Asma Jahangir was nothing short of an icon. The Pakistani activist and human rights lawyer passed away at the age of 66 in Lahore due to cardiac arrest. Her passing on Feb. 11 is being mourned as a huge loss for Pakistan with and leaves behind a greater sense of uncertainty in the country.
Heartbroken that we lost Asma Jahangir – a saviour of democracy and human rights.
I met her a week ago in Oxford. I cannot believe she is no more among us. The best tribute to her is to continue her fight for human rights and democracy. pic.twitter.com/Tf7VOYfvq5
— Malala (@Malala) February 11, 2018
Here are five things you need to know about her:
1. She was a trailblazer from an early age
Her first job as a lawyer was setting up her own firm in family law in 1980. Joining forces with her sister Hina Jilani and a couple of friends, the firm focused on divorce, maintenance payments and custodial cases.
2. Her activist spirit was also born young
The daughter of liberal politician Malik Ghulam Jilani, Jahangir was drawn to the courtroom since she was a teenager. After her father was taken in detention during General Yahya Khan’s military control of Pakistan in 1971, she filed a petition as a teen in the Lahore High Court. Despite her case being dismissed, she appealed to the Supreme Court. After Khan’s dictatorship ended, her father’s detention was announced illegal.
3. She broke barriers
Jahangir became the first woman to lead Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association. She also co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Women’s Action Fund.
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.
— Omar Waraich (@OmarWaraich) February 11, 2018
4. Her fearless attitude got her nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
As an activist, Jahangir fought for women’s rights and democracy in Pakistan. She fiercely opposed the country’s infamous blasphemy laws. Whether it was for Ahmadis, who are a taboo even for the most liberal Pakistanis, or Christians and Hindus, Jahangir was never afraid to defend and stand in solidarity with fellow Pakistanis. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
‘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 &
attacks. Was never afraid.What a hero. We have to contend with a void. pic.twitter.com/NFamtObL0s
— Raza Ahmad Rumi (@Razarumi) February 11, 2018
5. Her sense of justice and human rights irked the Pakistani government
Jahangir was arrested in 1983 while campaigning against military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq. She was arrested in 2005, under the leadership of President Pervez Musharraf, at an event for women’s rights and again in 2007 when she was put under house arrest for her stance against his dismissal of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Her criticism of the military led to an assassination plot by Pakistani officials, according to U.S. intelligence groups who apparently found evidence of a plan in 2012.
Rest in peace dear Asma. To God we belong and to Him we shall return.