Jahangir in 2013
|United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran|
1 November 2016 –11 February 2018
|Preceded by||Ahmed Shaheed|
|Succeeded by||Javaid Rehman|
|President of Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan|
27 October 2010 –31 October 2012
|Preceded by||Qazi Anwar|
|Succeeded by||Rasheed A Rizvi|
|Head of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan|
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Zohra Yusuf|
27 January 1952
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
|Died||11 February 2018 66) (aged|
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
|Cause of death||Brain hemorrhage|
|Children||Munizae, Sulema and Jilani Jahangir; grandchildren Natasha and Leah|
|Alma mater|| Punjab University ( LL.B.)|
Kinnaird College (BA)
|Profession||Lawyer, Human Rights Activist|
|Awards|| Hilal-i-Imtiaz (2010)|
Martin Ennals Award (1995)
Ramon Magsaysay Award (2005)
Leo Eitinger Award (2002)
Four Freedoms Award (2010)
Right Livelihood Award, United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights (2018)
Nishan-e-Imtiaz (2018) (Posthumously)
Asma Jilani Jahangir (Urdu : عاصمہ جہانگیر, romanized: ʿĀṣimah Jahāṉgīr; 27 January 1952 – 11 February 2018) was a Pakistani human rights lawyer and social activist who co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Jahangir was known for playing a prominent role in the Lawyers' Movement and served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and as a trustee at the International Crisis Group.
Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world’s sixth-most populous country with a population exceeding 212,742,631 people. In area, it is the 33rd-largest country, spanning 881,913 square kilometres. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China in the northeast. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor in the northwest, and also shares a maritime border with Oman.
A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.
Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society. Forms of activism range from mandate building in the community, petitioning elected officials, running or contributing to a political campaign, preferential patronage of businesses, and demonstrative forms of activism like rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, or hunger strikes.
Born and raised in Lahore, Jahangir studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary before receiving her B.A. from Kinnaird and LLB from the Punjab University in 1978. In 1980, she was called to the Lahore High Court, and to the Supreme Court in 1982. In the 1980s, Jahangir became a democracy activist and was imprisoned in 1983 for participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy against the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq. In 1986, she moved to Geneva, and became the vice-chair of the Defence for Children International and remained until 1988 when she returned to Pakistan.
Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab. Lahore is the country's second-most populous city and is one of Pakistan's wealthiest cities, with an estimated GDP of $58.14 billion (PPP) as of 2015. Lahore is the largest city, and historic cultural centre of the Punjab region, and one of Pakistan's most socially liberal, progressive, and cosmopolitan cities.
The Convent of Jesus and Mary, Lahore, commonly referred to as "Convent", is a girls-only school situated in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. It was founded on 17 November 1876 by Religious of Jesus and Mary, a congregation founded by Saint Claudine Thevenet, and received official recognition in 1881. It educates over 2,300 girls aged between 4 and 18 years starting from preschool to Grade 11.
The Punjab University Law College better known as University Law College is a constituent college of University of the Punjab. It was established in 1868 and located at the Quaid-e-Azam campus, also known as new campus of the Punjab University, near Canal Bank Road, Lahore.
In 1987, Jahangir co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and became its Secretary-General. In 1993, she was elevated as the commission's chairperson.She was again put under house arrest in November 2007 after the imposition of emergency. After serving as one of the leaders of the Lawyers' Movement, she became Pakistan's first woman to serve as the President of Supreme Court Bar Association. She co-chaired South Asia Forum for Human Rights and was the vice president of International Federation for Human Rights. Jahangir served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion from August 2004 to July 2010, including serving on the U.N. panel for inquiry into Sri Lankan human rights violations and on a fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements. In 2016, she was named as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, remaining until her death in February 2018.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is an independent, democratic non-profit organisation. Founded in 1987, it is one of the oldest human rights organisations in the country. HRCP is committed to monitoring, protecting and promoting human rights in Pakistan. It is not associated with the government or with any political party.
In justice and law, house arrest is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to their residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all. House arrest is an alternative to being in a prison while awaiting trial or after sentencing.
A state of emergency was declared by President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf on the 3rd of November 2007 and lasted until the 15th of December 2007 during which the constitution of Pakistan was suspended. When the state of emergency was declared, Musharraf controversially held both positions of President and Chief of Army Staff. He later resigned as army chief 25 days into the emergency on 28 November. The state of emergency and its responses are generally attributed to the controversies surrounding the re-election of Musharraf during the presidential election on 6 October 2007, including his holding of both offices of President and Chief of Army Staff at the time.
Jahangir is the recipient of several awards including the 2014 Right Livelihood Award (along with Edward Snowden) for "defending, protecting and promoting human rights in Pakistan and more widely, often in very difficult and complex situations and at great personal risk", 2010 Freedom Award, Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2010, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2005, 1995 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, and the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. She was awarded a Legion of Honour by France, and in 2016 the University of Pennsylvania Law School awarded her a honorary degree.Her writings include The Hudood Ordinance: A Divine Sanction? and Children of a Lesser God.
