Asma Jahangir, leading human rights lawyer, passes away in Lahore

For more than three decades, Asma Jehangir, a sharp-tongued activist and erudite attorney, was Pakistan's leading human rights lawyer and champion.

Asma Jahangir was born on January 27, 1952.

In 1987, she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and became its Secretary General until 1993 when she was elevated as its chairperson. Besides serving as Bar Association President, Jahangir also served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution and as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

As news of Ms. Jehangir's death spread Sunday, Pakistan's top civilian officials and many others praised her courage and persistence in the cause of human rights. As a daughter, mother and legal expert, she had left irremovable imprints on the judicial and political history of Pakistan, he remarked.

A female member of Pakistan's National Assembly, Nafisa Shah, called her the "founder of Pakistan's homegrown human rights movement, a bold, fearless voice of the downtrodden &dispossessed".

"She has fought against the military dictators and also for the rights of downtrodden individuals".

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said his party was in mourning over the death of Asma Jahangir.

She is widely known for playing a prominent role in the Lawyers' Movement and served as the trustee at the International Crisis Group.

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Her critics, though, accused her of being an agent of Pakistan's rival India.

She was imprisoned in 1983 for her pro-democracy activities and put under house arrest in 2007 for opposing President Pervez Musharraf's removal of the Supreme Court's chief justice.

A fierce defender of democracy, she often criticized Pakistan's military and intelligence.

Raza Ahmad Rumi of the Pakistan Daily Times called her a hero.

One widely shared tweet came from Malala Yousafzai, 20, the Pakistani activist for girls' education who was almost assassinated by Taliban militants as a teenager.

She received several awards, both national and worldwide, for her incalculable efforts for human rights everywhere. 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 was courageous and dedicated rights and social activist and above all the voice of the voiceless", said he.

  • Adam Floyd