In the summer of 2013, I sat with my mentor and friend, Ahmed Rashid, a journalist and writer, the author of the book Taliban, in his Victorian home library in Lahore, Pakistan. Jahangir publicly protested and challenged Zia’s callous regime and its ethical and moral underpinnings. She crossed all barriers and barb wires to raise her voice for the rights of women and oppressed minorities. She called for a syncretic Pakistan In the dim light, Rashid sipped his hot tea, looked intensely worried as he picked up the phone, then looked at me from behind his glasses and said, “Iman, you should talk to Asma Jahangir.” Aggrieved, yet poised, I felt a shiver down my spine — a shiver of hope. The next evening, I was face-to-face with Asma Jahangir, nuclear-armed Pakistan’s most prominent human rights lawyer by profession, and a global iconic voice of resistance and social activism by compulsion. Asma Jahangir served two terms as chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), and was the first woman president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, as well as U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions, and Freedom of Religion or Belief. A recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the UNIFEM Millennium Peace Prize, the Freedom of Worship Medal, the 2010 UNESCO Bilbao Prize, and the Hilal-i-Imtiaz (one of the highest civilian awards in Pakistan), Jahangir was one of the 1,000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Jahangir shuffled through my heap of evidence, which detailed my only son’s international parental abduction from the United States to Pakistan. Two years had already elapsed since the abduction. She somberly raised her brows, gripped the left arm of her chair tighter, raised her right-hand palm-up, clinched her fist, and said “you’ve got to persevere, punch back.” Jahangir shared with me her decades of wisdom, her intellect, her legal advice, and a warm hug. I came back to the United States with a renewed sense of perseverance and reignited my resolve to search for my son. I found and rescued him in Fall 2014. Jahangir is no more. She passed away due to cardiac arrest on February 11, 2018, at the age of 66, in her hometown of Lahore. However, her legacy continues. Jahangir’s courageous heart was filled with unflagging support for the intrinsic dignity and equal, inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Nationally and internationally, protagonists of human rights are reeling from shudder and a profound sense of loss. “We have lost a human rights giant,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement. In the conflict-affected, radicalised, and punitive state and society of Pakistan, resolute yet kind Jahangir stood tall like a warrior worth a thousand in the face of belligerency, military and intelligentsia, patriarchy, theocracy and feudalism, clergy, bigotry, religious zealotry, blasphemy, and human catastrophe. In Pakistan’s seven decades of history, virtually each government, whether civilian or military, religious or “enlightened” and “moderate,” used religious-nationalism as the opiate of the people as an instrument to attain, conserve, and perpetuate their power. Fearless Jahangir brawled for the docile and subservient citizenry of her homeland, who had been reduced to half-humans. Those whom she advocated for had been menaced by threats of extremism and violations of human rights, and haunted by a pervasive sense of fear. She made her mark on history and on humanity. She rebelled against the Islamo-fascist totalitarian regime of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the country’s third military dictator. Zia, under his ambitious “Shariasation or Islamisation Program,” amended the constitution and discriminated against women and religious minorities, in order to accomplish his political gains and fulfill Pakistan’s raison d’etre as a Muslim state. Jahangir, in riposte, publicly protested and challenged Zia’s callous ordinance and its ethical and moral underpinnings. She crossed all barriers and barb wires to raise her voice for the rights of women and oppressed minorities. She called for a syncretic Pakistan. Both inside and outside of the courtroom, she was humanity’s forward defense. In the principles of policymaking, she had fought to defend democracy, rule of law, constitutional guarantee of due process, freedom of speech, equality, and social justice for all. She fervently campaigned to reform the contentious Hudood Ordinance, religion-based laws that charged rape victims with adultery if they did not have four male Muslim witnesses to the rape. She triumphed battered wives, rescued proxy-youths from death row, and defended religious minorities accused under blasphemy laws. She got people to accept that women have rights, that what you are giving them is not charity, but justice, and that religious minorities were being persecuted