South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Asma Jahangir Conference concludes

LAHORE: The two days Asma Jahangir Conference concluded here Sunday while paying glowing tributes to Asma Jahagir. Eminent politicians, lawyers, human right activists and many others from abroad also attended the event on second day.

Like the day one, score of resolutions which emerged from different panel discussions, were presented before the participants of the conference.

Pakistan People’s Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shirin Mazari, former NA speaker Ayyaz Sadiq, ANP leader Afrasyab Khattak, Lahore High Court Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhary, PML-N Senator Rana Maqbool, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Council Member Kamran Arif, PPP leader Farhatullah Babar, Supreme Court advocate Akhtar Hussein and ANP’s Bushra Gohar were the speakers of last day. Among international guests were Michael Kirby AC CMG (Former Justice of the High Court of Australia and a renowned international human rights expert), Ms Kirsty Birmelow QC (Chair of Human Rights Bar Committee, England & Wales), Annika Ben David (Sweden’s Ambassador at Large for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law), Ms Kamla Bhasin (Writer, poet and activist, India), Dr Nimalka Fernando (Attorney-at-law and women’s rights activist, Sri Lanka) and Peter Jacob (Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice).

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in his address, shared his views about the ideology of Asma Jahangir. He said that Asma was an inspiration to all the democracy lovers and was synonym to the rule of law. “She fought cases from bonded labour to victims of religious prosecutions. No fight was so big for Asma, so no case was tough for her.”

Bilawal said that Asma’s ideas would remain with us. While criticising the PTI’s government, he said that current government had no vision how to run the country. “Inequality is prevailing in country at large while government is not serious to deal with the issues,” he added.

Dr Shirin Mazari admitted that she and Asma had differences on ideology but they remained friends. While sharing her gratitude she said, “I knew Asma since my school days and she remained an inspiration for me since then.”

Mazari reaffirmed that she will carry on with the legacy of Asma Jahangir toward the betterment of human rights conditions in country.

Ayyaz Sadiq extended his gratitude to Asma saying she was very unique sort of person. He said that we needed to create more heroes like Asma so the rule of law in country could be strengthened.

Afrasyab Khattak said that he was proud of being companion of Asma Jahangir. He said that after the elections of 2008, though the 111 Brigade was barred from stepping into democratic process but unfortunately judiciary adopted that way when it sent back elected prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani to home. He called the judicial activism a new shape of doctrine of necessity.

Afrasyab named the last election a rigged and stolen one. “We do not blame that PTI rigged the election but it was military which rigged the elections,” he alleged and added that they were not against the change but the democratic system was being rapped up. “Unfortunately political parties in Pakistan are also lacking the democratic process in them,” he added.

The second day discussions were espoused by late Asma Jahangir’s work and activism, a wide range of discussions focused on the protection of fundamental rights, justice for all and impunity for none, freedom of expression, and challenges to implementing ‘rights legislation’.

The conference resolved, Pakistan should promulgate refugee laws. ‘Pakistan needs a survey on internal migration data and research. Currently the census data does not support such information’.

On the protection of human rights defenders, the conference resolved that the state should apply extra care and caution in dealing with the wrongdoer of the extra-judicial killing. There is a need for trails in courts of law after a fool proof investigation.

On transgender rights, the conference resolved Transgender Act 2018 must be implemented in letter and spirit.

The conference resolved that visa free policies must be introduced to reclaim solidarity among South Asian countries. The panel resolved there is a need to revive SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and demanded to call the 18th summit immediately.

On gender equality, the conference resolved until women are treated equally by the law, gender-equality cannot be achieved. The conference reformed on the constitutionalism and challenges on the 18th Amendment, the desire to roll back provincial autonomy and entitlements granted by the 18th Amendment as well as by the Constitution of 1973 generally, such as the National Finance Commission Award, must be resisted. Pakistani federalism must be based on cooperation between constitutionally autonomous provinces and empowerment of the local governments. The role of the parliamentary committee in judicial appointments to the superior courts must be revived.


Updated On: 14.10.2018