April 12th, 2021 

By Rehan Piracha 


The giant of the human rights movement in Pakistan, Ibn Abdur Rehman, better known as I.A Rehman, passed away on Monday, at the age of 90, at his residence in Lahore.

Rehman was on the forefront of the human rights movement in Pakistan, propelling it forward with his astute values, ethics, and valour, especially when it came to calling a spade a spade. He was an outspoken man, with set principles that he never compromised on.

Besides a human rights defender, Rehman has been a distinguished journalist, with a career spanning over 65 years. He had served as editor-in-chief of the Pakistan Times, managing editor of Urdu daily Azad, executive editor of weekly Viewpoint.

He also authored three books: Parliamentarian, Arts and Crafts of Pakistan, and Pakistan under Siege. In Dawn newspaper, Rehman wrote a regular column highlighting the rights violations happening in the country.

With Asma Jahangir, he not only co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan ) HRCP but also worked as its director for two decades, and its secretary general till December 31, 2016.


Human rights activists, intellectuals, and politicians mourned the demise of the iconic human rights defender, whose name has  today become synonymous with the campaign for upholding rights in the country.

Calling him a titan of human rights, the HRCP paid tribute to Rehman’s unparalleled integrity, conscience and compassion. Even after his retirement from the HRCP, he remained a constant source of wisdom and advice, and a mentor to many, the organisation said.

“We will carry his legacy forward as he would have wished us too,” the HRCP said.

A giant in the human rights world has fallen who silently led the community in the most adverse times, the AGHS Legal Aid Cell said in its tribute to the late human rights defender. “I.A Rehman was a mentor to Asma Jahangir and many. He was the rare and refreshing sane voice, who fought for democracy with his pen and commitment to fundamental freedoms,” the AGHS said in its tweet.

Former HRCP chairperson Zuhra Yusuf called him a guiding light of the commission. “We always looked to him for guidance and though he was not as active in the past few years, he was always available for help,” she said. “He will be deeply missed. He was a rare kind of individual, not just because of his professional capabilities but as a human being,” she added.

Afrasiab Khattak, former HRCP chief, termed the demise of IA Rehman the end of an era in the human rights movement in Pakistan and South Asia.

In her tweet, Senator Sherry Rehman paid tribute to the late human rights icon. “He was an icon of integrity, standing steadfast for every single fundamental right, every single democratic value in the worst of times. Pakistan will not be the same without him,” she said.

Mohsin Dawar said I.A Rehman spoke for the voiceless in the country. “A man of integrity who stood strong and never compromised on his principles,” he added.

ANP leader Bushra Gohar said it was a very sad day for human rights activists in the country.

Journalist Nasim Zehra said Rehman was “in the vanguard of Pakistan’s democratic struggle”.

Senior journalist Abbas Nasir said I.A Rehman was a giant intellect, a voice of reason who epitomised his progressive values. “The voiceless have been orphaned today,” he added.

Journalist Munizae Jahangir termed his demise a huge loss to the journalist and human rights community in Pakistan and the world. “We are all orphans today without one of the most committed and effective activists in Pakistan,” she said in her tweet.

Journalist Raza Rumi said Rehman was a mentor to countless rights activists, journalists and civil society leaders.

Activist Gulalai Ismail said she can’t imagine a Pakistan without him.

Journalist Ahmed Noorani said there are “rare examples where people have struggled for the rights of others, rights of underprivileged communities throughout their lives. I.A Rehman was one such example.”

Senior lawyer Salman Akram Raja said he was the conscience of the nation. “He was a gentle human being who was braver, wiser and wittier than anyone I knew,” he said, adding that he was poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s comrade and Asma Jahangir’s guide.

Senator Sehar Kamran called Rehman a “legendary human rights icon, a courageous voice, [and] a veteran journalist”.

Abid Qaiyum Suleri, a member of the Economic Advisory Council, said Pakistan has lost a legend.

Jehan Ara, president of P@SHA, said Rehman stood up for all those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. “We owe you a debt of gratitude,” she wrote. Farieha Aziz, digital rights activist, said the late icon was an institution within himself.