Renowned senior lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir passed away in Lahore on Sunday at the age of 66. Jahangir was taken to a private hospital on Ferozepur Road after suffering a cardiac arrest where she breathed her last. She was laid to rest yesterday after her funeral prayers were offered at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. A number of top government officials, prominent members of the legal fraternity, celebrities, activists, and ordinary citizens, alongside members of her family, attended the funeral prayers.
Asma was well known for bravery, fearless stance against dictatorship, struggle for democracy and human rights. Jahangir was born in Lahore in January 1952. She received a Bachelors’ degree from Kinnaird and and LLB from Punjab University. She was called to the Lahore High Court in 1980 and to the Supreme Court in 1982 and later went on to become the first woman to serve as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. She became a 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 jailed by Zia regime due to her firm stance against dictatorship. Perhaps it is difficult to find another person who lamented the dictatorial regimes they way she did. 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 received the 2014 Right Livelihood Award and the 2010 Freedom Award.
Following the sad news, messages of grief and condolences were shared on social media as well as by prominent officials, including the president, prime minister and Supreme Court chief justice.
Every Pakistani who stands for human rights would be proud on Asma as most can only dare to dream to copy her. Principled and gutsy, Asma’s ability and assurance to go up against abhorrent, shield the powerless, and demand Pakistan satisfying the goals of its popularity based, constitutional and secular foundations made her really famous and iconic.
Asma was outspoken for the rights of less privileged, vulnerable and accountability of powerful.