Asma Jahangir (1952 - 2018), prominent human rights activist in Pakistan

UN chief pays tribute to Asma Jahangir, calls her Pakistan's 'human rights giant'

She was 66. She served in various capacities as a human rights expert for the United Nations, most recently as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran since 2016. Earlier, from 1998 to July 2004, she was the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and from August 2004 to July 2010, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

"We join Pakistan and others around the world in mourning the untimely death of Pakistani human rights and democracy advocate, Asma Jahangir", a statement by the US State Department said.

Through the resolution, the National Assembly members recognised Ms Jahangir's services "for rule of law, democracy and constitutionalism, besides her courageous struggle against oppression and rights abuses".

In 1987, she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and served as its Secretary General until 1993 when she became its chairperson.

She was also an outspoken critic of the powerful military establishment, including during her stint as the first-ever female leader of Pakistan's top bar association. She got her law degree from the Punjab University in 1978 before plunging into a long career of human rights advocacy.

She has constantly raised the issue of "missing persons" in Pakistan and calling for grilling of intelligence agencies.

The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work.

In a condolence message to Asma's family, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research Executive Director Karamat Ali and its staff expressed their profound sorrow and grief. She opposed the military dictators whom many in Pakistan didn't mind.

Following her death, heartfelt tributes to her life have been expressed by people from around the world. Both the Asian and global ecumenical movement worked with Asma Jahangir on the global advocacy against the misuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan.

Her attempt in 2005 to hold a mixed gender marathon in Lahore to highlight violence against women resulted in attacks by conservative Islamist groups in which the police were complicit, later confessing that they had been ordered to beat the participants and tear off their clothes. Local TV stations broadcast footage showing public figures and Jahangir's friends sobbing and consoling each other outside her residence as her body was brought home from hospital.

"This House resolves that as representatives of the people of Pakistan we are committed to the highest standards for protecting and upholding fundamental rights of every citizen and in that we consider that as upholder of rights, her loss is a national loss and Pakistan mourns her passing away", it concludes.

Later, a large number of political and civil society activists gathered outside the Karachi Press Club to light candles in Asma's memory and paid tributes to her struggle for the downtrodden segments of society.

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