The global community lost a strong voice against human rights violations and Islamic extremism when Asma Jahangir died of a heart attack on February 11.
As a founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Women's Action Forum and as the United Nations rapporteur on human rights, she upheld causes related to women, children, bonded labour, minorities, political prisoners, missing persons, victims of honour killings, acid attack survivors and so on at a time when retrograde practices against women, minorities and children were institutionalized in Pakistan's civil and criminal laws.
Maulana Haider Farooq Maududi led the funeral prayers. In addition to speaking out for democracy and against military rule, Asma Jahangir was an unwavering defender of minority and women's rights, criticising the horrific legal and societal persecution that religious and national minorities in Pakistan face, as well as the unjust situation of many women across the country. She was co-founder of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and also chaired it.
In 2010, she became the first woman to be elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, overcoming a campaign that was marked by scurrilous attacks on her and her family by rivals and critics in the media. She brought many cases to Pakistan's courts on behalf of underrepresented communities, including religious minorities and women. But while her voice was appreciated by liberals who believed that the only way Pakistan's civil society could progress was to improve its human rights record, she had powerful detractors who opposed her actions on the grounds that she was destroying the country's traditional political and social fabric.
"In a country where women were being victimised in the name of a draconian law, it was Asma who stood up and proved to be a beacon of hope for the new generation", she said.
Salman Sufi, director-general of Strategic Reforms Unit of the Punjab Government, hailed Jahangir for her "undeniably crucial" role in establishing the Punjab Women Protection Authority which set up centers to protect women from violence. As she told Amnesty International at the time, "They have done everything to intimidate me". In fact, the lawyer had been working even in the last days leading to her demise and was apparently doing well.
The RSF added that Jahangir's death was a "major blow" to the rights of the poor and the downtrodden.
The 66-year-old Asma Jahangir suffered from a cardiac arrest on Sunday that caused her death, leaving a son and two daughters as her survivors.
Asma became a champion democracy activist and was subsequently imprisoned in 1983 for participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy against the military rule of Pakistans longest-serving President Zia-ul Haq. The programme took place at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.