Asma Jahangir: Pakistan human rights champion dies

Katrina Barker
February 12, 2018

An icon of human rights and leading lawyer Asma Jahangir passed away on Sunday. She was admitted to a private hospital last night over cardiac problem, where she breathed her last.

"(She) had the courage to face the wrath of the dictators and the fury of the fundamentalist Mulla has passed away.

Subsequently, Jahangir went on to become the first woman to serve as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan.

While presenting her report to the Human Rights Council, she was interrupted by a furious Syrian representative who assailed her at the behest of the Iranian regime.

Jehangir's daughter Muneeze said that the pro-democracy activist died in a hospital in the eastern city of Lahore where she had been rushed after suffering a heart attack.

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

Her early activism was forged as a young woman during the repressive military rule of Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, when she was arrested and imprisoned for protesting against Zia's harsh "Islamization" policies and curtailment of women's rights.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif tweeted: "Pakistan has lost a passionate champion of human rights and a staunch supporter of democracy..."

Journalist Naila Inayat, termed her death "the end to an era" while Mehreen Zahra-Malik, another journalist, tweeted: "A male friend once asked: why is Asma Jahangir always so angry?"

She was repeatedly threatened by the country's militant religious right, whom she criticized loudly and often. May she rest in eternal peace. I can not believe she is no more among us. She received her law degree from Punjab University in Lahore in 1978.

Ms Jahangir was arrested in 2007 by the government of then-military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

Her family was threatened and her driver was beaten up in 1995 for her daring to defend a 14-year-old Salamat Masih who on the accusation of blasphemy.

"Asma Jehangir's death is a loss of a strong voice for the marginalised and oppressed".

Born on January 27, 1952, into an affluent family in Lahore, Asma Jilani Jahangir studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, receiving her bachelor's degree from Kinnaird College in Lahore.

She has also been an outspoken critic of the Pakistan's powerful military establishment, including during her tenure as the first-ever female leader of Pakistan's top bar association.

"South Asia has lost an ardent advocate of women's rights and democracy by the death of Asma Jahangir".

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