Asma Jahangir's demise 'a great loss of Pakistan'

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Doughty Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir, who fought her battle on the streets as well in courts, opposed military strongmen and steadfastly championed the rights of women, minorities and LGBTs, passed away here on Sunday.

The representative of Baloch Republican Party to the UNHRC, Abdul Nawaz Bugti said that Asma Jahangir was a fearless voice of the oppressed people, including the Baloch who stood for their rights and spoke truth to the power. Her sister, Jilani, told Pakistan's Geo News TV that her death was "not just the family's loss, but also of those who are voiceless and whose voices she raised".

She remained in office at the Human Rights Commission till 2011, serving in as its secretary general and later as chairperson.

Asma Jahangir secured a number of victories during her life, from winning freedom for bonded labourers from their "owners" through pioneering litigation, to a landmark court case that allowed women to marry of their own volition.

She also pressed for legal reforms to protect the rights of bonded laborers, who often spend years trapped by debt to owners of brick quarries, textile looms or wheat fields, and she lobbied for the enforcement of widely ignored laws against child labor.

Journalist Naila Inayat, termed her death "the end to an era" while Mehreen Zahra-Malik, another journalist, tweeted: "A male friend once asked: why is Asma Jahangir always so angry?" She was the first woman to serve as head of the SCBA.

She often had a tempestuous relation with the Pakistani state.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar, former President Asif Ali Zardari, President Mamnoon Hussain paid their tribute to Asma Jahangir and expressed grief.

Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif spoke about Asma's work for women and stance against dictators, saying it would be hard to fill the void left by her death.

The cause of her death has not been confirmed yet, but according to media reports, it was due to cardiac arrest.

Few Pakistani rights activists have achieved the credibility of Jahangir. For her relentless struggle for a secular civil society, Jahangir was rewarded with several prestigious awards, including a Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2010 and a Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan second and third highest civilian awards, respectively.

Nobel prize victor Malala Yousafzai remarked: "Heartbroken that we lost Asma Jahangir - a saviour of democracy and human rights". She was fully a woman in her courage and steadfastedness.

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