'Moral Compass' Asma Jahangir Laid to Rest


Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, said: '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, who passed away in Lahore on Sunday after suffering a cardiac arrest, played an effective role in forming the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Women's Action Forum, two notable organisations defending human rights in Pakistan.

Ms Jahangir was the current UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, having assumed the position on 1 November 2016. She was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions and later as the UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. "While addressing the Asia plenary session of the Central Committee meeting of the WCC in the early 2000's, Asma Jahangir reminded the worldwide ecumenical community how important it is to be careful about the trend in many countries bringing religion into legislations, as the law itself can become an instrument of persecution against religious minorities". She was twice elected as President of Supreme Court Bar Association from October, 2008 to October 2010. She got her law degree from the Punjab University in 1978 before plunging into a long career of human rights advocacy.

"With just her courage and the strength of her conviction, she achieved spectacular progress and won admiration in Pakistan and in all the countries where she worked".

The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work.

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.

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

Women rights activists, including Aurat Foundation's Mahnaz Rehman, Bushra Araen, Shireen Ijaz, Rahila Raheem, Mussrat Jabeen, Malka Khan, Mangal Sharma, Qamrun Nisa Dhamrah, Farhat Parveen and transgender activist Shahzadi Rai also lauded Jahangir's services and paid rich tribute to her.

Ex-president SC bar Ali Zafar said that the services rendered by Asma Jahangir for basic rights of people and struggle for the marginalised will never be forgotten. Being a woman in the public eye, she was not shy of being political and did not allow herself to be weighed down by propaganda and sexist rhetoric directed at her. Asma was firm in her convictions and demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the cause of democratic freedoms. Yet nothing stopped her from speaking out against injustice, whether it was at protest marches on the streets, interviews on television, or speeches at universities overseas. Their clients included Christians facing death sentences on blasphemy charges, bonded labourers who had fled the oppressive grip of feudal landowners, and women who faced violence at home.

Friends, relatives, activists and journalists thronged to her residence in Lahore to express their grief.

For her work championing minority rights and speaking out against corruption at all levels in Pakistan, Asma Jahangir was targeted by threats on her life by hard lined militants and those within the military establishment.