Asma Jilani Jahangir, a well-known Pakistani human rights lawyer and social activist passed away on Sunday, 11 February. As the co-founder of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, she always raised her voice for women, minorities and LGBTs. She was the first woman President of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association.
Jahangir fearlessly fought a number of battles on the streets as well in courts. She has represented a number of clients who did not have their fundamental rights. Also, she defended cases of minorities, women and children in prisons.
She was rushed to a hospital on Saturday night after suffering cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, she lost her life while undergoing the treatment.
Though, majority of the people grieved the loss of such a noble soul, there were a few who criticised her even after she passed away.
Hailing from Lahore, Jahangir was born on January 27, 1952. She completed her graduation from the prestigious Kinnaird College and LLB from the Punjab University in 1978. Her active participation in the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against the Zia ul-Haq dictatorship brought her into the limelight. She garnered a lot of attention and was also put behind the bars for some time.
It was in the year 1987 that Jahangir co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Few years later, she was appointed as its chairperson. Her work —“Divine Sanction? The Hadood Ordinance” (1988) and “Children of a Lesser God: Child Prisoners of Pakistan” (1992), have been highly appreciated and acknowledged.
Jahangir has also served as the co-chair of South Asians for Human Rights and was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions and later as the UN Rapporteur of Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Her demise is certainly a huge loss for the fraternity. Expressing his grief, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif tweeted: “Pakistan has lost a passionate champion of human rights and a staunch supporter of democracy…”
Jahangir was referred to as a ‘hero’ by Daily Times Editor Raza Ahmad Rumi.
“‘Speaking truth to power’ a phrase, we often use. Asma Jahangir lived, practiced till her last breath. Questioned mullahs, military, judges, politicians… defended downtrodden. Faced threats and attacks. Was never afraid. What a hero,” he tweeted.