From the Editor-in-Chief: We mourn Asma Jahangir’s passing

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, February 15th, 2018
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The death of Asma Jahangir brings to an end the life of a brave crusader for democracy in Pakistan. Jahangir was a woman who was not only respected for her commitment to democratic rights in Pakistan but was also a voice for people who in other countries found themselves struggling for democracy. She was, in that very broad sense of the word, a symbol of resistance to tyrannical rule, a point which she decisively proved when she refused to be cowed by the obscenity that was the dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq. It remains a lasting shame for the now dead dictator and his minions and supporters in Pakistan that, failing to silence Asma Jahangir, they decided on the only weapon they could use against her. And that was to cart her off to prison and keep her there in the expectation that she would feel too humiliated to be able to raise her voice in protest again.


The Zia regime, like all regimes operating through myopic lenses, came crashing down — and this one did so literally — in good time. Today, all these years later, it is the courage of Asma Jahangir that is remembered by people around the world. In a third world country, there are not many people who can rise in protest against injustice. Jahangir proved through the years that she was not only able to go to war against governments committing manifest wrong but do much more, which was to shame a military dictatorship before the world by her persistent rebelliousness. This is not to suggest that after Zia, Asma Jahangir’s life was made any easier. She was always in the arena of human rights, defending it against such symbols of illegitimacy as Pakistan’s fourth military leader Pervez Musharraf. She was also not averse to pulling up civilian governments when she saw them tampering with all those values which go into the making of a good, educated society. She did not bend when goons threatened her daughters with violence in order to silence her.


Asma Jahangir, like her father, was a good friend of Bangladesh. She was acutely aware of the repression the Pakistan army perpetrated in Bangladesh in 1971 and always spoke of the sadness of people like her when it came to a remembrance of the tragedy. She had been to Bangladesh on a number of occasions and was warmly received by us not only because of her feelings for us but also because of her deep-rooted commitment to human rights everywhere.


We mourn her passing. Her death leaves a vacuum in our part of the world.

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