Pakistanis Bid Farewell To 'Fearless' Rights Activist Jahangir

Pakistani leading rights activist, Asma Jehangir, dead at 66

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They were of the views that she never compromised on principles and stood firmly against un-democratic forces and dictators.

"Ms. Jahangir was an outspoken critic of the Pakistani government's misuse of blasphemy laws, particularly targeting Ahmadis and Christians", said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark.

The state department praised Jahangir's role as a UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, where "she improved the world's understanding of the plight of religious minorities worldwide through her in-depth research and sustained engagements and fought for the protection of the persecuted". As human rights gain universal currency, the relevance of her work cuts across nationalities and cultures.

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Opinions and comments were shared by key guest speakers on the greatness and struggles against a series of "anti-women" laws passed by General Ziaul Haq. In her capacity as a human rights lawyer she fought many cases on behalf of those accused of blasphemy, women seeking divorce from unsafe marriages and other important cases.

"There was a time that human rights was not even an issue in this country. The Hadood Ordinance" (1988) and "Children of a Lesser God: Child Prisoners of Pakistan" (1992).

Her response to her persecution under dictatorship was measured.

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Jahangir co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and was president of the Supreme Court's Bar Association.

The world took note of her quickly enough. Jahangir tried hard to rid Pakistan's judicial system of corruption and manipulation and rose to become the first woman President of the Supreme Court's bar association. She points out how long it took the United Nations to recognise the blatant injustice of Jewish settlements in Palestine territory. She had the same worldview as Arundhati Roy who watches India returning self-destructively to religion after 70 years of secularism. That she was constrained to describe the top brass of Pakistan's army as "dangerous duffers" a few years back is as much a sign of her anger as of the extraordinary unconstitutional powers that army continues to enjoy in Pakistan. Asma's answer was unequivocal: yes it had helped, because having a female prime minister meant that, despite continuing gender inequality, she and her colleagues could act with greater certainty that, in so far as was possible, they would be supported at the highest level.

Pakistan has undermined its own writ by giving birth to the so-called "nonstate actor" organisations fighting its covert wars in neighbouring states.

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