Islamabad: Renowned lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir has passed away on Sunday after suffering cardiac arrest. She was 66 and is survived by a son and two daughters. she was brought to the hospital unconscious after suffering from brain hemorrhage resulting from a stroke. Despite several attempts to bring her blood pressure back to normal, she breathed her last in a state of unconsciousness.
Jahangir was the chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and respected for her outspoken criticism of military dictators and her record as an activist. She was also the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and served as the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran since 2016. A fierce defender of democracy, she was on the Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential women. She was a founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. She along with her sister Hina Jillani set up the first legal aid cell for women in Pakistan.
She was imprisoned in 1983 for her work with the Movement for Restoration of Democracy during General Zia-ul-Haq’s military rule. She was placed under house arrest in 2007 for her part in a lawyers movement that helped lead to military ruler Pervez Musharraf stepping down and restoration of deposed judges of superior courts.
Bar associations across the country have announced three days of mourning and won’t attend courts. Pakistan People’s Party Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said she was a very brave woman and always fought against patriarchy and oppression. He said she never feared or backed down from saying what she wanted to say.
Known for her outspoken nature and unrelenting pursuit for human rights — as well as for remaining undaunted in the face of extreme pressure and opposition — Jahangir will be remembered as a champion of the disenfranchised and for her services towards building a democratic and more inclusive Pakistan.
She received a bachelor’s degree from Kinnaird College and an LLB from Punjab University. She was called to the Lahore High Court in 1980 and to the Supreme Court in 1982. She later went on to become the first woman to serve as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
She became a pro-democracy activist and was jailed in 1983 for participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, which agitated against military dictator Ziaul Haq’s regime. She was also active in the 2007 Lawyers’ Movement, for which she was put under house arrest. She co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and the Women’s Action Forum.
She received several awards, including a Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2010 and a Sitara-i-Imtiaz. She was also awarded a Unesco/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights and an Officier de la Légion d’honneur by France. She also received the 2014 Right Livelihood Award and the 2010 Freedom Award from the International Rescue Committee.
Nation in shock
The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, and other Supreme Court judges expressed deep sorrow and grief on her demise in a statement.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar arrives at Asma Jahangir’s residence to condole with her family. Khurshid Kasuri and PPP leader Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan are behind him. ─ AP They extended their heartfelt condolences and sincere sympathies to members of the grieved family while praising her services for the independence of the judiciary, rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution.”She was an outspoken and courageous lady, and had risen to prominence by sheer dint of hard work, diligence and commitment to the legal profession,” the judges of the apex court said.
President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also expressed their sorrow over Jahangir’s demise. The president, in his condolence message, said Jahangir had played an “unforgettable role” for the supremacy of law, democracy and human rights.
PM Abbasi likewise lauded Jahangir for her “immense contribution towards upholding rule of law, democracy and safeguarding human rights.” He termed her demise as a great loss for legal fraternity.
Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said Jahangir’s struggle is a bright chapter in the constitutional, legal, and democratic history of Pakistan. She said that the entire Pakistan is praying peace for Asma Jahangir’s soul.
Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani, Deputy Chairman Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah also expressed grief over the Jahangir’s passing.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Bar Council announced three days of mourning across the country from tomorrow.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has also announced to observe a day of mourning across the province. Moreover, Pakistan People’s Party has suspended activities for one day to mourn the death of Asma Jehangir.
Condolences and tributes also poured in on Twitter as Pakistanis reacted to the shock of Jahangir’s sudden demise.
Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf said her death came as a national loss and her work for women rights and democracy would be etched in history.
United Nations Secretary-General has paid tribute to Pakistan´s “human rights giant” Asma Jahangir following her death by cardiac arrest at the weekend, praising her courage in campaigns for justice and equality for all. Antonio Guterres issued his “heartfelt condolences” to those grieving the 66-year-old lawyer, who co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and also once served as UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.
“We have lost a human rights giant,” the UN chief said in a statement released after Jahangir´s death was announced on Sunday.
“She was a tireless advocate for inalienable rights of all people and for equality — whether in her capacity as a Pakistani lawyer in the domestic justice system, as a global civil society activist, or as a Special Rapporteur. Asma was brilliant, deeply principled, courageous and kind.”.
People took to social media to express shock over the sudden demise of the outspoken lawyer.
Balochistan National Party leader mourned her death on Twitter saying people of his province adored her strength and bravery .
Can’t express my grief at the death of one of the bravest woman I knew. Aasma Jhangir was an inspiration to many, but the people of Balochistan adored her strength & bravery . She stood with us and fought for us on every platform. Her death has left many of us devastated.
2:30 PM – Feb 11, 2018
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Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharfi said “Pakistan has lost a passionate champion of human rights and a staunch supporter of democracy.
إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ
Deeply saddened by the news of sudden demise of renowned lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir sahiba. Pakistan has lost a passionate champion of human rights and a staunch supporter of democracy. May her soul rest in peace!
2:38 PM – Feb 11, 2018
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Speaking to Geo News, senior journalist Hamid Mir said he still can’t believe that Asma Jahangir is no more.
Bakthawar Bhutto Zardari, daughter of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, said demise of Asma Jahangir was a huge loss for Pakistan.
Shocked to hear @Asma_Jahangir passed away. Huge loss for us, for #Pakistan. She was courageous, fearless, invincible. In absolute disbelief. Please pray for her & her family.
2:17 PM – Feb 11, 2018
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Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Maryam Nawaz called her death as “everyone’s lose” in her Twitter post.
Maryam Nawaz Sharif
Democracy, human rights and resistance against oppression lost a great soldier- Asma Jehangir. It’s everyone’s loss. What a sad day!
2:29 PM – Feb 11, 2018
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Born in 1952 and raised in Lahore, Jahangir studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary before receiving her B.A from Kinnaird and LLB from the Punjab University in 1978.
In 1987 she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and became its Secretary General until 1993 when she was elevated as commission’s chairperson.
Ms. Jahangir was also co-chair of South Asians for Human Rights. She was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or summary executions and later as the United Nations Rapporteur of Freedom of religion or belief.
She was put under house arrest and later imprisoned in 1983 for participating in the movement for the restoration of political and fundamental rights during the military regime.
She was again put under house arrest in November 2007 after the imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan.
She has represented several clients who were denied their fundamental rights. Asma Jahangir defended cases of minorities, women and children in prisons.
She penned two books: Divine Sanction? The Hadood Ordinance (1988) and Children of a Lesser God: Child Prisoners of Pakistan (1992).
She was recipient of several national awards, including Sitara-I-Imtiaz in 1995. In recognition of her services in the field of human rights, she was awarded the American Bar Association International Human Rights Award in 1992, the Martin Ennals Award and the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1995.