International Press

Asma Jahangir: Who will succeed the woman who fought for Pakistan’s soul?

Last month one of modern Pakistan’s most extraordinary women died. Tributes described Asma Jahangir as a champion of human rights and a defender of the oppressed.

But it’s hard to see who will now take on her fights, as the BBC’s M Ilyas Khan reports.

It has been said that no combination of the tributes paid to Asma Jahangir can adequately define her, but perhaps the one that best encapsulates what it was like to come up against her was “street fighter”.

Pakistan in 2018 is a place which still faces many of the problems she spent decades fighting. It is a deeply divided society, where invisible forces battle over the direction of the country, where people suddenly disappear, and where, rights groups say, abuses are still routine.

She took on oppressive military regimes and fought relentlessly against abuses, she set up legal aid firms and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
She worked for the rich and the poor. But she was hated by those powerful interest groups who promulgate a conservative vision of religion and patriotism, thought to be backed by elements in the military.

They would not tolerate her vision of Pakistan.

Asma Jahangir: Pakistan human rights champion dies

Prominent Pakistani human rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir has died at the age of 66.
She reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to hospital, where she later died.
The pro-democracy activist championed women’s rights throughout her career.
She was imprisoned in 1983 and put under house arrest in 2007. Five years ago, leaked documents suggested that some intelligence officers had planned to kill her.
Ms Jahangir called for an inquiry at the time, demanding the government “find the forces who wanted to silence” her.
More recently she spoke out against BBC Persian journalists being put on trial in Iran, as part of her role as UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi led tributes to Ms Jahangir, saying her death was a great loss for the legal fraternity, and praying for her and her family.
Punjab state chief Shehbaz Sharif tweeted that he was “deeply saddened” at the news.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai called Ms Jahangir a “saviour of democracy and human rights”.
Another prominent Pakistani lawyer, Salman Akram Raja, tweeted that Ms Jahangir was “the bravest human being I ever knew” and that the world was “less” without her.
In her career, Ms Jahangir was a staunch defender of human rights and women’s rights, and a pro-democracy activist, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
She worked closely with her sister Hina Jilani on many of her endeavours.
In 2014 Ms Jahangir told AFP news agency she had seen changes in the perception of human rights in Pakistan.
“There was a time that human rights was not even an issue in this country,” she said. “Then prisoners’ rights became an issue.”

Prominent Pakistani rights activist Asma Jahangir dies aged 66

Lawyer who was outspoken critic of country’s Islamist extremism had a heart attack in Lahore.
Asma Jahangir, one of Pakistan’s most prominent human rights activists, has died of a heart attack aged 66.
She was rushed to hospital in Lahore on Saturday night and died the following day, her daughter Muneeze Jahangir said.
Friends, relatives, activists and journalists thronged to her residence in Lahore to express their grief. Local TV stations broadcast footage showing public figures and Jahangir’s friends sobbing and consoling each other outside her residence as her body was brought home from hospital.
The prime minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, lauded her “immense contributions towards upholding rule of law, democracy and safeguarding human rights”.
Pakistan’s rulers must show an honest resolve to fight terrorism
Asma Jahangir
Jahangir was the chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and respected for her outspoken criticism of the country’s militant Islamist groups and her record as an activist.
She was also the president of the supreme court bar association and had served as the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran since 2016.
Jahangir, a fierce defender of democracy who also regularly raised concerns about Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, was included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential women.

Opinion Human rights Asma Jahangir, 1952-2018

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Asma Jahangir, a leading Pakistani rights activist, fearless critic of the military’s interference in politics and a staunch defender of the rule of law, died on Sunday in Lahore. She was 66.

The death was confirmed by her daughter Munizae Jahangir, who said the cause was a heart attack.

Ms. Jahangir, a human rights lawyer, had a reputation for speaking truth to power and defending the weak and the marginalized and women and minorities against injustice. She gained international acclaim for being the conscience of a country where liberal, secular voices have continuously been under threat.

She was the founding chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent group, and was a trustee of the International Crisis Group. She won international awards and served as the United Nations rapporteur on human rights and extrajudicial killings.

Ms. Jahangir never minced words while defending democracy and human rights, despite threats to her life, both from military dictators and militants. She championed the rights of religious minorities — especially those who were charged under the country’s blasphemy laws — and women and men killed in the name of honor.

