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Mourners bid farewell to Pakistan’s human rights icon Asma Jahangir

Lahore, February 13

The funeral prayers for Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s human rights icon and staunch critic of the country’s powerful army, were offered here on Tuesday at the Gaddafi Stadium which was attended by thousands of mourners, including women.
Asma, 66, died of cardiac arrest last Sunday in Lahore.
Farooq Haider Maududi, the son of Jamaat-i-Islami founder and prominent Islamic scholar Abul Ala Maududi, led the funeral prayer.
A number of rights activists, lawyers, judges, government officials, celebrities and ordinary citizens were present in the funeral to pay respect to the woman who fought for the rights of people especially women and struggled against the military dictators.
A number of women also attended her funeral prayer, an unusual scene in conservative Pakistan.
The funeral prayers were held under high security at the stadium – a venue for international cricket matches- where police camera drones flew overhead.
She was buried at her family’s farmhouse on Baidian Road.
She is survived by her husband, two daughters and a son.
Born in January 1952 in Lahore, she received a bachelor’s degree from Kinnaird College and an LLB from Punjab University.
She started her career as an advocate at a high court.
Known for her outspoken nature and unrelenting pursuit for human rights, Asma was the first woman to serve as the President of Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan.
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 Pakistan’s longest-serving President Zia-ul Haq.
In 1986, she moved to Geneva and became the vice-chair of the Defence for Children International. She remained there until 1988 before moving back to Pakistan.
In 1987, she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and became its secretary general until 1993 when she was elevated as commission’s chairperson.
Asma also played an active role in the famous Lawyers’ Movement to restore Iftikhar Chaudhry as the chief justice of Pakistan.
She has constantly raised the issue of “missing persons” in Pakistan and calling for grilling of intelligence agencies.
She was critical of the Supreme Court for “judicial activism” and also criticised the apex court for disqualifying Nawaz Sharif from the office of prime minister in July last year.
Asma has received several awards, including the 2014 Right Livelihood Award, 2010 Freedom Award, Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 2010 and Sitara-e-Imtiaz.
She was also awarded a UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights and an Officer de la Legion d’honneur by France.
She has also been an outspoken critic of the Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, including during her tenure as the first-ever female leader of Pakistan’s top bar association.
Asma was arrested in 2007 by the government of the then military dictator Pervez Musharraf, and in 2012 claimed her life was in danger from the country’s top spy agency – Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
In 2012, she claimed her life was in danger from the country’s premier spy agency.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said her passing away was “echoing within her native Pakistan and across the world. We have lost a human rights giant”. In a separate statement, Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said she was a brave champion of human rights who leaves behind a powerful legacy.
The Pakistan Bar Council had announced three days of mourning.

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