Torchbearer of Human Rights in Pakistan
For Pakistan’s hard-pressed liberal community Asma Jilani Jahangir’s voice was that of hope, intrepidity and freedom. A celebrated human rights activist and lawyer, Jahangir died at age 66 on February 11 in Lahore. She led the struggle for human rights in Pakistan for over four decades – and became the paragon of resistance against military rule, abuse of law and suppression of free speech.
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) had a long-standing relationship with Jahangir and supported her calls for Human Rights. The colleagues in our Islamabad office remember her as a “polite” and “friendly” individual who was the “backbone” of human rights activism in the country. Often, she would have long conversations with them over tea.
From 1990 to 2007, FNF supported the AGHS Legal Aid Center, founded in 1987 by Asma Jahangir, her sister Hina Jilani and a group of lawyers. This was the first legal cell in Pakistan to provide free legal aid to the poor and helpless. AGHS is particularly active in the areas of constitutional law and family law. The main focus is on women, underage prisoners, forced labor and religious minorities. AGHS is also committed to the people accused of blasphemy. Today, the Foundation’s human rights work in the country focusses on the partnership with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Jahangir chaired until 2011.
“Asma was a protector or guardian, her last name "Jahangir" which means "world conqueror" says it all. Wherever she was, the hearts of people flew towards her, she could give people hope like nobody else. May her life’s work continue for the benefit of all people in Pakistan.” writes Dr. Almut Besold, FNF Project Director in her obituary.
Jahangir was a staunch proponent for peace between India and Pakistan with a larger aim of peace in the South Asian region. It was her fearlessness and passion for human rights that earned her names like “Protector of the Voiceless” and the “Iron Lady of Pakistan”.