The murder of the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer in Pakistan has robbed the country of one of those rare tireless and courageous voices, who championed women's rights and supported minorities. He made headlines recently by appealing for the pardon of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
The BBC Urdu Service asked him about the about the fatwas, or religious decrees, issued against him in Pakistan, he criticised the "illiterate" clerics responsible, saying: "They issued fatwas against Benazir [Bhutto] and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto [her father, an executed former president], and even the founder of the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. I do not care about them."
The BBC noted that friends of the governor say he knew he was risking his life by speaking out. Perhaps the last word should go to the former Governor himself who twittered (on the 31st December 2010) that: "I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightist pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I'm the last man standing." Sadly he has paid the ultimate price for being a moderate voice in an increasingly extremist state.