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 self-imposed 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 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 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 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 MumtazQadri assassinated him a few days after his statement on the blasphemy laws. Even way before taking up the cause of Aasia Bibi, facing adeath sentence for blasphemy that she never committed, Taseer and his childhood friends had resolved to protest such a case about a half century ago. James Wilson, an African-American was facing adeath sentence for merely stealing a dollar. Taseer and his friends led a “Free Jimmy Wilson” march towards the US Consulate General in Lahore. This passion for loud, defiant political protest saw him take up unpopular causes, and develop a keen sense of humour. He was the rare example of someone in a country where prospects of mobility remain slim and discourse on taboo issues is considered a crime, he rose from a modest background to become one of the most successful businessmen, and later, one of the most notable politicians of Punjab. Taseer was born into a prominent Lahore left-wing family, and his father, M D Taseer, was a renowned progressive poet. His maternal aunt was married to the famous poet,Faiz Ahmed Faiz. After the demise of his father, Faiz mentored him. Taseer went to London when he was 17-years-old, and during the day, he worked odd jobs and studied chartered accountancy in the evenings. After Faizwas exiled to the United Kingdom, Taseer lived with him and took inspiration from him to quench his political thirst. Later, Taseer established many successful consultancies and chartered accountancy firms before and after moving back to Pakistan. Moreover, he established and owned WorldCall, a telecom company, and TV channels along, with the newspaper, Daily Times. 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. In 1988 elections, Taseer became a member of theprovincial assembly for the first time. 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 private 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 and once social had become an ardent capitalist, his commitment to 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 AasiaBibi, he did not care for threats to his life, and spoke for her rights, rights of minorities, and against the misuse of country’s draconian blasphemy laws. Salmaan Taseer was an epitome of bravery 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. Although the brutal murder silenced his voice, he has left a legacy of courage and valourthat would be remembered by history. MEMORABLE TWEETS BY SALMAAN TASEER 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 Apple is worth more than $300bn. In other words much much more than 180 mn Pakistanis. Something our politicians shud think about So petrol prices on a moving index rose 9% 4 which MQM leaves coalition. Therefore if prices come down they will rejoin??? I have an Iphone Ipad & now a Samsung Galaxy. Fully armed and dangerous ! Imran Khan and Sarah Palin is a match made in heaven I’m ok wth my effigy being burnt and Fatwas against me but i’m really angry that I’m not mentioned anywhere in Wikileaks! So Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame has been chosen for Time Magazine’s man of the year. Hmm… Guess I’ll have to wait till next year.