Pakistani rights activist and lawyer Asma Jilani Jahangir dies at 66

Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jilani Jahangir, who faced death threats by fighting for unpopular causes and was jailed in the 1980s for her pro-democracy work during military rule, died on Sunday in Lahore. She was 66.

Jahangir, renowned Pakistani human rights lawyer and social activist who co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan was also the lawyer of the members of the abducted Turkish teacher Mesut Kaçmaz and his family who were deported illegally to Turkey.

It was reported that the cause of Jahangir’s death is cardiac arrest Pakistan’s GEO News, citing hospital officials, said the former UN special rapporteur suffered a stroke and died after arriving unconscious in the hospital. Jahangir’s daughter Munizae said her mother died after suffering a heart attack on Sunday.

She campaigned tirelessly for democracy and free speech, frequently receiving death threats for taking up causes such as criticizing the strict blasphemy laws of the conservative Muslim-majority country. A lawyer by background, she was a founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

An outspoken critic of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment and fearless in the face of authority, she was imprisoned in 1983 for her work with the Movement to Restore Democracy during of General Zia ul-Haq’s military rule. She was also placed under house arrest in 2007 for her part in a lawyers’ protest movement that helped lead to military leader Pervez Musharraf stepping down from power.

In recent years, she was outspoken over the misuse of blasphemy laws that carry a mandatory death sentence for insulting Islam’s prophet. She also represented several civil society organizations that were threatened with shutdown as well as families of several “disappeared” activists over the past few years.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi led the praise of Jahangir’s life’s work, describing her “immense contributions to the rule of law, democracy and the safeguarding of human rights.”

Omar Waraich, Amnesty International’s deputy director for South Asia, tweeted that Jahangir was “the bravest person I knew. She fearlessly stood up to dictators, thugs, misogynists.” “She was never daunted by the attacks that came her way. She never wavered from her principles. Her loss is incalculable,” he wrote.

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