“I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing.” – Salman Taseer (via Twitter)

Salman Taseer wouldn’t back down from saying a woman sentenced for blasphemy should be pardoned. He was adamantly opposed to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and it got him killed.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the killer, identified as Mumtaz Husain Qadri, had confessed to the shooting and told police he was motivated by the governor’s outspoken opposition to Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws, which are strongly backed by Islamist parties. – LA Times

More from the Washington Post:

The killing of Salman Taseer, the razor-tongued governor of Punjab province, stunned the nation and further rocked his ruling Pakistan People’s Party, which is struggling to keep its government afloat following its key ally’s defection Sunday to the opposition.

The governor, an ally of embattled President Asif Ali Zardari, was assassinated Tuesday at an upscale market in Islamabad, the nation’s capital. Police said he was shot multiple times at the shopping plaza, which is near his home in Islamabad and is frequented by foreigners.

A Pakistani news station quoted a witness who said he saw a security guard get out of Taseer’s vehicle, raise a Kalashnikov rifle and fire through the window of the vehicle.

Steve Coll weighs in:

Taseer’s death will shock many Pakistanis; like Benazir Bhutto’s killing, it is a little-needed reminder to the country’s internationally minded elites that they are as vulnerable as the rest of Pakistan’s citizenry to the virus of revolutionary violence now afoot. Taseer was a flawed machine politician, but also a brave and ardent defender of the Pakistan People’s Party’s vision of a modernizing and more culturally balanced Pakistan. The political act that cost him his life involved his defense of progressive amendments to the country’s retrograde blasphemy laws.

Like Benazir Bhutto, progressive politicians aren’t simply voted out of power in Pakistan, they’re murdered because they are feared. The very thing for which they stand is a threat to right wing extremist fundamentalists who don’t want progress in Pakistan. The one thing they all have in common is their liberalness, which is at the foundation of all freedom.

Conservatism at its core takes away freedoms, which is proven through their anti women’s rights, gay rights and all equality campaigns of the individual, which for Mr. Taseer included the campaign against blasphemy laws that went at the core of the current furor over Pakistani free speech.