Pakistan bids farewell to human rights activist Asma Jahangir

Pakistan bids farewell to human rights activist Asma Jahangir

Pakistan bids farewell to human rights activist Asma Jahangir

"We have lost a human rights giant", U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
Earlier, from 1998 to July 2004, she was the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and from August 2004 to July 2010, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

In recognition of her services in the field of human rights, Jahangir was awarded the American Bar Association International Human Rights Award in 1992, the Martin Ennals Award and the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1995.

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. After serving as one of the leaders of the Lawyers' Movement, she became Pakistan's first woman to serve as the President of Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. In fact, the lawyer had been working even in the last days leading to her demise and was apparently doing well.

The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work. Following this she was called to the Lahore High Court in 1980, and the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1982. But while her voice was appreciated by liberals who believed that the only way Pakistan's civil society could progress was to improve its human rights record, she had powerful detractors who opposed her actions on the grounds that she was destroying the country's traditional political and social fabric.

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Following news of her death, the CCA expressed its "deep condolences" to her family, friends and admirers. She was to visit jail again under General Pervez Musharraf during the Lawyers Movement of 2007, not that the lawyers of Lahore, majority from small cities and of conservative mind, loved her for her defence of the non-Muslims and women. We have known her as a champion of democracy and human rights, defending the rights of women and speaking out courageously against authoritarian systems, in her own country as well as in the rest of South Asia. She faced threats and an assassination attempt for representing blasphemy law victims but never backed down. As she told Amnesty International at the time, "They have done everything to intimidate me".

This is what Asma Jahangir has been rewarded with in her passing, an endless trail of admirers and followers who will carry the torch she has so tenaciously held on to.

A champion of human rights, Jahangir was unafraid to speak loudly against those attacking minority religions and women. Asma's answer was unequivocal: yes it had helped, because having a female prime minister meant that, despite continuing gender inequality, she and her colleagues could act with greater certainty that, in so far as was possible, they would be supported at the highest level.

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