Rights icon Asma Jahangir passes away | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 12, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:04 PM, February 12, 2018

Rights icon Asma Jahangir passes away

Eminent Pakistani human rights defender and lawyer Asma Jahangir passed away in Lahore yesterday.

She suffered from cardiac arrest and was taken to a hospital, where she passed, reports Dawn online citing her family members. She was 66.

Known for her outspoken nature and unrelenting pursuit for human rights, she is survived by a son and two daughters.

Asma, well-known in Bangladesh, had a link with the birth of country as her father was arrested in 1971 for denouncing Pakistan army atrocities and genocide.

She had also criticised Pakistan government for demonstrating a “disproportionately high passion” against the execution of two top war criminals in Bangladesh in November, 2015.

“The [Pakistan] government was only confirming the fact that two men were political agents and working for the cause of Pakistan,” the Dawn had quoted her as saying.

She was reacting to the response by Pakistani minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan expressing anguish and concern over the execution of BNP leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed for committing crimes during the Liberation War.

She said Pakistan should first take up the issue of capital punishment through unfair trials here and of those Pakistanis who were being consistently executed in Saudi Arabia and then show disproportionately high passion for the politicians of Bangladesh.


She asked whether the two Bangladeshis were more important than the people living in Pakistan. If the answer was in the affirmative, she urged the Pakistan government to explain why.

Asma had received the Friends of Liberation War Honour conferred upon her late father Malik Ghulam Jilani by the Bangladesh government in March, 2013.

“My father was treated as a traitor and we were treated as children of a traitor. Now I take pride in the fact that being a traitor means to stand up for a good cause and for the right cause. My father was arrested. I feel very proud that he went to jail because he did the right thing,” she told The Daily Star in an interview after receiving the award.

As this newspaper asked her whether she would face any difficulty in her country after receiving an award linked with the Liberation War, she answered with deep conviction.

“I don't care at all. I don't care about the opinion of people who are bigoted. I live my life with freedom, integrity and honesty and not according to people who believe in atrocities and hate.”

Asma, who remained undaunted in the face of extreme pressure and opposition, will be remembered as a champion for the disenfranchised and for her services towards building a democratic and more inclusive Pakistan, writes Dawn.

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, reports BBC.

Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus in a statement said, "I am deeply shocked at the untimely death of human rights activist Ms Asma Jahangir of Pakistan.

"South Asia has lost an ardent advocate of women's rights and democracy by the death of Asma Jahangir. I pray to Allah for eternal peace of her departed soul and express my deepest sympathy to her family members."

Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi led tributes to Asma, saying her death was a great loss for the legal fraternity, and praying for her and her family, the BBC reports.

Punjab state chief Shehbaz Sharif tweeted that he was "deeply saddened" at the news.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai called Asma a "saviour of democracy and human rights".

The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, and other Supreme Court judges expressed deep sorrow and grief on her demise.

Amnesty International's South Asia director Omar Waraich said she had "never wavered".

Asma was born in Lahore in January 1952. She received a Bachelors' degree from Kinnaird College and an LLB from Punjab University. She was called to the Lahore High Court in 1980 and to the Supreme Court in 1982. She later went on to become the first woman to serve as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, writes the Dawn.

She became a pro-democracy activist and was jailed in 1983 for participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, which agitated against military dictator Ziaul Haq's regime.

Asma was also active in the 2007 Lawyers' Movement, for which she was put under house arrest.

She co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and the Women's Action Forum.

She received several awards, including a Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2010 and a Sitara-i-Imtiaz. She was also awarded a UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights and an Officer de la Légion d'honneur by France.

She received the 2014 Right Livelihood Award and the 2010 Freedom Award.

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