The Right Livelihood Award is an international award to "honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today." The prize was established in 1980 by German-Swedish philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, and is presented annually in early December. An international jury, invited by the five regular Right Livelihood Award board members, decides the awards in such fields as environmental protection, human rights, sustainable development, health, education, and peace. The prize money is shared among the winners, usually numbering four, and is EUR 200,000. Very often one of the four laureates receives an honorary award, which means that the other three share the prize money.
Edward Joseph Snowden is an American whistleblower who copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 when he was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and subcontractor. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments, and prompted a cultural discussion about national security and individual privacy.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) bestows its Freedom Award for extraordinary contributions to the cause of refugees and human freedom. According to the IRC, "The Freedom Award reveals the remarkable ability of an individual to shape history and change for the better a world moving toward freedom for all."
Jahangir was posthumously awarded the Nishan-e-Imtiaz on 23 March 2018, the highest degree of service to the state, and for services to international diplomacy by Mamnoon Hussain.
The Nishaani Imtiyaaz is one of the state organized civil decorations of State of Pakistan. It is awarded for achievements towards world recognition for Pakistan or an outstanding service for the country. However, The award is not limited to citizens of Pakistan and, while it is a civilian award, it can also be awarded to military personnel and worn on the uniform. Nishan, translates as Decoration/Order, is a highly restricted and prestigious award roughly equivalent to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Order of the British Empire, and is the first category award of Order of Imtiaz. The other three descending categories are Hilal-i-Imtiaz, Sitara-i-Imtiaz and Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. Usually, it is regarded as the highest award one can achieve in Pakistan since the higher award Nishan-e-Pakistan is awarded only to foreign Heads of States.
Mamnoon Hussain is a Pakistani politician and businessman who served as the 12th President of Pakistan, in office from 2013 to 2018.
Jahangir was born into a prosperous and politically active Kakazai Pashtunfamily with a history of activism and human rights work. Her father, Malik Ghulam Jilani, was a civil servant who entered politics upon retirement and spent years both in jail and under house arrest for opposing military dictatorships. Malik was imprisoned on several occasions for his outspoken views, which included denouncing the Pakistani government for genocide during their military action in what is now Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan).
The Kakazai, also known as Loi or Loye Mamund, a division of the Mamund clan, are part of the larger Tarkani (ترکاڼي) tribe who are primarily settled in Bajaur Agency, Pakistan, but originally hailed from the Laghman province of Afghanistan. However, it has grown and scattered around to such an extent that it is recognized as tribe of its own.
The Pashtuns, historically known as ethnic Afghans or Pathans are an Iranian-speaking ethnic group native to South-Central Asia, who share a common history and culture. A substantial majority of ethnic Pashtuns shares Pashto, an Eastern Iranian language in the Indo-European language family as the native language.
Bangladesh, officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia. While it is the 92nd-largest country, spanning 147,570 square kilometres (56,980 sq mi), it is the world's 8th-most populous country with a population nearing 163 million, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Bangladesh shares land borders with India to the west, north and the east and Myanmar to the east, whereas the Bay of Bengal lies to its south. Dhaka, its capital and largest city, is also the economic, political and the cultural hub of the country. Chittagong, the largest sea port, is the second largest city. The country's geography is dominated by the Ganges delta which empties into the Bay of Bengal the combined waters of several river systems, including those of the Brahmaputra and the Ganges. As a result, the country is criss-crossed by numerous rivers and inland water ways. Highlands with evergreen forests cover the landscape in the northeastern and southeastern regions of the country. The country also features the longest natural sea beach and most of the largest mangrove forest in the world. The country's biodiversity includes a vast array of plants and wildlife, including the endangered Bengal tiger, the national animal.
Her mother, Begum Sabiha Jilani (1927–2012),was educated at a co-ed college named Forman Christian College situated in Lahore, at a time when few Muslim women even received higher education. Sabiha also fought the traditional system, pioneering her own clothing business until her family's lands were confiscated in 1967 as a result of her husband's opinions and detention.
Jahangir herself became involved at a young age in protests against the military regime as well as opposing her father's detention by then president, Benazir Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972. She received her B.A. from Kinnaird College, Lahore and her law degree in 1978,and her Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from Punjab University. She also holds an honorary doctorate from University of St. Gallen in Switzerland., Queens University, Canada, Simon Fraser University, Canada and Cornell University, United States. She was married and had a son and two daughters, Munizae Jahangir, a journalist and Sulema Jahangir, who is also a lawyer.
