By: Raza Rumi
Asma Jahangir’s sad and untimely demise has left this country with a void so big that no one person will be able to fill it. Her last public appearance was at the Pashtun Qaumi Jirga’s sit-in where she expressed solidarity with demonstrators. From political activists in Gilgit-Baltistan to those condemned to incarceration without a due process through military courts, and from those leading the peasants’ struggle for land rights in Okara to women deprived of their constitutional rights and human dignity, Jahangir stood up and raised her voice for all the voiceless communities living on the margins of mainstream Pakistan.
She was among the founders of what has over the years turned out to be the most significant national institutions in this country. Through the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Jahangir and her comrades have consistently spoken out against transgressions of those in positions of public authority. Her legacy also includes a legal aid cell that has enabled countless women to negotiate our convoluted justice system in support of their everyday struggles against patriarchy. In bar politics as well, she upheld her principles and served as the loudest voice of reason. She refused to bow down to expediency and did not compromise on her principles even if that meant taking unpopular stances, as in the recent controversy at the Multan bench of the Lahore High Court.
The finest example of Jahangir’s commitment to her principles was her consistent opposition to military regimes and her staunchest support for civilian supremacy. She was not active in any political party, and yet she led from the front movements for restoration of democratic rule.
There have been demands for announcement of three-days of national mourning and a state funeral for Jahangir. We support these demands on grounds that Pakistan is a democratic republic – even if implementation of relevant constitutional principles remains a work in progress – therefore, it must acknowledge the service of the most consistent and the most loudest voice in support of democratic rule. We believe that Jahangir’s legacy is too big on its own, and is not in need of any further recognition from the state. On the contrary, a state funeral for her will benefit the state itself insofar as it will reaffirm our state institutions’ commitment to her principles, which are essentially rooted in our constitution.