The dawn of 11 February brought the news of the untimely demise of the iron lady, Asma Jahangir. It was indeed a shocking news for the marginalized sections of the society, either oppressed on basis of gender, religion, sect, ethnicity or ideology she was their sole advocate. In a little-exaggerated tone, the marginalized sections have become orphan after her demise. Asma Jahangir was the daughter of a famous civil servant turned politician, Malik Ghulam Jilani. Both father and daughter names are in the books of history, top among the figures, who spent many years in Jails and house arrest while opposing the unconstitutional dictatorships.
The era from 1952 to 2018 was auspicious in a sense that saw the presence of this iron lady who stood against injustices irrespective of any prejudice. She completed her LLB from the University of the Punjab Lahore and went to London School of Economics for further studies. When she returned she stepped into the profession of law and human rights activism. She founded the human rights commission of Pakistan in 1987 and chaired it until 2011. She was also co-chairperson of South Asia Forum for Human Rights and the Vice-President of International Federation for Human rights. She got the title ‘little heroin” in 1982 when she led a protest march against the decision of the dictator Zia Ul Haq to enforce the family law, but in reality, she was a great heroine.
The struggles of the great lady are evident like broad daylight in regards for the rights of religious minorities. She successfully defended some alleged blasphemy cases when no one else could dare to take those cases, for the fear of the attacks from religious extremist groups. Once she was heard saying something like that, “we never learned the right lesson. We never went into the roots of the problems. Once you start politicizing the religion, you play with fire and you get burnt as well”. Women rights were the second priority she strived for through her life. The practical manifestation of her struggles for women rights is the Women Action Forum founded by the brave lady.
It would be a sheer injustice if we don’t acclaim the pro-democratic struggles of the little heroine. She opposed the dictatorship of Zia ul Haq when many big fishes went underground and saw jails and house arrest. She was an outspoken critic of the military establishment and the encroaching forces. She was one of the leaders in the long march for the restoration of the judges, suspended by the dictator of the time, General Pervez Musharraf. Currently, she harshly censured the judgment of the five-member joint investigation team, which ousted the elected prime minister. Her services have been recognized at national and international level. She won many national and international awards including, Hilal-i-Imtiaz, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Martin Annals Award, Ramon Magsaysay Award, Leo Etinger Award and many others.
Most recently, she addressed the public at the Pakhtun sit-in Islamabad where she showed her solidarity with this oppressed section of Pakistani population in her historic words “this state without Pakhtun and the ideology of Bacha Khan is nothing but a conservative polity.” At a press conference on the issue of arrest of the students of the University of Punjab, when a journalist asked her if the students were not released immediately what will be your plan? She replied, “I will definitely go to court.” She condemned the police’s behavior for putting charges of terrorism on student and the inability of the Punjab government.
Once she was heard saying, “It will be hypocrisy to defend laws I don’t believe in, like capital punishment, blasphemy laws and laws against women.” Such words show that bravery is not the property of male gender only. She was the single individual who could express her dissimilarity in such clear word in a country like ours. Although, volumes of words can’t cover her services still this piece is a homage to recognize her services. I wish every father raise such daughters who are never afraid of the intensity of darkness that lit the lantern of their parts. God bless the departed soul high ranks in Jannah.
The writer is a student of B.A honors (Political Science) in Government College University Lahore. He hails from Loralai District in Balochistan.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
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