Asma Jahangir, Fearless Pakistani Rights Activist, Dies at 66

human rights activist and lawyer A feminist icon striving to build a new Pakistan. Asma Jahangir co-founded Lahore’s first all-female law firm, which specialised in women’s rights FEBRUARY 16, 2018 15 Even in death, Asma Jahangir, the Pakistani human rights lawyer and activist, challenged her Muslim country’s conservative social norms. Typically, Pakistani funerals, like other Muslim religious gatherings, are strictly gender segregated. But as thousands gathered at a Lahore stadium to mourn the loss of Jahangir, who died last weekend at the age of 66, women in the crowd slowly pushed their way forward, until they were standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the men. It was, wrote activist Rimmel Mohydin, who attended the ceremony, “Asma’s last subversive act”. In the courts and on the streets, Jahangir — known for her unwavering courage and her core liberal, democratic principles — spent a lifetime fighting for the disempowered and against conservatives trying to mould Pakistan into an authoritarian, Islamic society. Women seeking to escape unhappy marriages; bonded labourers toiling in brick kilns; religious minorities accused of insulting Islam; or activists who crossed the military establishment, all found their champion in Jahangir, for whom no case was too daunting, too unpopular or too dangerous. “If you take the breadth of causes she supported, it was more than any normal human could undertake,” says Ahmed Rashid, her close friend and author of books on Pakistan and central Asia. “Women’s rights, blasphemy, disappearances — these were not just legal cases. These were movements that she helped galvanise.” There have been times that I have cried. But does that mean you give up in the face of brute force? No, never! Jahangir was also a passionate advocate of peace with neighbouring India. Such was her influence as a south Asian feminist icon that Indian women held their own remembrance for her in New Delhi this week.

Ms. Jahangir, center, in Ahmedabad, India, in 2008. She was placed under house arrest in 1983 and 2007, and imprisoned.

Asma Jahangir died on February 11th 2018

OBSERVERS of Asma Jahangir, usually male ones, would sometimes ask why she was so angry. From the 1980s onwards she seemed at the centre of every demonstration in Lahore or Islamabad, all five feet two inches of her, glasses glinting, gesticulating, shouting. She led marches, held marathons, set up awkward organisations, and in every way was a gadfly. Most of all, she spoke her mind. It might be in the bar room of the Lahore High Court, through a furious cloud of beedi smoke, or in court itself, dressing down judges who didn’t get the point, or at a police station, still protesting. Bemused by this fierce little lawyer, the men would shake their heads.

But in Pakistan, how could she be silent? There was so much pent-up anger, for so many reasons. Lack of democracy. Almost total lack of justice. Duffer generals, bigoted mullahs, crony capitalists, chauvinist men. Certainly she could be a well-behaved upper-middle-class woman, in elegant shalwar kameez in her wood-panelled house. But she would rather be a street fighter. Of course, she paid for it. She was bundled into police vans, put under house arrest. Her car was trashed. Hitmen held her relatives hostage. The intelligence services tried to liquidate her as a traitor and foreign agent (though her early death was natural). Every attack left her more energised than ever. When her shirt was torn off for organising a protest, she saved her modesty with safety pins and went on hectoring. Briefly in jail in 1983, she thought it a great adventure.

Her model was her father, a parliamentarian who had resigned in 1971 to protest against military rule. He too had gone smiling, and often, to prison. As a teenager she was already a troublemaker, complaining at her convent about the undemocratic selection of the head girl. In her prim school uniform, she also scaled the gate of the Punjab governor’s house to plant a black flag against military rule. Rustication followed, to her joy.

