Tributes paid to Pakistan human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir who died yesterday

"We have lost a human rights giant", said Mr Guterres in a statement on Sunday. "While addressing the Asia plenary session of the Central Committee meeting of the WCC in the early 2000's, Asma Jahangir reminded the global ecumenical community how important it is to be careful about the trend in many countries bringing religion into legislations, as the law itself can become an instrument of persecution against religious minorities".

Sindh Human Rights Commission Chairperson Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi recalled the challenges of the structural bars made through the Hudood Ordinance in Zia's era that went against the principles of justice and discriminated on the basis of law and perception that women were inferior to men.

Her death has sparked an outpouring of tributes from global human rights groups and political leaders, including the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres - who called her a "human rights giant" - and Pakistan's Nobel prize victor Malala Yousafzai.

Jahangir also served as president of the Supreme Court's Bar Association and was a United Nations rapporteur on human right and extrajudicial killings.

She was jailed in 1983 for taking part in a movement advocating for fundamental human rights during the military regime and arrested in 2007 by the government of then military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work. Marvi Sirmed, a senior Pakistani journalist who knew her personally, writes in The Daily Times how as a teenager she was inspired by "Asma ji's perseverance, her clarity of goal, her strength of character...her itch to question the powers of the time, and her passion to fearlessly fight for the oppressed and whatever she considered right, come what may".

The tributes paid to her within hours after the news of her death are a testament to the value of her relentless efforts to establish social justice and promote peace and equality. She successfully took up the Saima Waheed case, which guaranteed the right of adult women to make their own choice in marriage - one of the most important cases in Pakistan's legal history. "For years, she 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 press release said.

Her attempt in 2005 to hold a mixed gender marathon in Lahore to highlight violence against women resulted in attacks by conservative Islamist groups in which the police were complicit, later confessing that they had been ordered to beat the participants and tear off their clothes.

Asma was born in Pakistan's Lahore city. The house passed separate resolutions to express grief over the death of Senator Bangash, PPP leader Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani and former senator Abdul Majeed Qazi. As she told Amnesty International at the time, "They have done everything to intimidate me".

He termed Asma Jehangir a role model for human rights activists to stand firm in the face of adversity.

Jahangir is survived by her businessman husband, Tahir Jahangir, a son and two daughters.

  • Joey Payne