On 11th February 2018, Asma Jahangir died in Lahore, at the age of 66 owing to a cardiac arrest. At the time, she was serving at the United Nations as a Special Rapporteur to Iran for Human Rights. Prior to her UN posting, she co-chaired South Asia Forum for Human Rights (Pakistan) and she was the vice-president of International Federation for Human Rights (France).
Ms. Jahangir has had an outstanding academic background and her genetic lineage is marked with affluence and strong left-wing proclivities in Pakistan’s political scene. From a young age, Ms. Jahangir was involved in protests against the military regime in Pakistan. Her father Malik Ghulam Jilani too, championed the cause. In 1980s, Ms. Jahangir came to be known as democracy activist who made it her life mission to fight for human rights and specifically advocate for women’s rights. She founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan for which she was house arrested in the year 2007 at the time of Emergency imposition. She served as one of the leaders in the Lawyers’ Movement and she was the first woman President of Supreme Court Bar Association in Pakistan. Ms. Jahangir is the recipient of 8 prestigious awards and 2 of her publications has received critical acclaim.
For women’s rights in Pakistan, Ms. Jahangir along with her sister Hina Jilani, founded Women’s Action Forum. This forum was a pressure group that fought against Pakistan’s discriminatory ‘Law of Evidence’ that put the onus on victims of rape to establish the crime and prove their innocence. The journey of advocating women’s rights had been an arduous one as they faced aggressive suppression from the law enforcement authorities. Ms. Jahangir also fought against religious exploitation of human rights. She believed, “We never learnt the right lessons. We never went to the root of the problem. Once you start politicizing religion, you play with fire and you get burnt as well.”
Centre for Social Research pays homage to the legend. People of many passions and many struggles must be lauded.