Asma Jahangir (1952-2018), the leading Human Rights activist of Pakistan who influenced generations of activists in South Asia is no more. She died in Lahore due to a cardiac arrest. A sad news for all those who has stood for the human rights protection and enhancement of the humane values in the contemporary world. Whenever any issue of human rights emerged in Pakistan she was there to take lead and impress the authorities to take the right path.
She took the cause of human rights in 1980s.a time when these concepts and issues were considered as a western ideas but she succeeded in placing the human rights issue in the centre of the mainstream political discussions which helped to restrain the unrestricted powers of the political leaders by awakening the masses.
She took the cause in true spirits and confronted two military rulers. She was a key activist in 2007 Judicial movement against the military leader in Pakistan which gradually led to the establishment of democratic political system in Pakistan.
She cofounded the Human Rights Commission in a country where authoritarian and retrogressive forces always dominated, where the space for women, weaker section was always restricted to live honoured life. She fought for these and her multidimensional work encompassed the women who were oppressed, the bonded labours which has been a persistent problem in the South Asian society, also confronted with unflinching spirit the orthodox communities with unflinching spirit.
All these are noteworthy contribution to the cause of human rights due to one major fact that in the human rights movement she placed the women as contributor higher than the contribution of the males. No one in South Asia including Pakistan can match her contribution and this makes her unique women and an activist who is class apart as she fought single handed and in that age when talks and discussions about human rights were considered as an issue beyond the domain of the common people.
Her death makes the society miser and human rights movement a little shaky in Pakistan as her continuous efforts in the conservative society will be missed. This is the time to realize the value of the leader and to take leanings and inspirations from such great souls. Her message is clear that human rights protection is possible only by sustained and collective efforts as people in power create often the barriers for free and dignified living in order to maintain their power structure. She spoke at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, Geneva, 13 March 2016 that ‘broad and vague definition of certain offences, disrespect for the right of any accused to be promptly informed about charges against him or her, preventing the accused from freely choosing their legal representation are all contributing factors to violations of the right to fair trial and due process of law.’ This is her one of the last analysis of human life at a global platform.
Her departure from the stage of earth which is meant for only courageous and committed people for a cause is now full of vacuum. It will take time to fill the void as people like her rarely visit the planet. It is a pressing time and need is to realize her contribution and work in unison to protect the lives of all those who are at margin of their fundamental rights.
Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava, Assistant Professor, CSJM University, Kanpur; e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org