There has been an outpouring of disbelief and grief across Pakistan as lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir passed away in Lahore on Sunday after a sudden cardiac arrest. She was 66.
A role model for generations to come, Asma Jahangir will always be remembered for upholding justice in all of the causes she associated with; whether it was women’s rights, rape or sexual abuse, violence against women, religious persecution, political oppression or the draconian laws of the state. She was a fearless lawyer, a champion for the underprivileged – very often she worked for them pro bono.
Born in Lahore on January 27, 1952, to Malik Ghulam Jilani and Sabiha Jilani, Jahangir’s activisim was deeply inspired by her home environment and she began young in life – as a young student at the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Lahore she rallied for school elections for head girl, rather than succumb to the years-old tradition of the head girl being selected by the nuns. Asma Jahangir trained as a lawyer and worked at the Supreme Court of Pakistan from the age of 30 – she was President of the Supreme Court Bar Association for many years. She was co-founder of the Human Rights’ Commission of Pakistan, the Women’s Action Forum (WAF), and of the first free legal aid centre in Pakistan.
Asma Jahangir leaves behind her husband, businessman Tahir Jahangir, two daughters Munizae Jahangir and Sulema Jahangir and son Jilani Jahangir. Her sister, lawyer Hina Jilani and herself worked closely for a major part of their lives on the same projects and causes.
After her tragic demise, social and political celebrities and influencers across industries expressed their sentiments on losing this upholder of democracy and human rights. Malala Yousafzai, who met her most recently at Oxford University, where Ms Jahangir spoke to the Oxford Union, called her a ‘saviour of democracy and human rights.’ Social Media was full of praise for this fearless champion; we have curated some of these moving tributes below.
— Gule (@gulmeenay) February 11, 2018
Mourning Asma Jahangir, fearless defender of women’s and human rights in Pakistan and the world. We worked together on many causes. She leaves behind a great void. I shall miss her strength and friendship @OpenSociety @CrisisGroup
— George Soros (@georgesoros) February 11, 2018
The loss of #AsmaJahangir is devastating. She stood tall among pigmies, spoke truth to intoxicated power & stood up to fight when she thought she was right. May her spirit of fearlessness, irreverence & generosity & zero-tolerance for sycophancy & misogyny pervade this land.
— Babar Sattar (@Babar_Sattar) February 11, 2018
Thinking of Nadeem Aslam’s line: Pakistan produces the most courageous people; but no state should require its citizens to be so brave. #AsmaJahangir
— Kamila Shamsie (@kamilashamsie) February 11, 2018
‘Speaking truth to power’ a phrase, we often use. #AsmaJahangir lived,practiced till her last breath. Questioned mullahs, military, judges, politicians, all the powerful;defended downtrodden. Faced threats &
attacks. Was never afraid.What a hero. We have to contend with a void. pic.twitter.com/NFamtObL0s
— Raza Ahmad Rumi (@Razarumi) February 11, 2018
Just heard the devastating news that #Asma Jehangir passed away.She was a friend for who’s values integrity and courage I have the deepest respect. Pakistan has lost its most fearless crusader and the human rights movement its tallest leader. Our deepest condolences to the family
— Azmi Shabana (@AzmiShabana) February 11, 2018
My icon, Pakistan’s brave heart & the best friend anyone could wish for. We are bereft today. Met her last in Lahore 3 weeks ago, discussed the continued fight for the ‘disappeared’, corruption of judiciary & keeping alive the fight for civilian primacy. #AsmaJahangir #Pakistan pic.twitter.com/HCxp4WYPOq
— Farahnaz Ispahani (@fispahani) February 11, 2018
#AsmaJahangir founder of Pakistan’s homegrown human rights movement , a bold, fearless voice of the downtrodden &dispossessed, Pakistan grieves your loss today and will do for all times to come. Cant imagine a world where Asma’s voice is missing. #RipAsmaJahangir pic.twitter.com/wJOfrDR8tq
— Nafisa Shah (@ShahNafisa) February 11, 2018
— Mahira Khan (@TheMahiraKhan) February 11, 2018
The strongest woman I had the pleasure of knowing. She inspired me to a whole new level. The word fearless would be an understatement for her. The world will not be the same without u. And u will be missed terribly. #AsmaJahangir
— Sana Bucha (@sanabucha) February 11, 2018
— Muniba Mazari (@muniba_mazari) February 11, 2018
— Samar MinAllah Khan (@SamarMinallahKh) February 11, 2018
#AsmaJahangir stands out for consistently and indiscriminately standing up for whatever she felt was right. There’ s no one who can match her bravery and courage. Pakistan is poorer today
— Hina R Khar (@HinaRKhar) February 11, 2018
Deeply shocked & saddened to hear of #AsmaJahangir. She was a true defender of #HumanRights #Democracy & fought till her last breath against authoritarian power, orthodoxy & discriminatn. She was & will remain an inspiration A huge loss. Condolences to all whose lives she touched pic.twitter.com/FtR6HnFbIf
— Nandita Das (@nanditadas) February 11, 2018
#AsmaJahangir RIP @Asma_Jahangir Fierce defender of democracy steering us through human rights activism & unrelenting spirit for justice Shinning example of Women in Islam participating fully in political, religious activities (hero and inspiration) pic.twitter.com/Cti6iTK0fI
— Shahzia Sikander (@shahziasikander) February 11, 2018
#AsmaJahangir was not just the voice of our collective conscience. She was our conscience. Her spirit will live as long as that voice in our head keeps telling us what is not right,what must not be tolerated,why not to give in or give up
إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ pic.twitter.com/tSsHwZCpQn
— Adil Najam عادل نجم (@AdilNajam) February 11, 2018
— lyse doucet (@bbclysedoucet) February 11, 2018
A bright shining light is no more, a woman relentless in her pursuit of truth and justice when there were many easier paths. Utterly inspiring when I went to see her in Lahore as a 21-yr old law student. Rest in peace, you gave so much https://t.co/ON6MD2hRb5
— Mishal Husain (@MishalHusainBBC) February 11, 2018