About a month ago my friend Myra, who is married to Asma Jahangir’s son, Jillani, called to ask if I would like to join Asma Aunty for dinner. The invitation it appeared had been occasioned by my support for a tweet of her’s which had been trolled viciously and which I had defended as strongly as I could. She wanted to meet and, what came as a pleasant surprise, hear my story from me. Asma Jahangir has been a particular hero of mine. As all other young educated Pakistanis who realize how activists committed to democracy and the rule of law have shaped our country, I too held her in high regard and she wanted to have dinner with me! More than my own story I thought I needed to know much more about her’s and immediately took out my ipad and started googling her, taking notes on all the causes she had fought for. Over the years my heroes have gone from being sports stars, singers and actors to politicians, writers and activists. I keep my heroes to myself. They have all inspired me in a place where I was by myself. I don’t engage in political debates with my friends. At least ones that get heated. My favourite politician is obvious. He is my friend and the only man in this country who openly supported my father but that is not enough to have my support. Mr Khan also lent his support that day to my father calling his murder wrong. Later he sat on a stage with sheikh Rashid as he praised my father’s killer. Both Mr Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif lent my family their support. Shahbaz Sharif personally supervised our security and I must say considering his political differences with my father, he was very kind. And then the former PM’s son in law went and paid his respects to my father’s killers grave. I smiled. Election are close. Every vote counts. People deprived of basic humanity. Acid victims, women forcefully married off or killed for marrying someone of their choice Bilawal has never wavered from his stance. I’ve often wondered why. It’s not a popular stance. After much deliberation I asked my younger brother who also happens to be a very close friend of Bilawal why? He said its because he has many advisors who are good people. Two of them are Asma Jahangir and Sherry Rehman. They constantly remind him of his mother’s legacy. And what a phenomenal legacy that was. But getting back to my original point. Ten minutes into googling Asma Aunty I realised I would never ever be able to read up on all her causes. Honestly she has far too many. I’m a relatively cool guy. I thought we’ll play that card. I did take notes! And I took those notes with me all the way till I pulled up to her drive way. “Talk about yourself, Shahbaz,’ I told myself,” You have quite a story to tell.” But my face was turning red and God! I never felt so shy in my life! As soon as I walked in she met me with a very loving hug and took my hand and sat me down next to her. “Myra has told me that you’re on a diet so I’ve only got grilled food for you and salad, but if anytime you decide to start living again there is desert.” She declared. We laughed. She then thanked me for supporting her on twitter. I confess that made me a little emotional. “Asma Aunty, the honour is mine and i will do it again because you are a champion of ours.” She had noticed my tweet because she found it a little different. “A lot of young people in Pakistan are very angry. Not very well read and extremely gullible. People are telling the youth what to think and what to say! In my day if anyone told me what to say or think I’d lose my mind! Why have you all become so computerised and non rebellious? “She asked. “Well Asma Aunty in a world where you swipe right for companionship, it’s very hard to be rebellious,” I replied. She laughed again! This really was something wonderful about her… laughing with you! Here was someone far more accomplished and far more intellectually superior to me and we were sharing a joke and laughing together. She made people comfortable. As the dinner went on I began to understand what made her so humane and why people just took to her. One thing that was very surprising is how she listened to my story. She never once passed a comment or interrupted. She absorbed my story and sometimes when there was a difficult or emotional part that I was going over she would just lean across and hold my hand and the very gesture would pass on a certain calmness. My father used to be like that. What’s amazing is that she’s a woman. It is amazing because she’s not an American or European but She’s a Pakistani woman. And we really have run the Pakistani woman in the ground haven’t we? I’m a proud Pakistani but we are the hotspot for bigoted, misogynistic, sexist, confused and extremely frustrated people. Yes. I’m no different. But I’m lucky I had my mother. If she ever caught me acting like an idiot with a girl she would smack me right there and then. A lot of men in Pakistan need that. And that slap shouldn’t be restricted to age. I told her this. She grinned and said,” I never needed anyone to feel sorry for me. Especially