Remembering Asma Jahangir: A CHRI Tribute

Feb 12, 2018

New Delhi, India

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) today described Asma Jahangir, the courageous Pakistani human rights defender, who passed away yesterday as a "conscience keeper for the whole of South Asia", recalling her struggle for "principle and policy changes" but also her efforts to support the most vulnerable. 

Pro-democracy activist and an outspoken critic of military interference in politics, Asma Jehangir inspired campaigns for democracy, rule of law, freedom of assembly and expression as well as good relations with India.    

Wajahat Habibullah, Chair of the CHRI's India Executive Committee, described her as a “conscience keeper for the whole of South Asia, and will be sorely missed”, he added. 

Maja Daruwala, Senior Adviser, CHRI, spoke of her as "a woman of conviction who became not only an icon for courage and principle in her own country but also an example for all of us working for better access to justice across South Asia". Ms. Daruwala added: "She battled for principle and policy changes at the highest level as well as constantly assisted the most vulnerable individuals to get to their remedies.  It was an honour for me to know and work with her." 

"Her loss to the South Asian family has an impact beyond borders, it is felt across the Commonwealth and the world," said Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director of CHRI.  "We reaffirm our commitment  to the causes she held dear, to rights and also building goodwill and good relations across South Asia."

Renowned for her staunch advocacy for the rights of the most marginalised: women, children and religious minorities, who were the targets of blasphemy laws and ‘honour killings’. This, however, earned her enemies and she received many death  threats, Asma Jahangir was imprisoned several times: in 1983 for her critique of Zia-ul-Haq’s military rule and her participation in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, and was also placed under house arrest in 2007 for her active role in a lawyers’ protest movement, which was instrumental in Pervez Musharraf’s stepping down from power.

She was the first female president of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association, and also co-founded and served as chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Asma Jahangir was appointed the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2016, and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion in 2004. She was also a member of the Commonwealth Observer team for the 1994 South African ‘freedom’ elections

For further details: 

Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, CHRI (

Niyati Singh, Research Officer, CHRI