Editorial - Another tragedy - Thursday, March 03, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=33911&Cat=8

Yesterday saw another murder linked to the country’s blasphemy laws. The late minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, had spoken out against the use of the laws to inflict suffering on minority communities. He had reported threats made on this basis. There are reports that a pamphlet left at the scene in Islamabad contains a claim of responsibility for his murder. An investigation is required into this latest killing. Mr Bhatti, a Christian, seems to have become the second public figure to die simply because, like the former governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer, he had chosen to voice an opinion. The barbaric killings of the two men mean that few others will choose to speak out on the issue. The government appears to have already surrendered and this may have been a factor behind the death of the minister. It is unclear if the additional security Mr Bhatti had demanded in the wake of threats had been offered to him. His demise will mean a deepening of existing fractures in society, as minority communities face a still greater sense of threat and isolation within a nation that seems unwilling to offer them any space.

The government’s reaction to this latest outrage is awaited. It can simply not afford to wring its hands, make weak cries of condolence but do nothing in concrete terms. We must not stand by and watch people perish because they choose to voice an opinion about a piece of legislation they wish to see amended. Certainly, disagreements exist about the blasphemy laws. But the basic right of citizens to voice their views and for their lives to be protected must be ensured; otherwise we will continue to descend into chaos and an environment in which matters are decided by the force of guns rather than through dialogue and discussion. Civilisation has, over the past years, seemed often to be receding from the country. With the tragic assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti it has slipped a little further away.

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