LAHORE - The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) says it is devastated by the sudden passing away of its co-founder Asma Jahangir: exemplary lawyer, human rights icon, pro-democracy champion, friend and mentor par excellence, and a brave comrade of the poor and the disadvantaged. She died on Sunday due to cardiac arrest.

The human rights movement in Pakistan was founded and defined by Asma Jahangir. She co-founded HRCP in 1986 to establish a highly informed and objective voice on a national level in the struggle for the provision of human rights for all and democratic development in Pakistan. Yet, HRCP had a voice and reach, both nationally and internationally, mainly because of her.  Asma Jahangir had served as secretary-general and chairperson of HRCP in the past. She was currently serving as HRCP's spokesperson and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, among her numerous other significant appointments.

Asma Jahangir’s unique and outstanding contribution to the human rights discourse is acknowledged by friends and foes alike, nationally and globally. HRCP has not known a braver and tireless human rights defender than Asma Jahangir.

People’s Solidarity Forum said in a statement it was devastated by the sudden death of Asma Jahangir -- lawyer, human rights activist extraordinaire, and above all, an incredible human being. “We demand that the prime minister and federal government announce three days of mourning and a state funeral to honour the passing of one of the pillars of human rights in Pakistan,” statement read.

The cases Asma Jahangir represented include right of ownership for landless peasants of Okara, the case of environmentalist and socialist activist Baba Jan in Gilgit-Baltistan, missing persons and enforced disappearances, democracy, and rights of religious minorities and women, among many others.

“However, her death does not leave us hopeless. Her life reflects a message for all activists, workers, women, students and conscious individuals that the space we cherish as progressives or activists today is rooted in a longstanding struggle by activists such as Asma Jahangir. Always ready and prepared to take a radical stand against oppressive forces, Asma’s unwavering commitment to the downtrodden -- women, minorities, peasants, workers, students -- is a testament to her longstanding commitment and courage,” the HRCP reads.

Asma’s politics was rooted in solidarity with the oppressed classes of this country. She paved the way for a longstanding opposition to military rule and other anti-democratic forces that emerged in the country. Unlike traditional forces which remained distant from movements on the ground, Asma rooted her life's work in practice. Through advancing humanist principles undergirded by optimism, a strong commitment which represented emotions of optimism, a strong commitment to fundamental rights and democracy, she leaves behind a legacy of lifelong resistance and struggle.

For female activists, she will be remembered as an icon that first rose to prominence in a period of rampant insecurity and growing violence against women. Her ability to project the women’s movement was seminal to universalizing the rights movement towards a more humanist approach in which the dignity and rights of women, workers, peasants, activists, minorities, students and oppressed people was paramount.

The struggle against abuse of power and vicious attacks on democratic forces continues. Asma fought the good fight till the end, leaving behind for us an invaluable source of inspiration, says HRCP.