Asma Jahangir Conference 2022 – Crisis of Constitutionalism in South Asia
22-23 OCTOBER 2022
The 4th Asma Jahangir Conference 2022 was held on 22nd and 23rd October 2022 in the Avari Hotel, Lahore. The conference was hosted by AGHS Legal Aid Cell, the Asma Jahangir Foundation, Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and the Pakistan Bar Council. The conference has become an annual event with over 1500 participants on each day. As with previous events there were around 150 national and international speakers with Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa speaking at the inaugural session and Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and MNA PTI, Munaza Hassan presiding over the closing ceremony. Speakers included senior members of the judiciary, members of the national and foreign legislatures, diplomats, international experts, lawyers, journalists, activists and representatives from the government. The conference has become one of the biggest international human rights conference of the year providing an uncensored platform to discuss legal and social issues of concern.
The Conference remains a legacy of the late Asma Jahangir and is built upon the principles of her ideology of providing an uncensored and safe space for the advocacy of human rights. It has come to be known as a peoples’ assembly where controversial and concerning issues can be discussed openly at a time when spaces have been overtaken by those who prefer to use violence instead of speech. The hundreds of hours of voluntary work to put together this event is a testament to the commitment of the AJ Foundation, AGHS Legal Aid Cell and other members of civil society who formed part of the conference committee, to their belief in using discourse as a way to find solutions. AGHS Legal Aid Cell and AJ Foundation stands firmly with civil society in Pakistan which remains steadfast in its commitment to universal principles of human rights without fear or favour. Our position remains that we will not follow vendettas of political parties or others when inviting speakers, and the AJ Conference will remain an open and uncensored platform for diverse voices across the political spectrum.
The title of the conference was the crisis of constitutionalism in South Asia. In keeping with the theme and the desperate times in our region, activists from neighbouring countries were invited including Afghan women’s rights activist from Kabul, Mehbouba Seraj, digital rights activist from Iran, Mahsa Alimardani, and President of the World Kashmir Movement, Muzzamil Ayyub Thakkur.
The themes for this year’s conference were Constitutionalism and the Role of Institutions; Gender, Justice and Equality; Human Security – Right to Employment; Livelihood and Equality; Extremism and Militancy; Challenges to Peaceful Co-Existence; and the Onslaught on Civil Society in South Asia. In total there are 22 sessions on a broad range of topics. Some of the more notable sessions are on climate change, floods and rehabilitation of vulnerable communities after the floods; Disenfranchisement in Balochistan and the Need for Political Dialogue; the crisis in Afghanistan and its impact on women and girls; religious intolerance in Kashmir; enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions; social media regulation; media under siege in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan; transgender rights; the need for Constitutional Courts; making deals with the Afghan Taliban and its fallout; constitutional duties of a speaker and several sessions focusing on regional and national issues impacting the rule of law and separation of powers between the executive, judiciary and legislature.
Notable speakers included Honourable Mr Qazi Faez Isa, Senior Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairperson of the PPP, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Founding Executive Director of the Center for Policy Alternatives, Raza Rabbani, 7th Chairman of the Senate & Former Federal Minister for Law & Justice, Mr. Ahsan Bhoon, President, Supreme Court Bar Association, Mr. Azam Nazeer Tarar, Federal Minister of Law & Justice, Latif Afridi, former President, Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, Antonio-Martín Porras Gómez, expert in Constitutional Law, La Universidad de Barcelona, Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch, 21st Chief Minister of Balochistan, Qasim Khan Suri, 19th Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Omar Zakhilwal, former Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan; former Finance Minister, Afghanistan, Mahbouba Seraj, Afghan Journalist & Women’s Rights Activist, Sima Sama, former Minister of Women’s Affairs, Afghanistan, Atif Mian (virtually), Economist & Co-Founder CERP, Director of Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance, Princeton University, Alan Keenan, Senior Consultant on Sri Lanka, International Crisis Group, Baba Jan, Civil Rights & Climate Change Activist, Naz Baloch, Parliamentary Secretary Climate Change, David Kaye, former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor; Education Author & Activist for the Promotion of Secularism, Tapan K. Bose, Indian Activist & Director, South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Syed Haider Farooq Maududi, Islamic Scholar, Hamid Mir, Award-winning Pakistani Journalist & Columnist, Steven Butler, Journalist & Senior Program Consultant, Committee to Protect Journalists, Daniel Bastard, Asia-Pacific Director, Reporters Without Borders, Malini Subramaniam, Independent Journalist & Former Head, International Committee of the Red Cross Chhattisgarh Chapter (India), Dilrukshi Handunnetti, International Award-Winning Investigative Journalist & Lawyer, Reem Alsalem, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Dr. Rosena Allin Khan, Member, British Parliament, Dr. Muhammad Khalid Masud, Religious Scholar & Ad Hoc Judge of the Shariat Appellate Bench, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Irfan Qadir, former Attorney General for Pakistan, Nader Nadery, former Member, Afghan Peace Negotiation Team & Former Advisor to Afghan President, Mehnaz Akber Aziz, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Law & Justice, Member of the National Assembly, PML-N.