There has been mixed reaction in Pakistan's press to the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, an outspoken liberal shot by a bodyguard angered by his opposition to blasphemy laws. While English-language newspapers mostly condemned the killing, Urdu papers have focused on Mr Taseer's "controversial" utterances.
The Express Tribune, English
This is no country for brave men. Words alone are enough to get you killed. Just testifying to the horrors perpetrated on the country is akin to signing one's death warrant. Salman Taseer, unlike so many lily-livered politicians, never equivocated in denouncing those who are terrorising this country. He brushed off the threats to his life with grace and humour. Let us begin that by honouring Salman Taseer. He has already been awarded many titles and awards and more will follow posthumously. They will be richly deserved but won't be enough. The party he served so faithfully... should pass legislation to ensure his death was not in vain. Too many people have already been killed by the hideous misuse of the blasphemy laws. Salman Taseer should be the last. His fight against the blasphemy laws was his last crusade. Repealing it now would be the greatest rebuke to his murderers.
Nawa-i-Waqt (Islamabad-based Urdu daily)
The governor had become controversial after terming the blasphemy law a black law... In the prevailing circumstances, the killing of Salman Taseer can be termed a great tragedy.
The News, English
The governor of Punjab died as he had lived: controversially. In the hours after his death, police officials continued to insist that the possible motives needed to be assessed. But most people had already reached what was the only obvious conclusion - the remarks Salman Taseer had made a few weeks ago on the blasphemy laws and on the need to amend them were enough for someone to kill him. While Taseer may have angered or annoyed people, while his sometimes bombastic manner may have been irritable, there can be no doubt that he was a courageous man, willing to speak out on issues that few choose to address due to the growing fear forced on us by religious extremists...
The shooting is evidence that it is not necessary for extremists to be in the garb of the Taliban, with their beards and turbans. They exist everywhere and come in all forms. And even those in the police may form a part of their ranks. The incident means several things. On many issues we have for years, indeed decades, been reluctant to speak our thoughts. Some taboos have only now begun to lift. The killing of the governor by a member of his own security team could mean that even fewer will speak out on such issues. The situation is awful. Taseer's death highlights just how grim it is, and how difficult it will be to change our country for the better.
Daily Times, English
There are no words to describe the shock and horror of the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. If indeed it was an individual act and done to avenge the governor's opposition to the blasphemy laws, then this murder is a grim commentary on the state of affairs in Pakistan. If the religious extremists who consider themselves the guardians of the Prophet's honour can go so far as to take the life of someone who opposed man-made laws, then society is heading for anarchy and barbarism. This means that there is no space for a rational discourse and even a person of such high profile as the Governor of Punjab cannot escape their wrath. It also speaks of the weakness in the security regime of the Punjab government.
Daily Express (Karachi-based Urdu daily)
No doubt the killing of the governor is a big tragedy. The people should demonstrate patience. It is the duty of religious parties to work jointly against extremism so that the elements sparking hatred and prejudice in society are eliminated...
An impartial probe should be conducted into the killing and it should be ascertained if there was any other force involved in the incident.
The assassination of Salman Taseer by an armed guard reportedly deputed for his security raises the fundamental issue once again: that religious indoctrination is feeding the fires of hatred and intolerance. Although details as to the motive of the crime have yet to emerge, by the very trappings it seems little else but a crime of hate. Mr Taseer had few friends left in his last days. His outspoken defence of the Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy under questionable charges levelled against her by fellow Muslim villagers and who has been on the death row in a Punjab prison for over a year awaiting appeal in a higher court, made him a hate figure for extremist and Islamist outfits and parties. Major religious parties called out nationwide strikes on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve to demand Asia Bibi's execution under the controversial blasphemy law, and to condemn her sympathisers, Mr Taseer being one of the foremost public figures amongst the latter group and thus the object of hate.
Ummat (Karachi-based Urdu daily)
It is a fact that Salman Taseer made a controversial statement on a religious issue. He brought a blasphemy convict - Asia Bibi - out from jail, arranged a press conference for her and termed her innocent. Thus, the governor, who was holding a very important official seat, with his attitude not only committed contempt of court, but also harmed the religious sentiments of the people...
There is no doubt that taking law into one's hand is not right. However, similar incidents are possible in reaction.