Islamabad: "One more liberal voice silenced,"
this was how the media here on Thursday described the killing of
sole Christian minister in Pakistan`s Cabinet Shahbaz Bhatti,
while charging the PPP-led government with "retreating in the
battle against fanaticism and intolerance".
"A resolute silence when confronted by...extremists,"
screamed `The Dawn` as it questioned the government`s efforts
to tackle growing extremism in society, a day after Minority
Affairs Minister Bhatti was killed by militants for seeking
reform of the controversial blasphemy law.
The brazen killing of 42-year-old Bhatti was mourned by
the entire spectrum of the Pakistani media, which said that
extremist mindset was taking the country towards "chaos".
The Minister`s brutal murder just a short distance
from his home should serve as a "wake-up call" for the
government to crack down on radical elements, the media said.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed that it
killed Bhatti for opposing the blasphemy law. He was the
second senior leader of the PPP to be assassinated by radical
elements this year after Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer.
The liberal `Daily Times` said in an editorial: "Bhatti`s
brutal assassination has once again highlighted the fact that
we are fast turning into a violent society... Governor
Taseer`s assassination and now Mr Bhatti`s murder by religious
zealots should serve as a wake-up call for the government."
The influential Dawn said in its editorial that Bhatti`s
killers had escaped but "real culprit is known to all: an
extremist mindset that has, with the sponsorship of some
institutions of the state, spread far and wide in Pakistani
"The tragic irony of a country created to protect the
rights of a minority ? Muslims in unified India ? turning into
a killing field for those standing up for the rights of
minorities evokes a deep sense of pathos and helplessness,"
the Dawn said.
Bhatti, a Catholic, was a tireless and outspoken
campaigner for the rights of Pakistan`s minority communities.
In recent months, he had earned the ire of militants
and religious hardliners by speaking in support of Asia Bibi,
a Christian woman sentenced to death last year for allegedly
insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
In several recent interviews, Bhatti spoke of threats
he had received from militant groups, including the Taliban,
but expressed his determination to continue his campaign for
the rights of minorities.
Bhatti`s assassination nearly two months after Taseer was
gunned down by a police guard who was angered by the
politician`s opposition to the blasphemy law has sparked fears
that the culture of tolerance is eroding and the space for
discussing controversial issues is fast shrinking due to
violent religious conservatism.
The headline on the front page of The News read:
"Shahbaz Bhatti silenced forever," while The Express Tribune`s
headline was "Blasphemy law victim: One more silenced". The
main story in the Dawn was headlined "Terrorists silence
another voice of interfaith harmony".
The Dawn, in its editorial, questioned the PPP-led
government`s efforts to tackle growing extremism in society.
The PPP has "maintained a resolute silence when
confronted by its extremist enemies" despite having seen its
chief Benazir Bhutto, Taseer and Bhatti "slain by religious
extremists of different hues", it said.
"...when will those responsible for shaping the
policies of the state recognise that retreat in the battle
against fanaticism and intolerance only gives the extremists
more space?" it asked.
Similarly, other political parties and leaders have
also either maintained a steadfast silence or pandered to
religious extremists," the editorial noted.
The Daily Times, in its editorial, cautioned: "All
those who have raised their voice against the extremist
mindset are being threatened or harassed. The government must
not let the terrorists challenge the writ of the state
anymore. This is not the time to be frightened into silence.
It is time to implement the law and not surrender in front of
The Express Tribune noted in its editorial that
sections of the Pakistani media remained fixated on "scenes of
destruction allegedly wreaked by America" while ignoring the
woes of minorities like the Christians.
"This is the death of the state through extremism.
Nothing that Pakistan says is deemed reliable by the outside
world. The economy is dying because its external links are
snapped by the fear inspired by Pakistani thinking," the