PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
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Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan; Founding President: V M Tarkunde
President: Ravi Kiran Jain; General Secretary: Dr. V. Suresh
*** 13th February, 2018
PUCL Salutes the Memory of Asma Jahangir!
PUCL is profoundly saddened by the news of the death of Asma Jahangir, Senior advocate and leading human rights activist from Pakistan, in Lahore, Pakistan on 11th February, 2018 due to a massive heart attack. Asma, as a Co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and a former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, was a courageous, indomitable fighter for human rights, rule of law, democracy and a humane society, not just in Pakistan but across the world.
A spirited fighter for the voices of the marginalised and the silenced, and a relentless crusader for human rights and democracy, Asma Jahangir did not allow death threats, physical violence and imprisonment to silence her criticism of the powerful military establishment in Pakistan as also Islamic extremists. Though imprisoned in 1983 for agitating against General Zia ul Haq’s brutal regime which sought to impose a Islamisation progamme in Pakistan by introducing the Hudood Ordinance and blasphemy laws, she joined others to form the `Movement for the Restoration of Democracy’ and fought martial law. In 2007, President Pervez Musharraf kept her under house arrest for opposing Emergency and the removal of the then Pakistan Supreme Court’s Chief Justice.
Asma co-chaired the South Asian Forum for Human Rights and was the Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights. Asma Jahangir served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Religion between August, 2004 and July, 2010, and thereafter as UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran from 2016 till the time of her death. She also served on the UN Panel for Inquiry into Sri Lankan Human Rights violations and was part of a Fact Finding Team on Israeli Settlements.
Alongwith her sister Huna Jilani, Asma set up the first law firm in Pakistan set up by women lawyers. Amongst her notable legal cases was the fight against Pakistan’s discriminatory legislation by which the Law of Evidence was proposed to be changed by which the value of a woman’s testimony was reduced to half that of a man’s testimony or the Hadood Ordinance when victims of rape had to prove their innocence or face punishment themselves.
Asma Jahangir was the recipient of many awards including the Ramon Magsasay Award in 1995, Freedom Award, 2010, and the Right Livelihood Award in 2014, and the UNESCO / Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of Culture of Human Rights. She received one of the highest civilian awards of France, the Officier de la Legion d’Honneur.
Asma Jahangir was a towering figure and tireless crusader for democracy and human rights in South Asia.
Her warning about religious intolerance is as valid for India today as it is to Pakistan:
“We never learnt the right lessons. We never went to the root of the problem. Once you start politicising religion, you play with fire and you get burnt as well.”
– Asma Jahangir, “Religious Intolerance and its Impact on Democracy”. Amartya Sen Lecture, London School of Economics, 2017.
PUCL salutes Asma Jahangir and extends condolences to her family, relations and colleagues.
Mr. Ravi Kiran Jain, National President, PUCL
Dr , v suresh
National General Secretary, PUCL