KARACHI: A tribute to lawyer, activist and human rights champion Asma Jahangir was organised at Szabist on Friday where her legacy was celebrated in the midst of human rights defenders, civil society activists, the media, as well as the youth of the nation.
Retired Justice Majida Rizvi recalled Asma in her younger years, who under the tutelage of her father showed bravery and courage to challenge the courts. It was from that point onwards that Asma took up cases for the cause of social justice and democracy, being a vocal advocate of human rights.
“Throughout our careers, Asma and I had regular discussions such as on the Hudood Ordinance and on the offence of Zina. Asma has also worked extensively on torture, and the missing persons, and as a result of her untiring efforts in the field of human rights, everywhere in the world Pakistan and Asma are known together.”
Speakers celebrate life and legacy of human rights champion
Journalist Ghazi Salahuddin, representing the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said that Asma was larger than life, and even larger than the HRCP which she was a co-founder of. “She was the moving spirit of the organisation, and the credibility afforded to HRCP as an NGO, in the country and internationally, was largely because of its affiliation with Asma. She was the chairperson several times, and at the time of her death, she was the official spokesperson.”
The issue of missing persons in Pakistan was an issue the HRCP greatly fought for, he said, and Asma Jahangir and her lifelong struggle share a deep connection. Working for minorities, the marginalised and the oppressed, was Asma’s purpose in life, he explained.
Anis Haroon, former vice chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women, lauded the bravery of Asma to stand up to the powers that be. “All that Asma has done, the world knows and acknowledges her for it. She was a human rights defender for women, the weak and oppressed, workers and journalists, minorities, and the marginalised. She took a stand on the blasphemy issue, fought cases in which she received threats and was heavily criticised. But Asma always stood for truth and justice.”
“How unfortunate is this country that it cannot accept its heroes,” she added.
Journalist Mazhar Abbas said that the loss of Asma may not necessarily be felt by the nation immediately, but in the near future, the vacuum she has left behind will be greatly realised. “Asma’s death is the loss of Pakistan,” he said.
The speakers were not very hopeful that anybody else could fill the void left by Asma, and hoped that the younger generation would learn from her legacy and be inspired.
Other speakers included Mehnaz Rahman of the Aurat Foundation and Karamat Ali of Piler.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2018