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The advocate

Lahore, February 12

Doughty Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir, who fought her battle on the streets as well in courts, opposed military strongmen and steadfastly championed the rights of women, minorities and LGBTs, passed away here on Sunday. She was 66.
Jahangir, the first woman president of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, was shifted to a hospital on Saturday night after suffering cardiac arrest.

Born in 1952 to a progressive Lahore family, her path seemed set out with Jahangir’s father Malik Ghulam Jilani, a bureaucrat-turned-politician, opposing corruption at the fag end of Ayub Khan’s rule and the brutal crackdown in then East Pakistan under Yahya Khan following the 1970 poll.
After her graduation from Kinnaird College and LLB from Punjab University in 1978, she hit the headlines when she enthusiastically jumped into the Movement for Restoration of Democracy against the Zia ul-Haq dictatorship and was jailed. In 1987, she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, representing clients who were denied rights and defending cases of minorities, women and children in prisons.
A mother of a son and two daughters, Jahangir was also the co-chair of South Asians for Human Rights. She was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions and later as the UN Rapporteur of Freedom of Religion or Belief.
She often had a tempestuous relation with the Pakistani state. While she received several national awards, she was put under house arrest in 2007 after President Pervez Musharraf imposed Emergency.
A Twitter user called her the only “man” in Pakistan, which author Bina Shah contested: “The only man? She was fully a woman in her courage and steadfastedness. A lioness. You don’t get to claim her for your own gender.”