October 23rd, 2020

Bureau Report 


Pakistan’s leading human rights defender, the late Asma Jahangir, has been given the ‘Habib Jalib Peace Award’ in a ceremony held at the Arts Council of Pakistan on Wednesday. The late activist was unanimously selected for this year’s award because of her towering commitment and services to a plethora of human rights causes in the country.

The ceremony was hosted by journalist Saeed Pervaiz who is the brother of ‘people’s poet’ Habib Jalib, and the event was presided over by senior journalist Mehmood Shaam. Speaking about the award Saeed Pervaiz stated that though Asma Jahangir’s name had been finalized in early April of this year, the ceremony was delayed due to the pandemic.

The Habib Jalib Peace Award has been given to activists since 2007, for their struggle for democracy and human rights activism. Asma Jahangir is the 14th recipient of this award.

Rights activist Anees Haroon accepted the award on behalf of the late Asma Jahangir.

“It is an immense honor for me to receive this award on behalf of my late friend and fellow human rights activist, Asma Jahangir,” said Anees Haroon while speaking to Voicepk.net.

Veteran lawyer Rasheed A. Rizvi, the chief guest of the event, also spoke at the event.

“Today we are commemorating two towering personalities and their fearless defense of human rights in the country,” he said. “I am pleased to see Asma Jahangir being given an award named after Habib Jalib.”

Both Habib Jalib and Asma Jahangir were leading figures in the fight for the restoration of democracy especially under the tyrannical rule of Islamist military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq. On February 12, 1983, Asma Jahangir led a peaceful procession against the anti-women ‘Qanoon-e-Shadat Ordinance (Law of Evidence Ordinance)’ that was promulgated by Zia-ul-Haq. Jalib who was known as the people’s poet with his earthy verses that discussed socio-political issues was also present at one of the first protests that took place on Lahore’s Mall Road. He was present in solidarity with the women protestors and recited poems in support of them especially after they were stopped at a police barrier. Later, Asma Jahangir broke through the barrier, with the police cracking down on the protestors leading several to be injured and many of them to be arrested and put in jail.

The day remains forever etched in the collective memory of people, and is now celebrated in the country as “National Women’s Day”.

“When we first heard about her death it was almost as if we had become shelterless. But in time ‘Bibi’ Asma’s training kicked in and all of us felt a deep desire to push forward with her life’s mission,” says Alia Malik, Director AGHS Legal Aid Cell, while talking about her experience in leading the AGHS team after the loss of Asma Jahangir.


“After ‘Bibi’s’ untimely death instead of slowing down our work has actually expanded. The number of monthly cases we handle has almost doubled. And we have entered into new realms, like creating the AJ conference. All of this was possible only because our team, including me, had been ‘empowered’ by Asma Jahangir,” continues Alia.

The AGHS team has been working on Asma Jahangir’s mission for 30 years now and even after her death none of the lawyers working with the AGHS have stepped back this is the strength of Asma Jahangir’s vision.