The story of Salmaan Taseer, the Martyr of Humanity, even before his birth in Simla. Indeed we must begin with the events in Lahore in 1920s when after pamphlet wars between Hindus and Muslims, an enraged young man, Ilam Din, murdered the publisher of a highly scurrilous text against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Even though Ilam Din repeatedly pleaded his innocence both at trial and at the appeal stage, he was hanged and became an instant hero for Muslims of Punjab. One of the people who arranged the funeral was none other than Dr. MD Taseer, a progressive and liberal poet from Lahore. 81 years later his son’s assassin would lay claim to being the second Ilam Din. This time there were no pamphlet wars and no scurrilous publications. The only “crime” Salmaan Taseer had committed was to criticize a law that to many constitutional jurists violates both the Constitution and Islamic jurisprudence. Yet such is the impact of this law that people in Pakistan have conflated it with the world of God.Salmaan Taseer had said that Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code was a man made law which was draconian. The would be assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, had heard from the imam of his Masjid that this amounted to blasphemy. Hence Mumtaz Qadri set out to kill Salmaan Taseer, shooting him 26 times in cold blood. Salmaan Taseer stood his ground even in face of bullets, telling the assassin to do his worst because he was not changing his view, defiant till the end. The question though is whether expressing a view on the law itself blasphemy according to this law? Supreme Court of Pakistan did not think so. Holding that criticizing blasphemy law did not amount to an offence itself, the Supreme Court held: “In a democratic society, citizens have a right to contend, debate or maintain that a law has not been correctly framed by the state in terms of the mischief sought to be suppressed or that the law promulgated by the State ought to contain adequate safeguards against its misapplication or misuse by motivated persons.” (Mumtaz Qadri v. State PLD 2016 SC 17)When Salmaan Taseer criticized 295-C, he was not committing blasphemy. Far from it, he was actually standing up not just for a tolerant and progressive Pakistan but also the honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)So was Salmaan Taseer a blasphemer? In my opinion the greatest blasphemy against the Prophet (PBUH) is committed every time a poor minority or even a person from the majority is dragged on charges of blasphemy. Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) in his treatise made it clear that in so far as Non-Muslims were concerned, the question of blasphemy did not arise. As for Muslims, they were required to repent and re-enter the fold of Islam. Abdullah bin Ubbay was known for his acerbic utterances against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) but he was allowed to live in peace in Medina. Even though Ibn-e-Ubbay was known to have been “Munafiq”, it was the Holy Prophet (PBUH) who led his funeral prayer. Now let us consider Section 295-C and what it states and determine whether it is constitutional or Islamic:”Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation,innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy ProphetMuhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life,and shall also be liable to fine.” This law does not speak of intent which violates the Hadith: Ina-amaal-u-biniyaat” i.e. actions are judged by intentions. In English law this principle is mens rea. Obviously case law has remedied it to some extent but the basic problem remains. There is no provision for repentance which is the central plank all actions in Islam. Perhaps the most glaring issue with this law is the fact that there is no consensus on what constitutes defiling the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Anything and everything can be “direct” or “indirect” blasphemy, spoken or written, or by imputation, innuendo or insinuation. The law is overbroad, drafted in haste and lacks all the components of a law that could be considered constitutional or Islamic for that matter. As such it offends both fundamental rights and Islamic provisions of the Constitution. The law was drafted in haste by Ismail Qureshi on the insistence of ApaNisar Fatima during the Zia regime. No real thought went into it and it seems that no opinion was sought of anyone other than so called scholars who have essentially interpreted Quran the way they want to interpret it.So when Salmaan Taseer criticized 295-C, he was not committing blasphemy. Far from it, he was actually standing up not just for a tolerant and progressive Pakistan but also the honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Here was a self confident Pakistani living in a country where Islam has never been in danger. There were no scurrilous pamphleteers in a country, which is 96 percent Muslim. In doing so he was following in the tradition of his father as well as the progressive and liberal ethos on which this country was founded. When he stood up for a poor downtrodden and innocent Christian woman, he became the champion of humanity. An unthinking and radicalized assassin ended his life but the Supreme Court of Pakistan proved him right when in 2018 they acquitted Aasia Bibi finally. Salmaan Taseer is long gone but his wonderful act of defiance in face of bigotry will live on forever. May he continue to inspire a new generation of Pakistanis who will undo all discriminatory laws in Pakistan and usher in a plural and democratic country.