- RSF terms Asma a ‘towering figure’ in defence of human rights
WASHINGTON: The United States (US) joins Pakistan in mourning the sad demise of the human rights champion Asma Jahangir, the State Department said Tuesday while describing her untimely death as a “great loss to the world.”
“We join Pakistan and others around the world in mourning the untimely death of Pakistani human rights and democracy advocate, Asma Jahangir,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“Asma courageously defended the rights of those who did not have a voice, and championed the rule of law, democracy, and human rights including freedom of religion or belief,” the statement said.
It further said that Asma’s work in Pakistan, including as a founder and chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), and with the United Nations (UN) and groups such as the International Crisis Group and the South Asia Forum for Human Rights, made her a global icon in human rights.
“Most recently Jahangir served as the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, tirelessly fighting on behalf of the Iranian people as they demanded freedom, dignity, and respect for human rights,” the statement added.
The State Department also said that as the third UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, she improved the world’s understanding of the plight of religious minorities worldwide through her in-depth research and sustained engagements and fought for the protection of the persecuted.
“Her death is a great loss to the world and she will be missed as a champion of her country, its people, and the millions more around the world on whose behalf she spoke,” it said.
Furthermore, Reporters without Borders (RSF) on Tuesday also paid tribute to Asma Jahangir, terming her a “towering figure in the defence of human rights, including press freedom and free speech”.
A news release by the journalists’ network expressed sorrow over the demise of the human rights icon “who dedicated her life to defending the freedom to inform in Pakistan and then in the entire world”.
“With just her courage and the strength of her conviction, she achieved spectacular progress and won admiration in Pakistan and in all the countries where she worked. She truly embodied the universality of our struggle,” RSF Deputy Director-General Antoine Bernard said.
The RSF added that Asma’s death was a major blow to the rights of the poor and the downtrodden. “She embodied courageous support for journalists’ fight for freedom, and will endure as a powerful symbol of freedom.”
On the other hand, a book of condolences in honour of the memory of Asma Jahangir was opened for signature at the Pakistan Mission to the UN in New York.
“Deeply committed to the cause of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, Asma Jahangir has left an abiding legacy of selfless devotion and unwavering commitment to the advancement of these ideals,” the mission said.
Asma Jahangir, who co-founded HRCP, and came to be known as a fearless voice of the marginalised sections of the society, passed away on Sunday after suffering a cardiac arrest. She was 66.
Her funeral prayers were offered at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Tuesday.
She was known for speaking against human rights violations and her courageous stand against dictatorships. She was also a vocal opponent of judicial overreach and would often confront the superior judiciary when it would extend its jurisdiction in her opinion.