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February 12, 2019

Remembering Asma


February 12, 2019

One year after she passed away, far too early and far too suddenly, we as a nation need Asma Jehangir and others like her more than ever before. Throughout her career as a leading lawyer, human rights activist and defender of the poor and vulnerable, Asma spoke out courageously and without fear for all those in need. She defended those no one else was willing to stand with. This is a legacy that must live on. It cannot be allowed to go away with the woman who single-handedly changed lives and provided us all a guiding light to follow in days of immense darkness. In many ways, those days are upon us once more. But we no longer have Asma Jehangir to battle against all the forces that turn out the light. We can only hope and pray that others inspired by her will carry the torch forward. We know that there are many who are attempting to do so; there are many who are inspired by the kind of vision and humanity Asma possessed. The best way to pay tribute to Asma Jehangir then is to ensure that such voices multiply and grow louder from one year to the next.

As founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which she played a key role in setting up in 1987, Asma demonstrated what the effort and dedication of a few could achieve. Through her work, many more were drawn in to the cause of defending the rights of others. She was as brave and as determined in her role as a lawyer, taking on cases of those accused of blasphemy, putting her own life at risk for the sake of others and ensuring the deprived and those facing possible harm were always defended and spoken for. Her struggle brought onto the books some of the most important pieces of legislation in our history. Adult Muslim women were permitted to marry of their own choice and the efforts of the HRCP helped draft laws such as those on outlawing bonded labour and putting in place a separate justice system for juveniles.

Asma did her best to ensure that rule of law was followed and the constitution of Pakistan upheld. She was also active throughout her career in her struggle to break down the barriers which separated the people of India and Pakistan. For all the opposition, for all the ugly vitriolic she faced, Asma Jehangir persevered right till her last day. Every victory, big or small, helped create a better Pakistan and a better future for its people. Her struggle must continue – in the activism of our youth, in the voices of our women and in the work done by our progressives.

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