Pakistan’s “Protector of the Voiceless” – An Obituary for Asma Jahangir


A renowned human rights lawyer, an opponent of patriarchic structures, a great champion of democracy and “the loudest voice of the voiceless”, Asma Jilani Jahangir, passed away after suffering a stroke at the age of 66 in Lahore on 11th  of February, 2018.

Asma derives from the Arabic word “Asima”( i.e. “protector”) – and, indeed,  the human rights lawyer has always been a protector, especially for the rights of women, minorities and children. She was not only a founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), but she also served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran. Yet, her efforts and her commitment to the weak also got her into trouble: she faced numerous death threats and was several times arrested and put under house detention.

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom had been supporting the “AGHS Legal Aid Cell”, the first free legal aid centre in Pakistan set up by Asma Jahangir and her sister in 1987, from 1990 to 2007. The AGHS Legal Aid Cell’s expertise lies in constitutional and family law by focusing on women, underage prisoners, forced labourers and religious minorities.

To this day, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation continues to support human rights organizations across the country and pursues its partnership with the HRCP. In addition to political advocacy and human rights work, the Foundation addresses environmental issues and climate change through partnership with schools and universities. The foundation is also active on issues surrounding local governance in rural areas by supporting an EU co-financed “Good Governance” project in 15 districts of Pakistan.