and had to be protected. Jahangir said: “Do not be patronising toward us. Do not protect us; we don’t need your protection. We need the protection of our rights, and we can do the rest.” As the chairperson of the HRCP and as the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, Jahangir had investigated government abuses ranging from forced disappearances to extrajudicial killings. She challenged the Pakistani military and judiciary eyeball-to-eyeball. While working with bonded and child labourers, as well as sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) victims, she exposed the fact that most of the mistreated bonded labourers were Christians. Jahangir successfully highlighted the absence of a civilised mind-set in that society. “Denial is the first defence of societies who want to survive without having to put their hands in the dirt,” she said as she stalwartly confronted the Pakistani state’s denial of religious persecution. Jahangir demanded that Pervez Musharraf’s regime advance the cause of human rights domestically. She highlighted a “large scale impunity” among perpetrators who commit religiously motivated crimes. She advocated that these crimes should be addressed both nationally and internationally. She stated that “once you start politicising religion, you play with fire and you get burnt as well,” and she called for a counter-narrative of liberal politics to challenge religious extremism. Jahangir did not identify herself as a Muslim woman, but simply as a woman. She believed in herself as a lawyer, rather than specifically a woman lawyer. Her legal craft in criminal law and constitutional law were strategic in nature, and she used “calculated aggression, wit and sharp one-liners.” She ruthlessly crushed egos and reduced them to pygmies. To liberate Pakistan from India-centric national security narratives and transform it, Jahangir advocated for tolerant and peaceful India-Pakistan relations, bilateral and trilateral dialogues, and economic and social ties between innate nuclear-armed rivals. For many years on August 14 and 15, at the Wagah-Attari international border demarcating India and Pakistan, alongside her Indian counterparts, Jahangir would rather light candles than curse the darkness. She spoke on behalf of the Baloch people and against human rights abuses in Balochistan, and also denounced the brutal use of force and pellet guns by Indian security forces against civilian non-combatants in Kashmir. Jahangir was a staunch supporter of integrated-collaborative approaches to foster peace in South Asia. In 2012, Jahangir learned about a serious threat to her life from the Pakistani establishment. Jahangir’s open corroboration of her killing plot garnered her national and international support. As is the case with Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, Jahangir’s detractors have been ballistic and branded her as a ‘traitor’ and ‘American agent’ for upholding Western ideals to malign Pakistan worldwide and corrode the country’s social fabric in the name of women’s and children’s rights, as well as the rights of non-Muslims and persecuted religious minorities. Until her sad demise, she served as the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, determinedly fighting on behalf of the Iranian people as they demanded freedom, dignity, and respect for human rights. “We join Pakistan and others around the world in mourning the untimely death of Pakistani human rights and democracy advocate, Asma Jahangir,” a statement by the US State Department said. I last met Jahangir on May 18, 2016, at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, a think-tank and research centre dedicated to nonpartisan analysis, where she had delivered a talk, “A Human Rights Perspective on Pakistan,” moderated by the former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States and Senior Fellow and Director, South and Central Asia, Husain Haqqani. After the talk, we met. She kissed my left-cheek with a sparkle in her eyes and asked, “how’re you Iman, and son?” “Doing very well and reconstructing our lives together,” I beamed and replied. She firmly held both my arms, “you now have a higher responsibility, you’ve to raise him a man, not a son,” Jahangir commanded. As my son, man to be, does his French homework assignment, smilingly watches his favourite Anime, Dragon Ball Fighter Z Edition: True Power Knows No Limits, and I feverishly pay homage to my Joan of Arc, my Zenobia, my Queen Tamar, my Fu Hao, my Agustina de Aragon — my Jahangir, tears of heartache rain down my cheeks onto the brim of my keyboard. My phone pings. “Yes, today is the funeral, I have just been at the house crying my eyes out. I hope you saw my piece in Dawn, huge loss for the country, lots of love, Ahmed.” The writer is a Washington DC based international security and defence policy expert. Published in Daily Times, March 3rd 2018.