'Bhatti's assassination shows growing extremism in Pakistan'
The assassination of Pakistan's only Christian cabinet minister Shahbaz Bhatti, months after gunning down of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, deals a serious blow to efforts to quell religious extremism, eminent US organisations said.
"Mr Bhatti's death, following the assassination in January of Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab who also called for repeal of the blasphemy law, deals another serious blow to Pakistan's efforts to quell religious extremism," Eric Rassbach, litigation director at the Washington-based Becket Fund, said.
While, Angela Wu, international law director at the Becket Fund, said "Shahbaz Bhatti was a thoughtful, devoted, man who had a strategic vision for the kind of reform the country he loved needed to prosper. His death is a reminder of the extreme forces average Pakistani citizens must face to obtain their freedom."
Islamic Society of North America demanded the Pakistani government to secure the rights of minoritites. "We ask that the government takes every measure necessary to secure the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan, as well as their safety and those of their places of worship," its president Imam Mohamed Magid.
"We also ask Islamic scholars to stand up for the rights of those minorities in their midst as the Quran teaches. To do nothing will only play into the hands of the extremists everywhere in the world."
ISNA called on Pakistanis and their government to stand for the rights of religious minorities. "We know that many of them do not agree with these acts of violence and it is now time for them to speak out against them."
The assassination Bhatti was an "outgrowth of that country’s blasphemy law, which fuels extremism and violence rather than keeping the peace," said US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
"The brutal assassination was an outgrowth of that country’s blasphemy law, which fuels extremism and violence rather than keeping the peace," USCIRF chairperson Leonard Leo said.
"Threats against his life were widely known, but Minister Bhatti continued to courageously advocate against the forces of violent extremism and the blasphemy law," said Leo.
The Commission extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Minister Bhatti, he said. "He was our friend. He will be missed."
"We believed he was Pakistan’s brightest light of hope for the advancement of freedom of religion and human rights more broadly," Leo said.
"The assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti -- a true hero for human rights and religious freedom -- illustrates how barbaric that country’s system of blasphemy laws really is. Blasphemy laws don’t keep the peace, but embolden extremists," USCIRF chairman observed.
"After the murders of Salman Taseer and now Shahbaz Bhatti for their advocacy against the blasphemy law, President (Asif Ali) Zardari must find the political courage to enact meaningful reforms, or Pakistan may well be lost,” he warned.
Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation said the murder of Pakistani Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti by religious extremists establishes a pattern of growing religious intolerance.
"It is undermining Pakistan’s struggling democracy by shutting down free speech and political expression in the name of a ruthless ideology disguised as religion," she said.
"The rising tide of extremism gripping the country —- as evidenced by the assassination of the second top official in Pakistan over the blasphemy issue in the space of less than two months —- demands the civilian leaders of Pakistan who still value the principles of democratic governance stand together to keep the country from lurching further toward lawlessness and instability," Curtis added.