Eminent Pakistani lawyer, activist Asma Jahangir dead

USCIRF Mourns Death of Leading Pakistani Human Rights Defender

Paying their tributes to the country's prominent human rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir, civil society and rights activists on Monday vowed to not only sustain but also further promote the struggle she initiated for democracy and the rule of law.

Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, summed up Jahangir's achievements: 'At barely 19, she challenged the military dictatorship...and as a result the supreme court declared martial law as illegal for the first time in Pakistan's history. Many women also helped carry Jahangir's body to her farmhouse, where she was later buried.

Jahangir served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion from August 2004 to July 2010, including serving on the U.N. panel for inquiry into Sri Lankan human rights violations and on a fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements. She was to visit jail again under General Pervez Musharraf during the Lawyers Movement of 2007, not that the lawyers of Lahore, a lot of them from small cities and of conservative mind, loved her for her defence of the non-Muslims and women.

"She was a legendary human rights defender: pioneering, determined, calm, courageous - and a lovely human being", the office said in a tweet posted on its official account. And she was unpopular back in Pakistan, perhaps in the same way as Butalia and Roy are in some circles in India.

There is still awful violence against women, discrimination against minorities and near-slavery for bonded laborers, Ms. Jahangir told AFP during an interview in 2014, but human rights have made greater strides in Pakistan than may be apparent.

She has also been an outspoken critic of the Pakistans powerful military establishment, including during her tenure as the first-ever female leader of Pakistans top bar association.

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Salman Sufi, director-general of Strategic Reforms Unit of the Punjab Government, hailed Jahangir for her "undeniably crucial" role in establishing the Punjab Women Protection Authority which set up centers to protect women from violence.

- In a story February 12 about her death, The Associated Press misspelled the name of Asma Jahangir as Jehangir. Both the Asian and global ecumenical movement worked with Asma Jahangir on the global advocacy against the misuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan. She was repeatedly threatened by the country's militant religious right whom she criticized loudly and often.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashir and other noted lawyers and dignitaries have called for a state funeral in remembrance of her services.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, along with his daughter Maryam, visited Ms Jahangir's residence and condoled with her husband Tahir Jahangir, sister Hina Jillani, daughter Munizae Jahangir and other family members.

'We have lost a human rights giant, the United Nations chief said in a statement released after Jahangir's death was announced on Sunday.

The Pakistan Bar Council had announced three days of mourning.

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