Pakistan’s loudest voice for democracy and human rights was 66

Asma Jehangir: a symbol of resistance, a votary of peace

Mubashir Zaidi

Asma Jehangir was the country’s symbol of human rights and resistance and a fierce opponent of military dictators for over four decades. She was also a vocal advocate of India-Pakistan peace and was part of several ‘Track 2’ delegations to India. Born in Lahore on January 27, 1952, Ms. Jehangir had a prominent career both as a lawyer and a rights activist. After obtaining a law degree from the Punjab University in 1978, she started her career as an advocate at the judiciary. She soon became a champion democracy activist and was subsequently imprisoned in 1983 for participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy against the military rule of Zia-ul-Haq. She braved death threats, beatings and imprisonment to win landmark human rights cases while standing up to dictators. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which she helped create, made its name defending religious minorities and tackling highly charged blasphemy accusations along with cases of “honour” killings. “There was a time that human rights was not even an issue in this country… Women’s rights was thought of as a Western concept. Now people do talk about women’s rights — political parties talk about it, even religious parties talk about it,” she once said. She often defended minority Christians charged with blasphemy, an offence that carries the death penalty. She was repeatedly threatened by the country’s militant religious right whom she criticised loudly and often. Ms. Jahangir has also taken up cases of missing persons and fought in the courts for their recovery free of cost. She played an active role in the famous lawyers’ movement in 2007 to restore Iftikhar Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The movement later brought the fall of then President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistani leading rights activist, Asma Jehangir, died at 66

LAHORE, Pakistan — Asma Jehangir, one of Pakistan’s most prominent right activists and lawyers, died on Sunday of a heart attack in the eastern city of Lahore at the age of 66, her daughter said. News of Jehangir’s sudden death shook political, social and media circles in Pakistan, as well as government ranks. President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and others offered condolences. Jehangir suffered a heart attack late on Saturday night and was rushed to hospital where she died early on Sunday, her daughter Muneeze said. Born on Jan. 27 in 1952, Jehangir had a prominent career both as a lawyer and rights activist. She has served as chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and was widely respected for her outspoken criticism of the country’s militant and extreme Islamist groups and unparalleled record as rights activist. Jehangir also served as president of the Supreme Court’s Bar Association and was a U.N. rapporteur on human right and extrajudicial killings. She was on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential women. A fierce defender of democracy, she often criticized Pakistan’s military and intelligence. She defended minority Christians charged with blasphemy, an offense that under Pakistan’s controversial law carries the death penalty. She was repeatedly threatened by the country’s militant religious right whom she criticized loudly and often. A champion of human rights, Jehangir was unafraid to speak loudly against those attacking minority religions and women. She won scores of international awards. Several years ago, she briefly sent her family out of the country following threats from militant groups. Friends, relatives, activists and journalists thronged to her residence in Lahore to express their grief. Local TV stations broadcast footage showing public figures and Jehangir’s friends sobbing and consoling each other outside her residence as her body was brought home from hospital. Zohra Yousuf, a former chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said she lost a “great friend and great warrior of human rights.” “No one can replace Asma, … She was unmatched and unparalleled, we suffered a great loss today,” Yousuf said. Activist Marvi Sarmad tweeted: “Today it’s not only Pakistan who will cry. The entire South Asia shall mourn Asma Jehangir.” “’Speaking truth to power,’ a phrase we often use, Asma Jehangir lived, practiced till her last breath,” said another activist, Raza Ahmed Rumi. Jehangir is survived by her businessman husband, Tahir Jehangir, a son and two daughters. Her other daughter, Salima, lives in London. The funeral would take place after Salima’s return to Pakistan, the family announced.

– In this June 14, 2017 file photo, Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jehangir speaks to The Associated Press in Lahore, Pakistan. Jahangir died of a heart attack in the eastern city of Lahore on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. She was 66. (K.M. Chaudary, File/Associated Press)

IRREPLACEABLE WARRIOR

ASMA JAHANGIR WAS TOUGH AGAINST THE TOUGHEST ODDS—A CHAMPION OF THE DOWNTRODDEN WHO REFUSED TO BOW TO POWER
Often at odds with Pakistan’s religious right and the security establishment, it is a testament to the strength of Asma Jahangir that she managed to extract victories from a grudging state that awarded her its highest civilian honors, the Sitara-e-Imtiaz and the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, despite her principled challenging of its cherished values. For many of her detractors in her homeland, the sharpest rebuke was that she was a woman in a society where bearded men dominated and could bring the state to its knees. The rest of the world responded by shunning Pakistani voices that branded her a “Jewish agent” and making her a U.N. Rapporteur for Human Rights who was showered with awards: the Right Livelihood Award, the Freedom Award, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights, as well as the French Legion of Honor.

