The Late Honourable Shahbaz Bhatti
Honourable senators, on March 3, I had the opportunity to travel to Pakistan with the Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney. Despite endless threats from terrorists and even warnings from the Canadian government that it was not safe to travel to Pakistan, Minister Kenney and I felt obligated to honour our dear friend, the recently assassinated Minorities Minister of Pakistan, Shahbaz Bhatti.
After a 20-hour flight and hours spent at airports waiting for connecting flights, we arrived in Pakistan at 7:30 a.m. After touring the embassy and addressing its staff, we went to the church for Shahbaz Bhatti’s funeral.
There were thousands in attendance to honour Mr. Bhatti. It was evident that Shahbaz Bhatti’s dedication to human rights and his will to stand up for what he believed in was admired by many around the world. The thousands of crying faces at the funeral had an emotional impact on me, as I had come to realize that, although I had lost a close personal friend, the world had lost an influential man who had carried the hopes and dreams of the oppressed and marginalized.
I was surprised to see that the staff of most embassies stayed away from the funeral because of security concerns. Canada, on the other hand, had the largest representation at the funeral. Minister Jason Kenney and I sat near the coffin of our dear friend.
Our presence was truly appreciated by the Pakistanis. We were acknowledged by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the bishop, and Shahbaz Bhatti’s family. I was deeply honoured when Mr. Bhatti’s mother reached out for my hand and kissed it while crying and pleading, “Wake up, my prince,” to her dead son.
After the funeral, Minister Kenney and I held bilateral talks with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was accompanied by some of his ministers. This meeting was followed by a meeting with the interior minister, and then followed by a press conference and a meeting with members of the minority communities. These types of meetings ensure that my home country of Pakistan and my new home of Canada work closely together for a successful bilateral relationship.
Sixteen hours had gone by since we had arrived in Pakistan, and then we started our 20-hour flight back to Canada. I have made numerous trips to Pakistan before, but this trip was by far the most emotionally and physically exhausting.
Despite the threats and warnings, I am glad I was able to sit by my friend’s coffin and honour his inspirational life. I am positive that Mr. Bhatti’s life is one that can be admired by many and inspire change around the world.