Asma Jahangir is a leading Pakistani lawyer who has dedicated her career to defending the rights of women, minorities, and children from religious extremism, honor killings, and blasphemy laws. Jahangir has served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution and also, as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. She has served as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, and has investigated government abuses ranging from forced disappearances to extrajudicial killings. She is a founding member and current spokesperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Jahangir’s experience with law began with her decade-long fight against the arrest of her father, who was jailed after resigning from the Pakistan National Assembly in protest of the country’s new military dictatorship. When she successfully resolved her father’s case in 1982, she joined other human rights activists to found Pakistan’s first all-female law firm. The following year she was imprisoned for a month for protesting the government’s new “hudud" laws.
Jahangir is the author of many articles, scholarly works and two books, “Divine Sanction: The Hudood Ordinance (1988, 2003) and “Children of a Lesser God: Child Prisoners of Pakistan” (1992).In her struggle for a secular civil society, Jahangir has earned a variety of international awards, including the American Bar Association International Human Rights Award and the Millennium Peace Prize and most recently in 2014, the Stefanus Prize and the Right Livelihood Award. In 2017, she was the first Pakistani to deliver the 2017 Amartya Sen Lecture at the London School of Economics, where she raised concerns over impunity for crimes committed in the name of religion, and increasingly common blasphemy charges, “while we had just two cases of blasphemy before that year , now we have thousands. It shows that one should be careful while bringing religion into legislation, because the law itself can become an instrument of persecution.” She currently serves as the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) spokesperson. She is active on social media and has been especially outspoken over the ill-treatment of inmates in Iranian prisons.