Even in death they wouldn’t spare Asma Jahangir

Screen grab of Sami Abraham’s show Tajzia on BOL

BOL network has attacked all the men and women who attended the funeral of Asma Jahangir on February 13. Anchor Sami Abraham in his show criticised the gender inclusive funeral of human rights defender late Asma Jahangir and termed it as against ‘our culture’ and religion.

This issue was discussed on BOL for two days in a row with clerics attacking the deceased and accusing her of being anti-religion.

The dress code of women participants in Jahangir’s funeral was also attacked. Even the decesased Asma Jahangir’s uncovered face – for the visitors who came to pay their respects – was made into a controversy.

“There’s no room in Islam for women to show at funerals in such a large number”, the TV show claimed.

“The way the attendees were dressed, it’s their choice however they want to dress, but there’s no room for that in Islamic rituals,” said the anchor.

The captions used by in the video posted on BOL network’s page are provocative and can potentially exploit religious sentiments of readers.

The captions in Urdu say, “Un-Islamic scenes in Asma Jahangir’s burial. Such activities took place that you wouldn’t see at any other funeral”.

Earlier, Amir Liaqat Husain, who has left BOL now, launched similar attacks on secular bloggers who had gone missing. The network declared them as blasphemers with foreign connections. The court acquitted these bloggers as no evidence was found against them.
In fact, transmissions have targeted public figures for not following ‘true religion’, and anchors have questioned the patriotism of many calling people anti-national at will.

It’s worth noting that BOL network faces many defamation lawsuits for such accusations.

BOL is also engaged in a legal feud with rival network Geo TV for regularly hurling the similar accusations against Geo’s staffers and its chief executive. A smear campaign against another rights’ activist Jibran Nasir was launched some weeks ago in which the network claimed that Nasir was an Indian agent and was working on an anti-religion and anti-Pakistan agenda.
The moral of the story is that activism in Pakistan especially for justice and accountability of state institutions comes with a price.

Journalist Zahid Husain also wrote about this issue in his recent column for DAWN: ‘while her [Jahangir’s] passing is being mourned across the region and religious divide, there are also some who have not spared her even in death. The kind of filth spewed against her in the social media reflects a sickening mindset of powerful interest groups who were challenged by Asma. They ran a concerted campaign against her when she was alive, but this campaign has become even more vicious after her death. They are afraid of the legacy of struggle she has left behind. She was among the few Pakistanis who also won international acclaim for her struggle for human rights.’

Asma Jahangir was targeted in her life. One had hoped that she would be given due respect at this sad hour. Sadly, we were wrong.

The writer is the Digital/Web Editor, Daily Times. He can be reached at me@farhanjanjua.com and tweets @FarhanJanjua