan.
    Afghanistan is not a part of Pakistan but Pak Army thinks so and wants USA to leave so, its Taliban can take over again. This is not a big secret anymore.

  • Nelson S Alfred  On March 9, 2011 at 1:51 am

    Everyone has to dye, as this is a reality of life, but what makes it so specialis, when you knowing follow the lane by giving your sacrifice to save millions is what makes that death of triumphs and of tragedies.
    Such deaths are milestones along the way. As they help remind us of how far – or perhaps not so far – we have come since we started, they also make us think of how much farther we still have to go. To celebrate such memories are always two-way street, accommodating both past and future, in a present that is forever changing. This celebration has the distinct singular doubleness of anniversaries – of looking back and looking forward at the same time – reflects many seeming dualities which are really one, just as past and future are one, tied together by the elusive knot of the present like a Janus face, looking forward and backward at once. The tragedy of life is not is not very different, joy and sorrow are as closely interwoven with each other as light and shadow. One is unimaginable without the other. Celebration of the good lives are of good things and of bad – help to remind us of this. Black couldn’t exist if white didn’t, and vice versa. They’re reverse images, mirror images, of each other. And the mirror is our mind.
    The reason why he was not provided accomodation in minister’s enclave and security was his being Zimmi and PPP wanted some blood to save their government for some more time and show the world that to trust other parties will be dangerious.

  • Inam Khan  On March 9, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Late Mr.Clement Shahbaz Bhatti was a thorough gentleman and sincere Pakistani.Enemies of the country and our religion have sinned against humanity by carrying out wanton and senseless killing.May God save people of Pakistan from these barbarians.Brig.Sharaf shd be told that every true Pakistani is aggrieved on murder of late Mr.Bhatti……………………………………………………………..Inam Khan

  • A M  On March 11, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Dear Brigadier
    The murder of any one leaving – aside that of a gentleman like Mr Bhatti – is not only tragic but lamentable and deplorable to the core as it deserves – to be condemned at in strongest terms. Having said that are we sure that it is the work of an “extremist”? not with standing R Malik; if this is not labled as a consipracy theory pl have the facts checked up. Who are they – the murderers – indeed??? Muslims are also as much – perhaps even more victims of the same “extremists” who to me are rather non muslims and are neither extremists nor way side robbers. How can they be extremists of a religion when they are not following even the most basics even most rigidly viewed doctrine of their religion.
    I would also not appreciate in your trying to give it a divide between Christians and Muslims in Pakistan. Amongst the Americans and the British was there any one left not to condemn extremism in Pakistan relating it to the incident of Mr Bhatti – but no other nation did it. But cooincidently when a number of Muslims die as a result of suicide bombers – there is not a whisper not a whimper. Even when Salman taseer got shot. So extremism is only when a fellow christian dies. Again when Rabin was shot by a jew extremist the world never said that Israel is harbouring extremists; and when world trade centre was blown out by a Christian american then nobody said of any extremism in the american society.

  • S U Turkman  On March 12, 2011 at 2:28 am

    Oh sure, sure Mr. A.M. Because besides our Enemy Countries like USA and UK, no country has criticized great work of our Islamists, it should not be considered a Sin by us. The Sin is, whole world not criticizing Drone Attacks on our Soldiers of Allah killing Troops of 47 nations (including 7 Moslim Nations).
    Thanks for letting us know this.

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