Asma. A human rights giant, and more. My tribute in EPW

Wrote this piece for the Economic and Political Weekly, published a couple of weeks ago. Unedited version here with additional links, photos and videos.

  • Asma Jahangir, lawyer, human rights activist.
  • Born 27 January 1952, Lahore; died: 11 February 2018, Lahore.
  • Co-founder: AGHS law firm, 1980, AGHS Legal Aid Cell, 1983; Womens Action Forum, 1981;
  • Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 1986.
  • Involved in launch of Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, 1994, and launch of South Asians for Human Rights, 2000.
  • UN Special Rapporteur: extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, 1998 to 2004; freedom of religion or belief, 2004-2010; situation of human rights in Iran, November 2016 till death.
  • Elected first female President, Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, 2010.

Asma was all this and so much more. Continue reading

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India, Pakistan: For a better future, build on prisoner exchange agreement

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Two-year old Maier Jawwad needs urgent heart surgery in India.

Wrote a piece on a glimmer of hope regarding India Pakistan relations that needs to be built upon. Published in The News and in The Wire; original text below.

The best news in some time is that India and Pakistan are rising above their differences and joining hands for a humanitarian cause – they have agreed to exchange vulnerable prisoners (women, the elderly over 70 years, and those with special needs), as well as revive the Joint Judicial Committee on Prisoners that has not met since 2013. They will also allow medical experts from both sides to meet and examine mentally challenged prisoners in preparation for their repatriation.  Continue reading

Asma. A profound loss. An enduring inspiration

Asma-bbcAsma Jahangir: Pakistan human rights champion dies – BBC News

“Profoundly saddened by news of dear Asma’s passing. She has left us a rich legacy to follow. In condolence and solidarity”, writes Professor Badri Raina from New Delhi in an email to me and I. A. Rehman, former Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan that Asma Jahangir founded in 1987. “Our one tribute must be to keep up our human faith and human courage”.

Here is I. A. Rehman’s tribute to Asma speaking at the Karachi Literature Festival, soon after hearing the sad news. When I spoke to him later, he said, “I didn’t like doing it. Didn’t like it at all”.  Continue reading

Raza Khan, still missing. Why does it matter?

BringBackRaza3Raza Khan’s disappearance, like that of Zeenat Shehzadi earlier, is part of a new phase of such illegal abductions in Pakistan, violating due process and rule of law. Targeting young people from ordinary backgrounds, without social capital or networks, signals the miltablishment’s growing desperation to control the narrative on the military, religion and India, I argue in this opinion piece for the Washington PostIn Pakistan, promoting peace with India can be bad for your health — and freedom (Dec. 22, 2017; updated text below). Since then, a journalist covering this issue narrowly escaped an abduction attempt in Islamabad, and another journalist was picked up and beaten in Karachi, then released. 
Continue reading

Who is Raza Khan, why is he missing, and why do I care?

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Lahore, Dec. 11: Protesting the disappearance of activist Raza Mahmood Khan. (Rahat Dar/European Pressphoto Agency/EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

On Dec 2, 2017, a peace activist disappeared from Lahore. Raza Khan is one of over 1,400 missing persons in Pakistan whose cases the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances is hearing.

Who is Raza Khan, why is he missing and why do I care? Raza Khan’s disappearance, like that of Zeenat Shehzadi earlier, is part of a new phase of such illegal abductions in Pakistan, violating due process and rule of law. Targeting young people from ordinary backgrounds, without social capital or networks, signals a growing desperation to control the narrative on the military, religion and India. My piece,  In Pakistan, promoting peace with India can be bad for your health — and freedom, published in The Washington Post, Dec. 22.  Continue reading

Pakistan: Another peace activist goes missing #FindRaza

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Raza Khan with a copy of the One Million Signature Campaign against violence against women, Pakistan

On Saturday, peace activist Raza Khan, 37, went “missing” in Lahore shortly after he had organised a public discussion about the recent ‘dharna’ (sit-in) on the country’s capital that ended in ignominious surrender to those seeking power in the guise of religion. He is a law-abiding, passionate campaigner for peace in the region particularly India, for gender equality and interfaith harmony — all of these are anathema to the keepers of Pakistan’s ‘ideology’. Please sign the online petition urging the government of Pakistan to find him. Share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #FindRaza. A twitter campaign for Raza is planned at 4 p.m. (Pakistan time today, Dec 5), hashtag #FindRaza. More case details below. Continue reading

Returning inadvertent border-crossers and more: Glimpses of humanity

fauzia-ansari-and-nehal-ansari-parents-of-hamidLast week I wrote this short piece below for Aman ki Asha (hope for peace) after the Indian border security forces returned a young, inadvertent border-crosser to Pakistan. Today, there’s news that the Pakistan government will allow the wife of the Indian national and alleged spy Kulbushan Yadav to meet him “on humanitarian grounds”.

This raises hopes that the parents of another Indian prisoner Hamid Ansari will finally also be allowed to meet him. In fact, as the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy has said, the families of all cross-border prisoners should be given access to their loved ones in prison across the border.  Continue reading

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