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Passing of Asma Jahangir

Honourable Senators, I rise today to pay tribute to Asma Jahangir, who passed away on the 11th of February.

Asma Jahangir was a world renowned Pakistani human rights lawyer, activist and author, whom I have often referred to as the conscience of Pakistan.

Asma dedicated her life to promoting and defending human rights, in particular the rights of women, children and religious minorities in Pakistan.

She was a pro-democracy activist and founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, as well as the first woman to serve as President of the Supreme Court Association.

Asma co-founded the Women’s Action Forum which was established to oppose laws that reduced a woman’s testimony in court to half that of a man’s.

She served as the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion and as the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

As a lawyer, she often took on cases that nobody else would even consider.

My daughter Shaanzeh was fortunate to participate in an internship at the law office founded by Asma and her sister Hina Jilani in Lahore.

Of her experience, Shaanzeh noted that everyone associated with the office was passionate and driven. That Asma and her sister had managed to bring together a group of people who worked every day towards bettering the lives of Pakistan’s disenfranchised people and have paved the way for others to do the same in the future.

Honourable Senators, my allotted time is nowhere near long enough to list Asma Jahangir’s lifetime of extraordinary achievements.

Her career of human rights activism is unparalleled in Pakistan. And, the impact of Asma Jahangir’s momentous life’s work, is most certain to endure, well beyond her untimely passing.

Thank you.