a man. You have to take control of your life, don’t let anyone tell you that you are not good enough! Or equal enough or strong enough! Boy or girl. Make your own place in this world. And if you believe in something stand up for it.” Then she glanced at me uneasily and said beta you should leave the country. I smiled and said so should you, she laughed and gave me a loving pat on the cheek. You’re like your father and then she started to tell me stories about him. I’m not like my father but to be compared to him is an honour but that’s never important for me in a conversation with a person who actually knew him. I love listening to stories about him. Especially of the time when he was young. She then spoke about her own college days and when she started protesting against what she called her first dictator (Ayub Khan), then the Zia days and how dark they were for anyone who spoke against him. She looked at me and said,” But you guys know all that yourselves.” And i just thought no I don’t and that is why we need people like my father and you.. She never ever brought up her humanitarian work. I don’t know if that’s the correct word for it. She had such a vast array of things that she did. All of them selfless causes. The strange thing about selfless causes in Pakistan is that it usually results in one’s death. Which is why there is a silent majority in this country. She knew well the cost of these almost stubborn selfless causes. She had seen what they had done to so many comrades. Yet she was fearless. Yet she was strong and resilient. And she wasn’t done. Which is another thing that left me mesmerized. She has represented so many helpless people in this country, spoken up for so many voiceless people, been a pillar of support and strength for so many deprived people. People deprived of basic humanity. Acid victims, women forcefully married off or killed for marrying someone of their choice. When Abba was murdered she told my younger brother and me that the president had sent her to help us with any and everything regarding the FIR but that we should know that she was on her way before she received that call. She was a superstar. A lot of her haters will tell you that she was an agent. She was. She was an agent of the underprivileged and oppressed. She was their James Bond or as Hamid Mir put it Joan of Arc. The thing about this evening for me was that i knew i was in the company of greatness. The dinner was meant to be short but continued till literally i excused myself because it was very late! She asked me about my book and when I’d be done with it and if it had anything to controversial because then I really should leave the country. I told her that I used swear words a lot more than i ever used to. She laughed and said, “Don’t worry that’s a good thing.” I remember as Myra and Jillani were walking me to the door she called out,” I hope this wasn’t an inconvenience. It was such a pleasure to have you over!” Again my face went red. I was the inconvenience. I told her that it was an honour and that the pleasure was all mine. It’s sort of humbling when someone like Asma Jahangir wants to have dinner with you. I have a lot of famous friends. They know I love them but honestly I have never been in company like this. Smart, quick witted, charming, intelligent and strong. She was born fighter and it resonated in her personality. When you have heroes that are not comic book based but real people and if one of them wants to meet you and wants to chat. Well that’s pretty incredible. I’m very lucky. Before I left we agreed that we would all do this again. She wanted to meet my daughter Serena who is the same age as Leah Tara her granddaughter. On my way home I remember thinking that when Abba became Governor he took my younger sister Bano to Mukhtaran Mai and made her put her hand on Bano’s head. He asked her to pray that Bano got her strength. It was something that always stayed with me. I thought i hope Serena also has someone like that. Asma aunty didn’t get to put her hand on Serena’s head but I did today and kissed her forehead and asked Allah to give her the same strength as this great woman. I’m confident he will. Pakistan has produced so many courageous brave and selfless women. My daughter has a good shot and i will always tell her about this one hero from amongst so many. Asma Jahangir. She was an institution. Today Pakistan has lost possibly one of its greatest children. For me the sad part is that its happened at a very dark time for Pakistan. But I’m someone who was lost in complete darkness. And let me tell you that there is always light, you just have to find it. We will. This great nation is a land of lions and lionesses. Like Asma Jahangir. It’s the middle of the night in Lahore and it has started to rain. What a wonderful tribute. This beautiful city weeps for one of its favourite children. May you rest in eternal peace and power. The writer is a businessman, and the son of former governor Salmaan Taseer. He tweets at @ShahbazTaseer Published in Daily Times, February 16th 2018.