Taliban militants on Wednesday shot dead Pakistan’s only Christian government minister for challenging a law that mandates the death penalty for insulting Islam, the latest sign of instability in a country where many fear radical Islam is becoming more mainstream. Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti is the second senior official this year to be assassinated for opposing the blasphemy law. Provincial governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by his own bodyguard in January.
These killings, along with frequent militant attacks and chronic economic problems have raised fears for the future of U.S.-ally and nuclear-armed Pakistan, where an unpopular coalition government is struggling to cope.
Bhatti, a Roman Catholic, was shot by men in shawls in broad daylight while he was travelling in a car near a market in the capital, Islamabad, police said. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing, saying the minister had been “punished” for being a blasphemer.