Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Pakistanis bid farewell to nation's most prominent activist Asma Jahangir

Asma Jahangir in 2004 Asma Jahangir in 2004
Ellis Copeland | 15 February, 2018, 08:40

The United Nations Secretary General has paid tribute to Pakistan's 'human rights giant Asma Jahangir following her death by cardiac arrest at the weekend, praising her courage in campaigns for justice and equality for all.

Asma was born in Pakistan's Lahore city. The rights commission that she helped create made its name defending religious minorities and tackling highly charged blasphemy accusations along with cases of "honour" killings or murders of women by relatives for bringing shame on the family.

In 1986, she moved to Geneva and became the vice-chair of the Defence for Children International.

Pakistan bid farewell to its top rights advocate Asma Jahangir on Tuesday, with thousands cramming into a major cricket ground under tight security to grieve the diminutive woman described by many as the country's "moral compass".

In the last post on her Twitter account, Jahangir cautioned the Supreme Court from selectively using the contempt of court law. Having been teargassed and beaten by the police, several of the protesters were jailed, as was Asma. She was arrested for the first time. She also co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Women's Action Forum. Concerned for their safety, she sent her daughters overseas to continue their schooling. They have even turned on my two daughters. "Sometimes you have to pay such an unbearable price for what you believe in". She won scores of worldwide awards.

In a programme observing National Women's Day at the Arts Council on Monday, prominent rights activists and the event's organisers dedicated the celebration in Asma's memory.

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During her legal career, Jahangir focused on religious- and gender-based discrimination cases and fought for fairer employment conditions for brick kiln workers in Pakistan. One of the bullets narrowly missed Hina Jilani.

Ms Jahangir was the current UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, having assumed the position on 1 November 2016. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) frequently pointed to Jahangir's work in its calls for global support against the Iranian regime's human rights violations.

One of Asma Jahangir's most determined struggles has been against the unlawful and cruel practice of enforced disappearances.

Asma was imprisoned in 1983 for her work with the Movement to Restore Democracy during of General Ziaul Haq's military rule.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, former premier Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Shehbaz Sharif, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan and others expressed condolences over Asma Jahangir's demise. She previously served as Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (2004 to 2010) and Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions (1998 to 2004).

Earlier today, Asma's body was shifted to her house in Gulberg from the hospital where it was placed in a morgue.

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