Asma Jahangir co-founded AGHS Legal Aid Cell in 1987 to provide free legal assistance to the needy. She was an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and was elected as President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (2010-2011). She was also twice elected as Chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which was set up in 1986 and was instrumental in the formation of Punjab Women Lawyers Association (PWLA) in 1980 and Women Action Forum (WAF) in 1985.
In 1998 she was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution of the Commission on Human Rights and in 2004 she served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the Council on Human Rights. She also held the posts of Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists since 1998, Council Member for Minority Rights Group International from 2002-2004, Chief Economist for the Advisory Council Member of the World Bank since 2001, and Executive Member of the International Crisis Group since 2002. At the time of her death in February 2018, she was United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran.
Asma Jahangir was house arrested and later imprisoned for participating in the movement for the restoration of political and fundamental rights during the military regime in 1983 and 2007. She was one of the leading figures in the campaign waged by women activists against the promulgation of the controversial Hadood Ordinances and laws on evidence. Asma represented several clients who were denied their fundamental rights. Notable amongst them are the cases she fought for brick kiln workers, who are mostly bonded labourers in Pakistan, vulnerable women in divorce and child custody cases, defending children in prisons and religious minorities who are persecuted on the basis of their belief. She has contributed to at least 15 pieces of legislation enhancing human rights in Pakistan, some of these are changes in family and criminal laws to create more equality for women. She has defended cases of discrimination against religious minorities, women and children. In her effort to secure justice for marginalised groups.
She has been frequently threatened by militant groups. She has authored four books and several research publications. She has received honorary Doctor of Law degrees from the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, Queen’s University, Canada, Amherst College, USA, University of Zurich, Switzerland, and Simon Fraser University, Canada. She has been the recipient of a number of international and national awards, among them the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1995, the Bernard Simons Memorial Award of the International Bar Association in 2000, the Millennium Peace Price in 2001, UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights in 2010, the North South Award (Portugal) in 2013, the Roland Berger Award (Germany) in 2013, the Humana Dignity Award (Poland) in 2014, the Rights Livelihood Award (Sweden) in 2014, and in 2018 she was posthumously awarded the Nishan-e-Imtiaz Pakistan, the top civilian award in the country.
Our Honorary Executive Director
OUR HONORARY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Sulema is a dual qualified Advocate of the High Courts in Pakistan and a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.
Work in Pakistan – 2010 onwards
At AGHS, Sulema has acted in high profile cases for individuals and companies in constitutional cases, public interest litigation and ground breaking human rights cases involving family law. Sulema assisted in providing advice to Parliamentary bodies in Pakistan for the formulation of Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act (2014), Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act (2010) and the Acid Control and the Acid Crime Prevention Act (2010).
Work in the United Kingdom
As an Associate Solicitor at Dawson Cornwell from 2012, Sulema works with Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE QC and has specialized in all aspects of domestic and International family law and the international movement of children. She acted in divorce proceedings, jurisdictional issues, international custody disputes, child abduction and the EU Regulation on jurisdiction in family matters.
From 2005 to 2010 she worked as a solicitor at magic circle law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London. Here Sulema acted on high-profile transactions for leading international corporate clients, financial institutions, private equity houses and venture capital funds. She advised on private and public M&A deals, acted for various governments in investment arbitration cases and put together large infrastructure deals in project finance.
Sulema graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2003 with an LLB (Hons). She is a member of the Punjab Bar Council in Pakistan, The Law Society of England and Wales, the Asian Association of Women Lawyers, LAWASIA, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and a founding member of the British Pakistani Lawyers’ Association. Sulema is a regular speaker at conferences and appears on television and in the press. She has also written articles on legal topics in Pakistan and in the United Kingdom.
Advocate High Court
OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Nida is the Executive Director at AGHS. She directs and supervises all legal aid projects in the areas of family, criminal and civil law as well as the paralegal training programme. Nida joined AGHS in 1997 to assist Ms. Asma Jahangir as a legal researcher and an advocate and was appointed a member of the board in 2016. Nida assisted in setting up the legal aid department for the Child Rights Unit of AGHS (from 2008 to 2010) and held various consultations with state authorities and legislators for improvement in legal provisions and administrative structures in the area of children law. Nida contributed to several publications proposing legal reforms to enhance human rights and access to justice for marginalized groups. Nida was part of the initiative SAHR (South Asians for Human Rights) and organized two successful peace missions to India with peace activists.
Nida has worked for UNHCR from 2000 to 2003 where she was responsible for legally assessing the cases for asylum seekers. She compiled the country reports for Asia and Middle East and undertook projects focusing on health and security concerns for refugee women in Pakistan.
From 2003 to 2007 Nida worked as a Project Coordinator at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. She worked on the implementation of various projects, contributed to several publications and organized events.
From 2007 to 2008 Nida worked as a researcher for Prof. Faisal Bari at the Lahore University of Management Sciences on a specific project focusing on the rights of children, pre-trial detention, illegal detentions, torture and preemptive strikes.