Pakistanis bid farewell to nation's most prominent activist Asma Jahangir

Local media reported that the human rights lawyer, who died of cardiac arrest on Sunday aged 66, received no less than a state funeral, with thousands joining the funeral procession.

As a woman-led organisation, we are indebted to the path that Asma paved for us through Pakistan's first women-run law firm, AGHS. She championed the cause of women, children, bonded labourers, religious minorities, journalists, the disappeared, and so many others.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called Jahangir a "human rights giant" and praised her courage in campaigns for justice and equality for all.

Asma Jahangir speaking in Lahore in 2014. At the age of 18, she fought for the release of her father, Malik Ghulam Jilani, who had been arbitrarily detained by the military government of Gen. Yahya Khan, leading to an historic Supreme Court judgment.

Prominent lawyer and renowned social activist, Asma Jahangir's funeral prayers will be held today in Lahore at the Gaddafi Stadium at 3 pm. And, she put off the religious parties by her opposition to the laws they backed in order to create a male-dominated utopia in which women suffered and non-Muslims languished under anti-blasphemy laws.

One of the most significant acts of bravery was Asma's determined battle against the anti-women Hudood laws that Zia-ul-Haq had introduced. At one point, she was shouted down by an angry crowd.

Following her death, heartfelt tributes to her life have been expressed by people from around the world. Local TV stations broadcast footage showing public figures and Jahangir's friends sobbing and consoling each other outside her residence as her body was brought home from hospital. They have even turned on my two daughters.

When I was editing a series of essays in celebration of Pakistan's 50 years of independence from Britain, by authors from both countries, hers was among the contributions. "Sometimes you have to pay such an unbearable price for what you believe in".

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Yes, Asma won several awards. I wonder what she would have said, as she did admire the progress India had made, away from the military, and away from fundamentalism to embrace a secular, democratic order.

In recognition of her services in the field of human rights, Jahangir was awarded the American Bar Association International Human Rights Award in 1992, the Martin Ennals Award and the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1995. "Her demise is a great loss to human rights defenders in the country".

"Asma was brilliant, deeply principled, courageous and kind", he said. She was the first female leader of Pakistan's Supreme Court bar association.

One of Asma Jahangir's most determined struggles has been against the unlawful and cruel practice of enforced disappearances.

During General Zia's rule, she was out on the street agitating against the inhuman aspects of Islamisation, which still haunt Pakistan.

At the time of her death she was the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran.

Jahangir faced death threats, beatings and imprisonment to win landmark human rights cases while standing up to dictators.

  • Adam Floyd