‘An indomitable will’ – why Asma Jahangir was Pakistan’s social conscience

‘An indomitable will’ – why Asma Jahangir was Pakistan’s social conscience

The formidable human rights lawyer and activist died on Sunday having spent her life fighting against religious extremism and for the rights of women and oppressed minorities

She stood a smidgen over 5ft and had fine, delicate bones. But the bird-like frame contained a courageous heart, an indomitable will and an unflagging social conscience. The death of Asma Jahangir, the Pakistani activist, lawyer and human rights campaigner who passed away on Sunday after suffering a cardiac arrest at her home in Lahore, has left a nation reeling with a profound sense of loss.

Looking through social media I am not surprised by the number of tributes to her, but by the fact that they come from her detractors as well as her supporters. The conservatives who branded her a traitor until last week are now acknowledging her courage. Whether that is out of political expediency or genuine feeling I cannot say. But for the besieged liberal community and the religious minorities of Pakistan, she was indispensable. When plainclothes security men barrelled into my sister’s home one night in 1999, dragging away my journalist brother-in-law at gunpoint, the first person she called was Asma. That’s how it was. If you wanted someone in your corner, you called Asma. And she would respond at once.

Related: Prominent Pakistani rights activist Asma Jahangir dies aged 66

Related: Declan Walsh talks to Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s human rights champion

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