Daughter of Malik Ghulam Jilani, a man who fought dictatorship, she was a consistent critic of military rule that repeatedly involved Pakistan in wars that ended in defeats. Throughout her 65 years, she saw generals damaging Pakistan’s flailing governments through decade-long bouts of power as democratically elected prime ministers were ousted from power before completing their terms. Her most devastating blow against this status quo was the foundation of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 1987 after fighting military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq’s Hudood laws in the streets of Pakistan with her Women’s Action Forum. The deep state could have gotten her killed through “enemy” terrorists—at least one such attempt was highlighted by her—but had to suffer her because of her status at the United Nations. As The New York Times noted after her untimely passing: “In 2012, Jahangir said that an assassination plot against her had been hatched at the highest level of the security establishment.”

Jahangir’s refusal to allow personal enmity to stand in the way of her principles earned her fans even among those ideologically aligned against her. Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, born from the loins of military dictatorship, hated her like other dominant conservative elements in the country, but grew to admire her after his own political metamorphosis. The lawyers’ community, dominated by violent, small-city vandals, also learned to respect her as she was elected the first woman to head the Supreme Court Bar Association in 2010.

Relentless lawyer who set up the first all-woman legal practice in Pakistan

Asma Jahangir stood up for women’s rights and often incurred the wrath of the authorities.
Asma Jahangir was described as “the gutsiest woman in Pakistan”. Just 5ft tall and bespectacled, she berated barrel-chested generals and criticised the mullahs of the Taliban.

Yet her record as a towering champion of human rights stemmed from a dose of post-baby blues. Depressed and piling on the pounds after the birth of her second child, Jahangir felt like “just a little, out-of-shape mummy”. Life, she decided, was too brief to remain a sidekick for others. So she invited her sister, Hina, and a few friends for lunch.

The result was the founding of Pakistan’s first all-woman law firm. It was February 1980 and, after the novelty of dealing with women lawyers had faded in the Pakistan courts, Jahangir encountered great difficulties as she challenged the new legislation on rape, fornication and blasphemy introduced by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

Jahangir and her sister led the first protests against Zia-ul-Haq’s Hudood ordinances — or Islamisation of the law — after a chance meeting with a blind 13-year-old who was jailed for fornication after becoming pregnant when she was raped by her employers. The girl’s case was later overturned; Jahangir also fought decrees ruling that any woman reporting a rape was adulterous unless she could produce four Muslim men as witnesses.

‘Voice of the oppressed’: Asma Jahangir, Pakistani rights activist, dies at 66

Jahangir gained international acclaim for speaking truth to power and defending the marginalized in her home of Pakistan.
Asma Jahangir was the founding chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and served as the United Nations rapporteur on human rights and extrajudicial killings.

SLAMABAD—Asma Jahangir, a leading Pakistani rights activist, fearless critic of the military’s interference into politics and a staunch defender of the rule of law, died Sunday in Lahore. She was 66.

The death was confirmed by her daughter Munizae Jahangir, who said the cause was a heart attack.

Jahangir, a human rights lawyer, had a reputation of speaking truth to power and defending the weak and the marginalized, women and minorities against injustice. She gained international acclaim for being the voice of conscience in a country where liberal, secular voices have been continuously under threat.

She was the founding chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent group, and was a trustee of the International Crisis Group. She won several local and international awards and served as the United Nations rapporteur on human rights and extrajudicial killings.

Jahangir never minced words while defending democracy and human rights, despite threats to her life, both from military dictators and militants. She championed the rights of religious minorities — especially those who were charged under the country’s blasphemy laws — and women and men killed in the name of honour.

Pakistani activist Asma Jahangir dies of cardiac arrest

LAHORE: Pakistan’s well known human rights lawyer and social activist Asma Jahangir died here today of cardiac arrest. She was 66.
“Asma suffered heart attack today morning and she was rushed to Hameed Latif Hospital Lahore where she breathed her last. Doctors tried to save her life but couldn’t,” senior lawyer Adeel Raja said.
As the news of her death broke condolences started pouring in from the lawyers, rights activists and politicians terming it a “great loss” for Pakistan.
She is survived by two daughters and a son. Her daughter Muneezay Jehangir is a TV anchor
Born in January 1952 in Lahore, Asma co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. She had also been Supreme Court Bar Association president. After obtaining LLB degree from the Punjab University in 1978, she started her career as an advocate at high and supreme courts.
After obtaining LLB degree from the Punjab University in 1978 she started her career as advocate high and supreme courts. She became a champion democracy activist and was subsequently imprisoned in 1983 for participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy against the military dictator of Ziaul Haq.