Asma Jilani jahangir-The courageous woman
Asma Jilani Jahangi born in 1952 is Pakistani human rights lawyer and social activist, who co-founded and chaired the human rights commission of Pakistan.
Asma Jilani was born into a prosperous and politically active Kakazai Pashtun family with a history of activism and human rights work. Her father, Malik Ghulam Jilani, was a civil servant who entered politics upon retirement and spent years both in jail and under house arrest for opposing military dictatorships. Malik was imprisoned on several occasions for his outspoken views, which included denouncing the Pakistani government for genocide during their military action in what is now Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan).
Her mother, Begum Sabiha Jilani (1927–2012), was educated at a co-ed college named Forman Christian College situated in Lahore, at a time when few Muslim women even received higher education. Sabiha also fought the traditional system, pioneering her own clothing business until her family’s lands were confiscated in 1967 as a result of her husband’s opinions and detention.
Jahangir herself became involved at a young age in protests against the military regime as well as opposing her father’s detention by then president, Benazir Bhutto‘s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972. She received her B.A. from Kinnaird College, Lahore and her law degree in 1978, and her Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from Punjab University. She also holds an honorary doctorate from University of St. Gallen in Switzerland., Queens University, Canada, Simon Fraser University, Canada and Cornell University, United States.
Asma Jilani married Tahir Jahangir. They had a son and two daughters, Munizae Jahangir, a journalist and Sulema Jahangir, who is also a lawyer.
She spent her career defending the human and women’s rights, rights of religious minorities and children in Pakistan. Jahangir was a staunch critic of the Hudood Ordinance and blasphemy laws of Pakistan put in place as part of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization program in Pakistan. She was a founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and served as Secretary-General and later Chairperson of the organization.