Pakistan is being swept towards violent chaos by a growing wave of Islamist extremism, the country’s newspapers said a day after Taliban militants killed the country’s only Christian government minister. The assassination of Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti in broad daylight in the capital Islamabad on Wednesday threatens to further destabilise the nuclear-armed U.S. ally where secular-minded politicians are imperiled by a rising strain of violent religious conservatism in the society.
“Mr. Bhatti’s brutal assassination has once again highlighted the fact that we are fast turning into a violent society,” the liberal Daily Times said in its editorial. “This is not the time to be frightened into silence. It is time to implement the law and not surrender in front of extremists.”
Bhatti is the second senior official to be assassinated this year for challenging the country’s controversial blasphemy law, which sanctions the death penalty for insulting Islam or its Prophet Mohammad. Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by his own bodyguard in January for calling for curbing abuses in the law.
“Terrorists silence another voice of interfaith harmony,” the daily Dawn ran a banner headline on its front page. “Shahbaz Bhatti silenced forever,” said The News.