Eminent Pakistani lawyer, activist Asma Jahangir dead

Friday, 16 Feb, 2018

"With the passing [away] of human rights activist and lawyer Ms Asma Jahangir, Pakistan has lost a national treasure".

Asma Jahangir speaking in Lahore in 2014. The woman described as a "fearless voice for the oppressed" died at home of a heart attack, her family said.

Through the resolution, the National Assembly members recognised Ms Jahangir's services "for rule of law, democracy and constitutionalism, besides her courageous struggle against oppression and rights abuses". While Asma, as a lawyer, a human rights activist, and as a person, is irreplaceable, we hope to replicate her resilience and courage as younger feminists stepping into these public forums. She braved death threats, beatings and imprisonment to win landmark human rights cases while standing up to dictators.

"No one can replace Asma, ..."

Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, said: 'She was a tireless advocate for inalienable rights of all people and for equality whether in her capacity as a Pakistani lawyer in the domestic justice system, as a global civil society activist, or as a special rapporteur. "Her demise is a great loss to human rights defenders in the country".

In recent years, she was outspoken over the misuse of blasphemy laws that carry the death sentence.

Sindh Human Rights Commission Chairperson Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi recalled the challenges of the structural bars made through the Hudood Ordinance in Zia's era that went against the principles of justice and discriminated on the basis of law and perception that women were inferior to men.

Yes, Asma won several awards.

Jahangir served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion from August 2004 to July 2010, including serving on the U.N. panel for inquiry into Sri Lankan human rights violations and on a fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements. She paid tribute to Asma as a beacon of hope for the new generation. Yet nothing stopped her from speaking out against injustice, whether it was at protest marches on the streets, interviews on television, or speeches at universities overseas. Asma stood shoulder to shoulder with us in our opposition to the draconian cyber crime bill, and having her as an ally lifted our spirits and bolstered our cause. Work remained suspended at the high court and its subordinate courts, as the legal fraternity remembered Asma's services.

I came to know Asma closely when we worked together with other human rights activists to form South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), which was dedicated to the promotion of human rights in South Asia. In a lecture at the London School of Economics (LSE) she says: "Religion and fear has been politicised so that they have played into electoral politics, into policies, into institutional discrimination..."

Earlier, her daughter, broadcast journalist Munizae Jahangir, shared on Twitter that the family is awaiting relatives to return to Lahore before the funeral can be held.