She spent her career defending the human and women's rights, rights of religious minorities and children in Pakistan. Jahangir was a staunch critic of the Hudood Ordinance and blasphemy laws of Pakistan put in place as part of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization program in Pakistan.She was a founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and served as Secretary-General and later Chairperson of the organisation.
In 1980, Jahangir and her sister, Hina Jilani, got together with fellow activists and lawyers to form the first law firm established by women in Pakistan. In the same year they also helped form the Women’s Action Forum (WAF), a pressure group campaigning against Pakistan's discriminatory legislation, most notably against the Proposed Law of Evidence, where the value of a woman's testimony was reduced to half that of a man's testimony, and the Hadood Ordinances, where victims of rape had to prove their innocence or else face punishment themselves.On 12 February 1983, the Punjab Women Lawyers Association in Lahore organised a public protest (one of its leaders was Jahangir) against the Proposed Law of Evidence, during which Jahangir and other participating WAF members were beaten, teargassed, and arrested by police.
The first WAF demonstration, however, took place in 1983 when some 25–50 women took to the streets protesting the controversial case of Safia Bibi. In 1983, Safia, a blind 13-year-old girl, was raped by her employers, and as a result became pregnant, yet ended up in jail charged with fornication (zina) sentenced to flogging, three years of imprisonment and fined. Jahangir defended Safia in her appeal and eventually the verdict was over-ruled by an appeals court due to pressure and protests.They would say: "We [their law firm] had been given a lot of cases by the advocate general and the moment this demonstration came to light, the cases were taken away from us." In 1982, Jahangir earned the nickname "little heroine" after leading a protest march in Islamabad against a decision by then-president Zia-ul-Haq to enforce religious laws and stated: "Family laws [which are religious laws] give women few rights" and that "They have to be reformed because Pakistan cannot live in isolation. We cannot remain shackled while other women progress".
In 1986, Jahangir and Hina set up AGHS Legal Aid, the first free legal aid centre in Pakistan. The AGHS Legal Aid Cell in Lahore also runs a shelter for women, called 'Dastak', looked after by her secretary Munib Ahmed.She was also a proponent of protecting the rights of persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan and spoke out against forced conversions. Jahangir campaigned against human rights abuses taking place in government and police custody in Pakistan. In a letter to The New York Times , she said that "Women are arrested, raped and sexually assaulted every day in the presence of female constables, who find themselves helpless in such situations".
In 1996, the Lahore High Court ruled that an adult Muslim woman could not get married without the consent of her male guardian (wali). Women, who chose their husbands independently, could be forced to annul their marriages and the repercussions were highlighted by Jahangir, who also took on such cases (i.e. the case of Saima Waheed);"Hundreds have already been arrested. This is simply going to open up the floodgates for the harassment of women and girls by their families and the authorities. The courts have sanctioned their oppression. Thousands more are bound to be affected by this."
Jahangir demanded that the government of Parvez Musharraf work to improve the record of human rights domestically. Citing examples of human rights abuses, she wrote, "A Hindu income tax inspector gets lynched in the presence of the army personnel for allegedly having made a remark on the beard of a trader. Promptly, the unfortunate Hindu government servant is booked for having committed blasphemy, while the traders and the Lashkar-e-Taiba activists were offered tea over parleys. A seventy-year-old Mukhtaran Bibi and her pregnant daughter Samina are languishing in Sheikhupura jail on trumped-up charges of blasphemy".
She was also an active opponent of child labour and capital punishment: "It would be hypocrisy to defend laws I don't believe in, like capital punishment, the blasphemy law and laws against women and in favor of child labor."Asma Jahangir served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions from 1998 to 2004, and as the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief from 2004 to 2010. In her capacity as a UN official, Jahangir was in Pakistan, when Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in 2007. In November 2006, she participated the international meeting for The Yogyakarta Principles as one of 29 experts. On 5 November 2007, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour indicated that Jahangir was among the judicial and political officials detained by the Musharraf government.
On 18 January 2017, Jahangir became the first Pakistani to deliver the 2017 Amartya Sen Lecture at the London School of Economics, where she called for a counter-narrative of liberal politics to challenge religious intolerance. She added that there was a "large scale impunity" among those who commit crimes in the name of religion, and this has to be addressed at the national as well as the international levels, the rights activist said. "In 1986, Pakistan got the blasphemy law. So, while we had just two cases of blasphemy before that year, now we have thousands. It shows that one should be careful while bringing religion into legislation, because the law itself can become an instrument of persecution," she added.
In August 2017, Jahangir represented the families of terror convicts sentenced to death by military tribunals before the Supreme Court in Said Zaman Khan v. Federation of Pakistan . Jahangir asked order retrial in all cases in which military courts handed down convictions, including capital punishments, but the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the sentence of the convicts on 29 August 2017.
