Asma Jahangir, one of Pakistan’s most prominent human rights activists, succumbed to cardiac arrest on Sunday, 11 February, in Lahore. She was 66.Her funeral is scheduled for February 13. She is survived by two daughters and a son.
A staunch voice against religious extremism and military regimes, Jahangir was a vocal proponent of democracy and secularism.
The life of a relentless activist
A fierce opponent of the military and theocratic factions that have plagued Pakistan in recent decades, Jahangir led a remarkable life that included house arrests, imprisonments and a plan by Pakistani intelligence officers to have her assassinated (as documents leaked five years ago suggested). She was jailed in 1983 for protesting against the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq and was again out under house arrest in 2007 when a state of emergency was declared by Pervez Musharraf.
A graduate of Punjab University, Jahangir was called to her country’s Supreme Court at the age of 30.She was the co-founder and chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, President of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association (the first woman to do so) and UN special rapporteur for Freedom of Religion and the UN special rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran.She had also co-chaired South Asia Forum for Human Rights and was the vice president of International Federation for Human Rights.
Condolences pour in from all quarters
Lawyers, activists and politicians termed Jahangir’s death a “great loss” for Pakistan. Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain expressed grief over Jahangir’s death, saying she rendered unprecedented services for the rule of law.“Today, the country has been deprived of a courageous and disciplined person, who was the voice of the voiceless,” Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said, adding that Jahangir fought fearlessly for human rights.
Jahangir is the recipient of several awards including the 2014 Right Livelihood Award (along with Edward Snowden), 2010 Freedom Award, Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2010, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Ramon Magsaysay Award, 1995 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (the “Nobel Prize for human rights”), and the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. She was also awarded an Officier de la Légion d’honneur by France.