Pakistan's Ministry for Religious Minorities survived the recent Cabinet reduction, with its representative reappointed Friday to be a member of President Asif Ali Zardari's Cabinet.
Shahbaz Bhatti was among the 22 newly appointed federal ministers. Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani had dissolved the federal Cabinet on Wednesday and the slimmer new Cabinet includes only 22 federal ministers, down from 60.
"I as a humble servant of Jesus Christ will continue to serve the suffering, victimized and persecuted communities and am ready to even sacrifice my life to defend the principles of religious freedom, human equality and the rights of minorities," said Bhatti after his oath-taking ceremony, according to All Pakistan Minorities Alliance.
"I am grateful to everyone who stood by us during challenging times and extended their prayers, solidarity and encouragement."
There were rumors that the Ministry for Religious Minorities would be eliminated in the Cabinet reorganization and that it would go under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. But President Zardari demonstrated that he wants to hear the voice of the country's minorities by keeping the Cabinet position despite cutting nearly two-thirds of the posts.
The Ministry for Religious Minorities is in charge of representing minorities in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. According to the CIA World Factbook, non-Muslims make up only five percent of Pakistan's population.
In 2008, President Zardari created the position of Federal Minister for Minorities and Bhatti was appointed to fill the post. Bhatti is the first-ever Christian to hold a Cabinet position in Pakistan.
Since his appointment, Bhatti has secured a five percent job quota for minorities in government departments; reserved four seats for minorities in the Senate; and received permission to construct prayer rooms for non-Muslim inmates in all prisons, among other activities that support religious minorities in Pakistan.
He has also defended Asia Bibi, the Christian mother who is the first woman to be sentenced to death under the blasphemy law. Zardari had appointed Bhatti to investigate the blasphemy charges and the Federal Minister for Minorities had found Bibi innocent. Bibi is still currently in prison and awaiting a court date for her appeals hearing.
Pakistan is ranked No. 11 in Open Doors 2011 World Watch List of countries with the worst Christian persecution.