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Journalist, rights defender I A Rehman is no more’

Top Story

April 13, 2021

LAHORE: I.A. Rehman, an iconic Pakistani human rights defender and journalist, died after a brief illness on Monday, his family and friends said. He was 90.

He died of old age, high sugar, and blood pressure level, according to Harris Khalique, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. I.A. Rehman had been associated with the HRCP for a long time. He worked as an editor for various newspapers before joining the commission. He regularly contributed articles for Pakistani newspapers.

I.A. Rehman was born in 1930 in Haryana in India. He was the author of three books and an advocate of peace between Pakistan and India. He was also a member of Ajoka’s Board of Advisors and a mentor to Ajoka founders Madeeha Gauhar and Shahid Nadeem.

A statement from Ajoka said it was a huge loss for those who believe in a democratic, peaceful and secular society. It said it reaffirms its resolve to continue his mission for a progressive and egalitarian society.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was devastated by the loss of its honorary spokesperson and former secretary-general, I.A. Rehman. Rehman served as HRCP’s director from 1990 to 2008, before being elected its secretary-general in 2008, a post he held till 2016. He was a co-founder of the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, a bureau member of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), and former chairperson of the South Asian Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR).

Last year the HRCP instituted the I.A. Rehman Research Grant intended to facilitate original research carried out in any area of human rights in the country.

Salima Hashmi, a veteran artist and human rights defender said, “He gave us direction. In the most difficult of circumstances, in the murkiest of times, he could say with great clarity where the path lay for human rights defenders. He was never confused by so many layers that have been there in our political, social life as well as our lives. We have lost a great source of knowledge.

Veteran rights activist Diep Saeeda said, “I don’t see people who can carry on the work that Rehman Sahab was doing. His level of dedication was phenomenal.” A people’s person , he would reach everywhere till the end. He loved people and treated them with immense respect and they loved him doubly.

Most recently, he served as a member of the working group on torture and terrorism instituted by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and as patron of the People’s Commission for the Protection of Minorities’ Rights in Pakistan.

I.A Rehman received Nuremberg City’s International Human Rights Award in 2003 and the Magsaysay Award for Peace in 2004. The HRCP termed him a titan of human rights and said his integrity, conscience and compassion were unparalleled.

HRCP Chairperson Hina Jilani said: “I.A. Rehman leaves behind a strong legacy of speaking truth to power in a way that not only persuaded others of the value of respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law, but also conveyed to those he criticised how damaging their role could be for the most vulnerable members of society.”

Secretary-General Harris Khalique termed I.A. Rehman an “irreplaceable public intellectual” who lent his voice to the voiceless and was a beacon of hope for the oppressed. President Dr Arif Alvi expressed sorrow over the death of renowned journalist and human rights activist I.A. Rehman. The president appreciated his services in the field of human rights in Pakistan. He prayed that may Allah rest his soul in peace and grant patience to the bereaved family.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen M Mazari, Senator Shibli Faraz, Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, President Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians Asif Ali Zardari, PPP Secretary General Syed Nayyer Hussain Bukhari, Senator Sherry Rehman, MNA and Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights Lal Malhi and Director General Pakistan National Council of the Arts Dr Fouzia Saeed, Awami Workers Party, and others.

Afrasiab Khattak, tweeted that IA Rehman’s death marked “the end of an era”. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Ch Shujat Hussain, Ch Parvez Elahi and Pervaiz Saleh condoled among others.

They condoled with his son Asher Rehman, senior journalist and other family members. They said that the services of I.A. Rehman will be remembered for a long time.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists has termed the death of I.A. Rehman as a great loss of the country and for all those who defend human rights, work for peace, struggle for democracy and hold the torch of enlightenment, tolerance and brotherhood.

In a joint statement, the PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said that I.A. Rehman was not only a person but an institution in himself whose ideas enlightened generations of activists.

They paid glowing tribute to I.A. Rehman, saying the vacuum created with his demise would not be filled easily.

The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) expressed its profound grief over the sad demise of IA. Rehman a prolific and professional writer, senior editor and columnist.

President, APNS, Sarmad Ali, and Secretary General, Nazafreen Saigol Lakhani paid rich tributes to the services of IA Rehman, a veteran journalist and vanguard of human, civil, social, economic and minority rights for over five decades.

The APNS office-bearers offered their condolences to the colleagues, friends and family of late IA Rehman and prayed that his soul may rest in eternal peace.