Asma Jahangir: Hope for the hopeless

Published on – February 13, 2018 – 7:00 am
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Prominent human rights activist and senior lawyer Asma Jahangir had died at the age of 66. The family confirmed that she was reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to hospital where she breathed last. Jahangir was in born Lahore but dearly loved by entire Pakistan because of her firm stand against the dictators and struggle for the rights of minorities.


Prominent human rights activist and senior lawyer Asma Jahangir had died at the age of 66. The family confirmed that she was reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to hospital where she breathed last. Jahangir was in born Lahore but dearly loved by entire Pakistan because of her firm stand against the dictators and struggle for the rights of minorities.

It was rare that a person born in Punjab is dearly loved by all other small provinces and tribal areas. She was pro-democracy activist championed women’s rights throughout her career. She started her career at the age of 30 but because of her father being in jail, she protested in the street at the age of 20. Soon after her demise was reported by her daughter on twitter, her speech at protest sit-in in Islamabad went viral.

Her opinion and struggle for the oppressed tribesmen was same as it was for the people of Balochistan. She was critical of the military establishment and always preached that a military dictator could not be a good ruler. Her advocacy for supremacy of constitution would always be remembered. In Islamabad sit-in, she warned the powerful government of Islamabad and military establishment that Baloch and Pashtoons are not terrorists and discrimination against them would lead to a disaster.

Jahangir visited Quetta in 2014 when then Chief Justice of Pakistan took suo moto notice of the cases of Baloch missing persons. She offered her services for free for the Baloch families whose loved one were subjected to enforced disappearances. Asma Jahangir’s interest in the issues of minorities and women was natural and pure without any personal gain. She was imprisoned in 1983 and put under house arrest in 2007 during the military dictator Musharraf regime.

Right after her death national and some mainstream international media outlets paid her glowing tribute. Because of her bold stand against the powerful military dictatorship, she faced numerous hardships in her over 30 years career. Five years ago, some documents leaked suggested that intelligence agency intelligence officers had planned to kill her.

Asma Jahangir promptly demanded an inquiry into it. She demanded from the high officials of government and judiciary to launch a fair investigation and unearth the forces who wanted to silence her. In her article in Express Tribune, she responded to her critic on blasphemy law. She said blasphemy law is a black law and minorities are being punished for their no crime. She clarified that it was not the issue of left and right but for the dignity of the country and such black laws will bring bad.

In 2006, when military operation was launched against Nawab Akber Bugti and his comrades, Jahangir was the first one who came forward and strongly condemned the military offence. Ms. Jahangir along with her human rights delegation tried to travel to the troubled Bugti tribal territory of Balochistan but was stopped near Dera Bugti.

“Unknown” people opened fire at her vehicle and she was told that Bugti tribesmen wanted to attack her vehicle. However, Ms. Jahangir contradicted the claims of the security officials and stated that she was not being allowed to have access to the operation hit areas on the pretext of security risk. She later alleged that Musharraf led government was behind the attack on her vehicle in order to bar her delegation from visiting Buti tribal territory where hundreds of innocent were killed.

Due to her services to the people of Balochistan, most of the Baloch youth paid a rich tribute to Ms. Jahangir by putting her picture as facebook profile picture. Human rights activists, journalists and minority leaders termed it a national tragedy and worried that her untimely departure created a vacuum which shall never be fill.

She was given many title and most retweeted title was a brave woman who embarrassed many powerful men. From Balochistan to Gilgit, she personally visited and offered her free services for those who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

Not only in Pakistan, she spoke against BBC Persian journalists being put on trial in Iran, as part of her role as UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi led tributes to Ms Jahangir, saying her death was a great loss for the legal fraternity. Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai called Ms Jahangir a “saviour of democracy and human rights”. So far, no one sees her replacement, however, many on social media vowed to follow her legacy.