Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

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

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

The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) ecumenical group has paid tribute to the internationally renowned Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, who died yesterday (Sunday) after suffering a stroke.

Members of parliament on the opening day of new sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate on Monday paid tribute to the services of courageous human rights activist Asma Jahangir, terming her sudden death a "national loss".

Jamat e Islami (JI) founder Abul A'la Maududi's son, Syed Haider Farooq Maududi, led the funeral prayers of the deceased activist at LCC Ground near Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. In addition to speaking out for democracy and against military rule, Asma Jahangir was an unwavering defender of minority and women's rights, criticising the horrific legal and societal persecution that religious and national minorities in Pakistan face, as well as the unjust situation of many women across the country. Jahangir tried hard to rid Pakistan's judicial system of corruption and manipulation and rose to become the first woman President of the Supreme Court's bar association. She championed the cause of women, children, bonded labourers, religious minorities, journalists, the disappeared, and so many others.

Asma Jahangir through the years
Asma Jahangir through the years

Newspaper front pages have been dominated by accolades to "Asma the fearless", while social media has seen a tsunami of acclamations, with many questioning what Pakistan will do without her.

She has also been an outspoken critic of the Pakistans powerful military establishment, including during her tenure as the first-ever female leader of Pakistans top bar association. A few days ago she pleaded the case regarding public representatives' disqualification matter before the Supreme Court.

'We have lost a human rights giant, the United Nations chief said in a statement released after Jahangir's death was announced on Sunday.

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Asma not only played an active role in creating these two civil society bodies but also continuously supported them to strengthen their role in upholding fundamental rights and democracy in the country.

She has constantly raised the issue of "missing persons" in Pakistan and calling for grilling of intelligence agencies.

Jahangir was arrested in 2007 by the government of then-military ruler Pervez Musharraf and held under house arrest.

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During General Zia's rule, she was out on the street agitating against the inhuman aspects of Islamisation, which still haunt Pakistan. Her chapter was entitled Human Rights Are Women's Rights, because, as she told me: "You can not have human rights in a society if you do not have women's rights".

"In a country where women were being victimised in the name of a draconian law, it was Asma who stood up and proved to be a beacon of hope for the new generation", she said.

Others talked about her impact on human rights throughout the region, expressing their condolences on her passing.

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"In addition to this", he added, "out of respect of Ms Jahangir, the Sindh government has announced a day of mourning".

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