Pakistani Human Rights Activist Asma Jahangir Dies


Thousands of men and women attended the funeral prayers for Asma Jahangir at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Tuesday, bidding farewell to the diminutive rights activist described by some as Pakistan's "moral compass".

A national of Pakistan, Ms Jahangir, was recognised both nationally and internationally for her contribution to human rights and was the recipient of major human rights awards. Jahangir, who was 66, served as chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and was widely respected for her outspoken criticism of militant and extreme Islamist groups.

After serving as one of the leaders of the Lawyers' Movement, she became the first woman to serve as President of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association.

Undaunted, she continued to raise the profile of human rights by taking up the cases of the poorest and most helpless people, setting up - with her sister, Hina Jilani - the first centre offering legal aid in Pakistan, the AGHS Legal Aid Cell. Marvi Sirmed, a senior Pakistani journalist who knew her personally, writes in The Daily Times how as a teenager she was inspired by "Asma ji's perseverance, her clarity of objective, her strength of character...her itch to question the powers of the time, and her passion to fearlessly fight for the oppressed and whatever she considered right, come what may". She has co-chaired South Asia Forum for Human Rights and was the vice president of International Federation for Human Rights.

Jahangir also received several awards, including the 2014 Right Livelihood Award, 2010 Freedom Award, Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 2010 and Sitara-e-Imtiaz, UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights in 2010 and an Officier de la Légion d'honneur by France in 2014. At the time of her death, Asma Jahangir was also a member of Amnesty International's Regional Advisory Group for the Asia-Pacific region. A part from visiting the Sabarmati Ashram and the Sarkhej Roza, she had called on Narendra Modi as the then Chief Minister and even accepted a token gift from him - actions that drew the ire of fundamentalist elements and social media trolls in Pakistan.

Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, said: 'She was a tireless advocate for inalienable rights of all people and for equality whether in her capacity as a Pakistani lawyer in the domestic justice system, as a global civil society activist, or as a special rapporteur.

Her work was not just confined to Pakistan, but also overseas. She was again put under house arrest in November 2007 after the imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan.

Earlier, her daughter, broadcast journalist Munizae Jahangir, shared on Twitter that the family is awaiting relatives to return to Lahore before the funeral can be held.

Others talked about her impact on human rights throughout the region, expressing their condolences on her passing. The programme took place at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.