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Pakistani Human Rights Champion Asma Jahangir Dies at 66

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Pakistani human rights lawyer and social activist Asma Jahangir. She suffered a heart attack on February 11th, 2018 at 66 years old.

The world is taken aback by the loss of a great woman who dedicated her entire life to justice. She fearlessly risked her life standing up to corrupted figures in positions of power and defending the innocent.

Jahangir was born on January 27th, 1952 in Lahore, Pakistan. She received her BA from Kinnaird College and went on to study law at Punjab University, where she received her LLB in 1978.

 

In 1980, Jahangir and her sister Hina Jilani, with whom she worked closely during most of her life, founded the first law firm established by women in Pakistan. They also helped form the Women’s Action Forum (WAF), an organization that fights for women’s rights.

In 1982, Jahangir began working at the Supreme Court of Pakistan but was imprisoned a year later for taking part in a movement that aimed to restore democracy and gain civilian control over the Pakistani military. But that did not stop her in her fight for justice. In 1987, she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a non-profit dedicated to protecting the rights of Pakistani civilians.

In 2005, Jahangir was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but she did not need this recognition to prove that she spent her life protecting and fighting for the greater good.

 

Jahangir pursued so many endeavors to fight for the rights of women, children, and persecuted minorities that it is hard to simplify her impact and achievements in just a few hundred words. After her passing, many prominent figures spoke out about Jahangir and her impact.

“Heartbroken that we lost Asma Jahangir – a saviour of democracy and human rights,” tweeted Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. “I cannot believe she is no more among us. The best tribute to her is to continue her fight for human rights and democracy.”

“Asma Jahangir was the bravest person I knew. She fearlessly stood up to dictators, thugs, misogynists. She was never daunted by the attacks that came her way. She never wavered from her principles. Her loss is incalculable,” said human rights campaigner Omar Waraich.

“‘Speaking truth to power’ a phrase, we often use. #AsmaJahangir lived, practiced till her last breath. Questioned mullahs, military, judges, politicians, all the powerful; defended downtrodden. Faced threats and attacks. Was never afraid. What a hero. We have to contend with a void,” tweeted Pakistani columnist Raza Rumi.

A week before Jahangir’s death, BBC had a chance to speak with her in London. When asked if she believed she had seen change happen during her life, Jahangir replied“Absolutely I’ve seen things changing from the 80s to nowadays, I see change. But not enough, just simply not enough.”

It is up to us to carry on the legacy of Asma Jahangir and to continue to fight for changes that will bring justice to those who desperately need it.

Featured Image by Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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