“My advice 2 mullahs who r telling little madrassah boys that they have a ticket 2 heaven: Grab it urself or give it 2 ur son,” wrote late Salman Taseer in one of the tweets before his life was cut short for speaking up for the rights of minorities and the weak in society. He might have left us physically, but his words still encompass the ironies of the policies this state has been functioning upon. Pakistanis have lived in ignorance to rights of minorities for decades. The space for intellectual and rational discourse has been lost to religious zealots. Pakistan was not always like this, and it is our deliberate ignorance towards societal issues that has led us to where we stand today. Religion has been used for political gains by politicians and dictators, which resulted in the strengthening of the fundamentalist lobby in society. The political tutelage of these religious fanatics created a society where no one could challenge the issues open to discourse. Over the years, many outspoken and liberal voices have been silenced for speaking on some critical issues considered taboo by society. Religion has been left in the hands of clerics to interpret, which has led to a hardening of stances of society as a whole on issues such as the blasphemy laws. Over the years, many civil society activists have lost their lives for merely starting a discussion on these critical issues, but unfortunately, we as a society failed them. Late Salmaan Taseer, the 26th governor of Punjab, is one of those enlightened people who challenged those fanatics and came out in support of victims of this radicalism. He was an outspoken defender of minority rights. But unfortunately, this society, whose minds have been instilled with fear over the years, failed him. He was murdered in 2011 by his bodyguard who disagreed with him on his stance on the country’s blasphemy laws. Taseer had supported Aasia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani, accused of blasphemy. He declared the country’s blasphemy laws as ‘black laws’ because of their misuse by people for personal gains. Instead of focusing on the argument Taseer presented, clerics came out in streets and accused him of blasphemy. Unfortunately, his own bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri assassinated him a few days after his statement on the blasphemy laws; who in a consequent trial had stated that he had not listened to what Taseer had actually said, rather he acted upon the words of a cleric. Although Qadri was consequently found guilty of murder and hanged, the religious clergy lobbying for him has left no stone unturned in elevating him to a martyr. The case of Asia Bibi is one among the many others where the blasphemy law has been misused. Aasia continues to languish in a state of confinement, with the Supreme Court being her last hope as she awaits her trial. Taseer was born into a prominent Lahore left-wing family, his father was M D Taseer. His maternal aunt was married to the famous poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. After the demise of his father, Faiz mentored him. After Faiz was exiled to the United Kingdom, Taseer lived with him and took inspiration from him to quench his political thirst. Taseer started his political career during the 1960s under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s movement. He also wrote a biography of Bhutto in 1979, after he was hanged by General Zia-ul-Haq. “His youthfulness, his rhetorical powers, his fashionable left-wing views and his fervent Pakistani nationalism all served to captivate me,” Taseer wrote in the book. Taseer’s flamboyant style, the Cuban cigars, slick suits, and outspokenness were plainly inspired by Bhutto. Taseer became the member of the Punjab provincial assembly for the first time in the 1988 elections. In 2008, he was designated for the office of governor of Punjab after Pakistan People’s Party came into power. Having seen dictatorships of General Ayub Khan and General Zia-ul-Haq, Taseer was firmly acquainted with political struggles. As a teenager, he had defaced the wall of Lahore’s Governor House with slogans denouncing the military dictatorship of General Ayub Khan, and in an ironical twist of fate, he lived in the same house as the governor of Pakistan. Two decades later, he was incarcerated in the Lahore Fort by the then military dictator, Zia-ul-Haq for being a leading member of Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party. For him, the traditionally ceremonial post was more than just a formality. He remained in the office till he was assassinated in January 2011 by his security guard. Taseer lost the elections after the 1988 term and left politics in 1993 to focus on his business career, building a vast business empire with interests in media, banking, and chartered accountancy. While his politics had softened, his commitment to the protection of rights of minorities remained the same. He was the first one to visit the Christain colony that had been torched by sectarian militants. He supported the Ahmadi community when two of their mosques came under sectarian violence. In the case of Aasia Bibi, he did not care for threats to his life and spoke for her rights, rights of minorities, and against the misuse of the country’s draconian blasphemy laws. Salmaan Taseer was the epitome of bravery and for championing the cause of minority rights, and it is rare to find such a human being in today’s world who would match up to his bravery. He is one of those brave souls that had the courage to speak up against the fear created by rightists. Although the brutal murder silenced his voice, he has left a legacy of courage and valor that would be remembered by history.