Asma spoke against the five member Supreme Court judgment which deposed Nawaz Sharif from his premiership. She questioned why members of Inter Services Intelligence and Military intelligence were inducted in Joint Investigation team ferreting out corruption by Sharif's family and his close companions. She questioned how the Panama case five judges would have felt if members of the ISI and MI were inducted in Supreme Judicial Council, a body authorised to punish erring judges.Earlier she had suggested that ousted prime minister would get no relief from Supreme Court but from coming on streets.
In December 2017, Jahangir called for a probe by a parliamentary committee to ascertain as to who was behind the recent Faizabad sit-in. She questioned "We need to know how the army became a guarantor during the agreement between the government and protesters. Why money was distributed among the protesters,".
In her last case before the Supreme Court, Jahangir appeared for former Member of the National Assembly Rai Hasan Nawaz in Sami Ullah Baloch v. Abdul Karim Nousherwani in February 2018. She argued that there should not be a constant period of electoral disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, but courts should decide the question according to the conduct of individuals. She said the Supreme Court had held Nawaz Sharif eligible to contest elections in 2009 by deeming him sadiq and ameen, but now it was difficult to understand whether the court had increased the bar of honesty or reduced it.
On 5 November 2007, The Economist reported that "Over 500 lawyers, opposition politicians and human rights activists have been arrested. They include Asma Jahangir, boss of the country's human-rights commission and a former UN special rapporteur. In an e-mail from her house arrest, where she has been placed for 90 days, Ms Jahangir regretted that General Musharraf had 'lost his marbles'".
According to Dawn "many people go ballistic every time her name is mentioned", adding that "a pattern: often wild, unsubstantiated allegations are levelled against her."According to Herald "HRCP in general and Asma Jahangir in particular have also been branded as 'traitors' and 'American agents', trying to malign Pakistan and destroy the country's social and political fabric in the name of women’s rights and the rights of non-Muslims." Commenting on her legal style, Dawn wrote that she used "calculated aggression, wit and sharp one-liners." In the mid-1980s, the Zia-ul-Haq-appointed Majlis-e-Shoora passed a resolution claiming that Jahangir had blasphemed and she should be sentenced to death. She was found not guilty of blasphemy.
Declan Walsh, writing for The Guardian , described Jahangir's career as "for almost four decades she has towered over Pakistan's human rights war." Adding that "she has championed battered wives, rescued teenagers from death row, defended people accused of blasphemy, and sought justice for the victims of honour killings. These battles have won her admirers and enemies in great number."Abbas Nasir has described her as the "gutsiest woman that Pakistan has". William Dalrymple, writing for The New Yorker , described Jahangir as Pakistan's "most visible and celebrated—as well as most vilified—human-rights lawyer", adding that she has "spent her professional life fighting for a secular civil society, challenging the mullahs and generals."
Several conservative and nationalist commenters have written extensively against Jahangir. Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan have been critical of Jahangir.On 3 September 2013, NDTV reported that US intelligence agencies had uncovered evidence of a plot hatched by Pakistani security officials to use militants to kill human rights activist Asma Jahangir in India in May 2012. Jahangir has received numerous threats over the years due to her activism and human rights work and particularly after defending a 14-year-old Christian boy, Salamat Masih, accused of blasphemy and ultimately winning the case in 1995, a mob at the High Court smashed Jahangir's car, assaulted her and her driver, threatening her with death. Jahangir and her family have been attacked, taken hostage, had their home broken into and received death threats ever since, but she continued her battle for justice.
When Jahangir undertook the case of Saima Sarwar in 1999, who was given shelter at Dastak after leaving her husband, wanting a divorce and later gunned down by her family in an act of honour killing, Jahangir received death threats for representing Saima in her divorce proceedings.In May 2005 Jahangir announced that she would hold a symbolic mixed-gender marathon in Lahore to raise awareness about violence against women. This was following the revelations of cases such as Mukhtar Mai. Tensions boiled over, as Islamist groups and supporters of the political Islamist alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) armed with firearms, batons and Molotov cocktails, violently opposed the race, and Jahangir received especially rough treatment from local police and intelligence agents, who began to strip off her clothes in public. Of this Jahangir said "A lot of people tried to cover my back because I could only feel it I could not see my back. When they were putting me on the police van, they assured that my photograph was taken while my back was bare. This was just to humiliate, this was simply just to humiliate me." A police officer told Jahangir that they had orders to be strict and to tear off the participant's clothes. In addition she along with other participants was also beaten.
In addition to many publications, Jahangir has authored two books: Divine Sanction? The Hudood Ordinance (1988, 2003) and Children of a Lesser God: Child Prisoners of Pakistan (1992).One of her major publications is titled "Whither are We!" and was published in Dawn, on 2 October 2000.
Jahangir suffered from a stroke leading to brain hemorrhage in Lahore on 11 February 2018 and later died in hospital.
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