An influential US newspaper said Friday that the West has "little choice other than to try to support and strengthen" President Asif Ali Zardari's government in the wake of the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, whom it called an "an outspoken defender of secular values." "There are many good reasons for frustration with Mr. Zardari, both among Pakistanis and among foreign allies," The Washington Post said in an editorial, but added that the priority should now be the survival of his government. The editorial, 'Death of a liberal in Pakistan', reflects the strong American interest in Pakistan's internal developments as the US pushes it to crack down on the al-Qaeda and Taliban safe havens in North Waziristan. Taseer's murder has raised fresh concerns here about Pakistan's stability and generated a nation-wide debate. The Washington Post said: "IT'S EASY to blame Pakistan's deepening crisis on its feckless civilian government. President Asif Ali Zardari and his Pakistan People's Party have been ineffectual in managing the country's economy, slow in responding to disasters like last summer's floods and unable to attack Taliban sanctuaries as the United States has been seeking for years. Having lost both its majority in parliament and the support of the International Monetary Fund, the Zardari government looks as if it may be beyond rescue. "Yet the assassination this week of one of Mr. Zardari's chief allies, Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was a reminder that Pakistan is engaged in a fateful civil war between democratic moderates and Muslim extremists - and that the current government is the most reliably liberal force. Mr. Taseer was an outspoken defender of secular values who had been campaigning to reform one of Pakistan's most odious laws, an anti-blasphemy statute that has been used to persecute Christians and other minorities. "This motivated one of his security guards to assassinate him - and the crime has appeared to gain an alarming amount of approval in Pakistan. Though thousands attended Mr. Taseer's funeral, a broad alliance of the country's clerics issued a declaration praising the murderer and warning that those who mourned Mr. Taseer would also be regarded as anti-Muslim. Significantly, Mr. Zardari and senior members of his party have said nothing since the slaying about the anti-blasphemy law, and Mr. Zardari himself did not attend the funeral for security reasons. "There are many good reasons for frustration with Mr. Zardari, both among Pakistanis and among foreign allies. But this week's events make plain - if it were not clear enough already - that the West has little choice other than to try to support and strengthen his government. The Obama administration has been a generous supporter, delivering billions in civilian and military aid. But some of the civilian aid has been slowed by red tape. IMF demands that the government raise taxes have contributed to the collapse of its parliamentary coalition. "Mr. Zardari's government needs to implement economic reforms, sponsor development in areas where Islamic extremism breeds, and push the Army to go after the Taliban. But for now, the priority should be its survival..." In a commentary, the Cable News Network (CNN) said: "The killing and its aftermath highlight as never before the fast-growing divide between the country's secular and religious forces. It's a divide that's symbolized by the life and death of Salman Taseer, the slain governor of Punjab province. "To understand this divide it's important to know a bit more about Taseer's background. He was the son of an urban intellectual, born the year before the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1947. His political thoughts were forged at his English-style high school in posh Lahore, and then furthered in his time studying accounting in England. Taseer lived and died a Muslim. "But he was also modern, with western views on law and democracy. And it was those views that clashed with a country that has increasingly identified itself as Islamic, shedding the anglicized traditions of its colonized past. "Taseer most recently made news in November last year. He was campaigning against Pakistan's blasphemy law, which makes insulting Islam a crime punishable by death...." In a series of comments since the slaying of Taseer, The New York Times said, "While (Prime Minister Yousaf Raza) Gilani and his Pakistan Peoples Party struggled to save the ruling coalition from collapse, the country faced deepened divisions between religious and secular forces in the aftermath of the assassination... "In contrast to the muted response of Mr. Taseers mourners, the supporters of Mr. Qadri were boisterous Wednesday. Lawyers who campaigned so vociferously two years ago against the military dictator Pervez Musharraf in the name of the constitution and the rule of law were among those who feted the suspect when he arrived at court Wednesday," The Times said, adding, "Some volunteered to defend him free of charge." Others voiced support Tuesday on an impromptu Facebook page for Mr. Qadri before it was forcibly shut down. A former cabinet minister and leading member of the 2007 lawyers movement, Athar Minallah, was quoted as saying by the Times that only a few extremists within the legal community would really support the killing of Taseer. Among the 100,000 lawyers in Pakistan , less than half a percent would go out and throw petals on this criminal, but the rest are hostages because the government is not providing any security, and why should I risk my life and that of my family, he said. He pointed out that the religious parties have never done well at the polls and that the voting public, when given the chance, do not choose extremism."