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Tributes showered on iconic rights defender Asma Jahangir

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Lahore: Rights activists have showered tributes on Asma Jehangir, co-founder and iconic human rights defender and courageous person.

At a reference at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) office on Thursday, veteran journalist and former secretary-general IA Rehman said that Ms Jahangir ‘defined courage.’

“She did not shy away from the possible consequences of a principled action or stance, he added.

“When sections of civil society termed former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf’s seemingly liberal regime a ‘window of opportunity’ for human rights in 1999, Ms Jahangir was quick to retort, there is no need to take a flying leap through that window,” recalled Mr Rehman.

Labour rights activist Farooq Tariq recalled that Asma Jahangir had played an instrumental role in helping mobilize the Anjuman-e-Mazareen Punjab in Okara against military farms.

Civil society activist Muhmmad Tahseen said that it was important to take Ms Jahangir’s vision forward rather than dwell on her loss.

Lawyer Alia Malik, who worked with Ms Jahangir for over 25 years at the AGHS Legal Aid Cell, said that she had always encouraged her younger associates to remain persistent.

If the courts refused to listen to them, Ms Jahangir would say, then they should return with stronger evidence and ask on what basis the courts had refused to listen.

HRCP former chairperson Dr Mehdi Hasan recalled that when a young Christian accused of blasphemy was shot dead outside the Lahore High Court, his last words had been: “Tell Asma Jahangir what has happened.”

Indeed, her name was synonymous with the human rights she spent her life defending.

HRCP chairperson Hina Jilani remembered Ms Jahangir as a ‘doer.’

‘It was the late Iqbal Haider’s idea to set up a commission for human rights, but it was Asma who made it happen,’ she said, adding that it now fell to activists all over Pakistan to continue the work Ms Jahangir had spearheaded.

“We are being silenced and our right to mobilise against human rights violations is being taken away,” she declared, adding, “we have lost many friends and allies along the way, but as human rights defenders, we cannot afford the luxury of cynicism or frustration”.

The Asma Jahangir Memorial Lecture, instituted by HRCP last year, will be held on 16 February 2021 in Islamabad.

This year’s lecture will be given by Senator Raza Rabbani, who will speak on freedom of association and student activism.

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