ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Friday that former federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti's assassination was not just a loss of a political party but a loss of the nation.

Addressing a memorial gathering here, he said that seven years ago on this day, Shahbaz Bhatti, the man who wanted to make this world tolerant, was assassinated in Islamabad. “He was assassinated in broad daylight just when he came out of his mother’s house,” Bilawal said.

“He was 42 and a federal minister then. A man of great promise was brutally cut down in the prime of his life. We mourn his death. But with the passage of time, the mourning of the death should give way to celebrating his life. So, ladies and gentlemen, I am here to celebrate the life that Shahbaz Bhatti lived, the values he cherished and fought for,” Bilawal said.

Bilawal said that Shahbaz Bhatti was a man who wanted to “make this world beautiful by delivering a message of peace, togetherness, unity and tolerance.”

To make Pakistan and this world more beautiful and more tolerant, Bhatti launched interfaith initiatives, he said.

Bilawal said that Bhatti sought to demolish walls that divide and to replace them with bridges that unite and connect.

“He was an integral part of our struggle for the restoration of democracy. He preached tolerance, love and togetherness. He pleaded harmony between faiths. Prayer leaders invited him to speak in mosques. He did much more than speaking. He launched, for the first time, a network of interfaith harmony committees at the district level,” Bilawal said.

Today, he said: “We have a broad-based national consensus against terrorism and extremism. But a decade ago, there was no consensus. As a member of the Pakistan People’s Party and the first minister of minorities, Bhatti strove to build a national consensus and finally in July 2010, religious leaders issued a joint statement denouncing terrorism. Shahbaz Bhatti played a critical role in it.”

Bilawal said that Bhatti joined the PPP, under the late Benazir Bhutto who held him in high esteem. “Bhatti was pained by the misuse of the blasphemy law to settle personal scores. In keeping with the vision of his leadership, he valiantly fought for fair investigations in the case of Aasia Noreen, the Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, a charge she always denied,” he said.

He said that the PPP believed in defending the rights of all minorities. “For the first time, it allocated four seats in the Senate for non-Muslim Pakistanis. Senate elections are due tomorrow, the PPP has nominated Anwar Lal Dean, a Christian, on a reserved seat from Sindh. In addition, we have nominated Krishna Kohli, to a general seat for women,” he said.