Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Secretary-General Harris Khalique has announced that the commission is instituting the Asma Jahangir Award for human rights defenders and resuming the Nisar Osmani Award for courage in journalism and the IA Rehman research grant in human rights.
Delivering the first memorial lecture in Islamabad, HRCP honorary spokesperson IA Rehman warmly recalled Asma Jahangir, remembering her as the voice of sanity and compassion. Remembering Asma Jahangir’s empathy with vulnerable and disadvantaged, he spoke about people’s fundamental right to economic justice.
PEOPLE’S ECONOMIC RIGHTS
The lecture, which was followed by a question-and-answer session, was heavily attended, with HRCP members, civil society activists, lawyers, journalists, and political workers among the audience. Citing examples ranging from bonded laborers and small farmers to lady health workers and journalists, IA Rehman said that people’s economic rights – the right to employment, and just and equitable conditions of work – should not be subject to the availability of resources.
While the constitution protected people’s social and economic wellbeing, he said it was critical to secure the substance of these rights, their availability to all citizens and their incremental expansion. He said that the prime minister had recently said that nothing was more important than providing succor to the poor: economic justice must not, therefore, be sacrificed at the altar of national security.
IA Rehman reminded the audience that all citizens of Pakistan had the right to economic justice and that Asma Jahangir would not have stood quietly by in such a situation. “It fell to all of us to band together and demand that these rights and all other fundamental rights be protected and promoted,” he said.
Born and raised in Lahore, Asma Jahangir was a human rights lawyer and social activist who co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. She served as the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and as a trustee at the International Crisis Group.
She is the recipient of several awards including the 2014 Right Livelihood Award for defending, protecting and promoting human rights in Pakistan and more widely, often in very difficult and complex situations and at great personal risk, 2010 Freedom Award, Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2010, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2005, 1995 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders, and the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the promotion of a culture of human rights.
She was awarded a Legion of Honour by France, and in 2016, the University of Pennsylvania Law School awarded her an honorary degree. Do her writings include The Hudood Ordinance: A Divine Sanction? and Children of a Lesser God. She was posthumously awarded the Nishan-e-Imtiaz on March 23, 2018, the highest degree of service to the state, and for services to international diplomacy by President Mamnoon Hussain.