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Paul Bhatti: Pakistan's religious divide

Pakistan's former minister for national harmony and minority affairs on the roots of violence along religious lines.

Last Modified: 13 Jul 2013 13:36
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Another attack hit Pakistan, a country where violence keeps escalating along religious divisions. This time, Sunni armed groups targeted a Shia neighbourhood in Karachi, leaving 45 people killed.

I think it is not an issue of the law, it is an issue of a specific mindset which is using Islam for their own purpose .... Some [Madrassas] are teaching only to the children a specific kind of ideology interpreted in their own way. And these children are brainwashed, and they are attacking people who are against their ideology.

Paul Bhatti, the former minister for national harmony and minority affairs in Pakistan

This year alone, more than 400 people have been killed in similar attacks. Ahmadis, Hindus, and Christians have also been victims of religious intolerance.

In August last year, Rimsha, a young disabled girl, was arrested on charges of desecrating the Quran. She was jailed and the Christian neighbourhood where she lives has been under constant threat of attack.

The country’s controversial blasphemy laws forbid any form of insult to all religions, but in practice have been applied only in the case of Muslims feeling aggrieved.

Few politicians have been willing to publicly criticise the country’s blasphemy laws. One who did was Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab. He was subsequently assassinated by his bodyguard in January 2011.

Another politician opposed to the blasphemy laws was Shahbaz Bhatti. For four years he was the only Christian member of the federal cabinet and served as minister for minority affairs. He was gunned down in March 2011. No one has yet been found guilty.

Shahbaz's brother Paul, also a Christian, returned to Pakistan from Italy and  took up his mantle as minister. But Paul Bhatti was replaced as minister of religious affairs in the new government - by Sardar Muhammad Yousaf, who is a Muslim. 

Talk to Al Jazeera sat down with the former minister for national harmony and minority affairs in Pakistan, Paul Bhatti, to discuss religious divisions in today’s Pakistan, issues facing religious minorities, and the impact of the country's blasphemy laws.

Talk to Al Jazeera can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430; Sunday: 0830, 1930; and Monday: 1430.  

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