Asma Jahangir dies: Pakistan, South Asian human rights community and media grieve loss of activist

Asma Jilani Jahangir (January 27, 1952-February 11, 2018), a world-renowned Pakistani human rights lawyer and activist, passed away in Lahore on Sunday, according to Dawn. She was 66

Photo by Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo by Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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NH Web Desk

Renowned senior lawyer and icon of human rights and democracy activist in Pakistan Asma Jahangir passed away in Lahore on Sunday, according to DawnNews. She was 66.

"The cause of her death has not been confirmed yet, but multiple reports suggest she passed away from cardiac arrest. Details regarding her funeral prayers and last rites have not been made public as yet," the report said, adding that she was co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and the Women's Action Forum.

Describing her as an outspoken nature and unrelenting pursuit for human rights — as well as for remaining undaunted in the face of extreme pressure and opposition, the report said Jahangir will be remembered as a champion for the disenfranchised and for her services towards building a democratic and more inclusive Pakistan.

Jahangir was born in Lahore in January 1952. She received a Bachelors' degree from Kinnaird College and an LLB from Punjab University. She was called to the Lahore High Court in 1980 and to the Supreme Court in 1982. She 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 also active in the 2007 Lawyers' Movement, for which she was put under house arrest.

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.

A report on Geo TV’s website described her as an author and a staunch activist for democracy, who was known for taking up court cases of victimised and marginalised sections of society. She was also a partner at AGHS Law Associates and head of its legal aid cell. Jahangir remained the special rapporteur on human rights for the United Nations.

Jahangir was also a vocal opponent of judicial overreach and would often confront the superior judiciary when it would extend its jurisdiction in her opinion. In her last tweet, Jahangir cautioned the Supreme Court from selectively using the contempt of court law, according to the report.

After her daughter Munizae Jahangir confirmed the news, moving tributes have been pouring in for Jahangir from Pakistani politicians, and from the Pakistani and Indian media and human rights communities.

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