Asma Jahangir’s victory is a cause for celebration

Raza Rumi

Asma Jahangir’s victory in the Supreme Court Bar Association elections is a major development in the legal and judicial history of Pakistan. She is the first woman to hold this office, and a progressive rights activist as well. Her struggles against injustice, discrimination and oppression have spanned over nearly forty years and are globally acclaimed. PTH wishes her all success and hopes that she is able to fulfil the mandate for which she has been elected: To transform the apex Bar into a professional, neutral and non-partisan body and operating at a healthy distance from the judges. At last some sanity might prevail. This take by lubp is worth a read.

I took the picture on the right after the victory and Asad J with the winnersmore can be found here

We are also posting a well considered view from HRW below:

Pakistan: Prominent Rights Advocate to Lead Supreme Court Bar

Asma Jahangir’s Election an Advance for an Impartial Judiciary

(New York, October 28, 2010)—The election of a prominent human rights activist to the presidency of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan   is a victory for human rights in Pakistan and for the country’s transition to genuine civilian rule, Human Rights Watch said today. The election of Asma Jahangir on October 27, 2010, will make her the first woman to lead the country’s most influential forum for lawyers.

Jahangir is one of Pakistan’s most respected human rights activists,  credited with establishing the highly regarded independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and  AGHS Legal Aid, the first free legal aid center in Pakistan.  She was placed under house arrest by  General Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler, when he imposed emergency rule in 2007. She  played a prominent role in the ”lawyers movement” in Pakistan, which led to Musharraf’s ouster and to the restoration to office of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

“The election of Asma Jahangir to head the prestigious Supreme Court Bar Association will no doubt infuriate those who have opposed her decades-long principled advocacy for human rights and constitutional government,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The election honors not only Jahangir’s unflinching integrity, but also all of those in Pakistan who struggle daily to promote the rule of law.”

From 1998 to 2004, Jahangir served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. From 2004 until July 2010 she was the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.  She resigned as chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in July to run for the  Supreme Court Bar Association presidency.

Human Rights Watch said that it is especially important to have someone of Jahangir’s stature heading the country’s top bar association, especially because relations between the judiciary and some of its allies in the “lawyers movement” have deteriorated markedly in the past year.  Since Chaudhry’s restoration, lawyers who supported him have demanded, and often gained, an improper say in judicial decisions, appointments and transfers, Human Rights Watch said.

In October, lawyers tried to attack the chief justice of the Lahore High Court in his chambers. The following day, the chief justice allowed provincial police to enter the court, where they beat and arrested about 100 lawyers. The lawyers were charged under the country’s draconian Anti-Terrorism Act

During her campaign for the Supreme Court Bar Association, Jahangir emphasized the need to create professional distance between lawyers and the judges they helped restore to office in 2009. She emphasized that the rule of law required judiciary to be independent of government interference as well as non-partisan in dispensing justice.

Jahangir repeatedly received threats during her campaign for raising issues such as corruption in the legal arena. On October 24, a previously unknown group calling itself the Khatme-Nabuwat Lawyer’s Forum issued pamphlets declaring Jahangir an apostate and urging lawyers not to vote for her. Apostasy is a capital offense under Pakistani law.

“Although independent of the executive, Pakistan’s judiciary has been woefully inadequate in dispensing justice free of interference from pressure groups that helped restore judges to the bench,”  Hasan said. “The election of a person of Jahangir’s stature and integrity will help ensure that the judiciary meets high judicial standards and rejects interference from lawyers seeking to cash in real or perceived favors.”

Human Rights Watch urged Jahangir, who is well-known as a free speech advocate, to use her new office as the representative of Pakistan’s most influential lawyers to call upon the courts to stop muzzling media criticism of Pakistan’s judiciary.

Journalists have told Human Rights Watch that major television channels were informally advised by judicial authorities that they would be summoned to face contempt of court charges for criticizing or commenting unfavorably on judicial decisions or specific judges.  Publications including the English-language newspapers Dawn and the News were ordered to apologize publicly to the court, and Dawn faced contempt proceedings for publishing a story alleging misuse of office by the chief justice of the Sindh High Court.

“Judicial independence does not mean that judicial decisions, or even the judges themselves, should not be subject to public criticism,” Hasan said. ”The Supreme Court should send the message that no government institution is immune from public debate in a democratic society.”

For more information, please contact:

Ali Dayan Hasan in Lahore

Sophie Richardson in Washington DC

Elaine Pearson in New York


Filed under Activism, Judiciary, Justice, Lahore, Law, lawyers movement, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, movements, Pakistan, Rights

22 responses to “Asma Jahangir’s victory is a cause for celebration

  1. ali

    News/Jang group launched a shameful propaganda campaign against Asma. Haroon Rasheed (the famous pro army journalist who is currently in love with Imran) wrote in his column that Asma told a young journalist that he shouldnt take the name of Allah and Prophet in the print and elctronic media! Haroon Rasheed wrote in his column few months ago that Imran Khan gave him a personal diary of a British judge in which it was mentioned that Asma has been given the task of eliminating Islam from Pakistan! This Haroon guy is shameless. On the day of elections, News published two special reports which targetted Asma with baseless allegations.

  2. Watty

    The elevation of Ms. Asma Jahangir is a breath of fresh air. The hope is that this represents a fundamental shift towards a genuine democratic process.

    Some in Pakistani media have already suggested that her selection instead reflects the desire by the military dominated establishment to burnish Pakistan’s credentials as a “real democracy” for the benefit of good old Uncle Sam – to keep the $ pipeline flowing. The world is certainly aware that Pakistan is at best capable of a mere “faux democracy” as long as kohl eyed Kiyani is the Badshah and the ISI factory is in high gear!

    A little bit of Asma is better than no Asma at all!

  3. Vijay Goel

    Asmaji nearly as well known in India as Pakistan. Heartiest Congratulations !!

  4. YLH

    A great day for Pakistan… I am full of hope and optimism ever since her election.

    This is precisely the kind of balance that was needed to the lawyers-judiciary nexus.

  5. no-communal

    Congrats to Pakistan. I am a fan of Ms. Jahangir too.

  6. YLH

    “Apostasy is a capital offense under Pakistani law.”

    Apostasy is not a capital offense or any other kind of offense under Pakistani law.

  7. Chote Miyan

    Didn’t know Kayani used kohl.

  8. Talha

    Please do something about the Hudood (read Murdood after its version creator and implementer) ordinance.

  9. amar

    ylh writes:

    “Apostasy is not a capital offense or any other kind of offense under Pakistani law.”

    What is decisive is what happens in reality on the streets and in the crowds and through street gangs. And pakistani law has other means of making the life of an apostate or suspected apostate impossible. Pakistan has to be an islamic republic by habit and faith. hence…

  10. Rizwan Ahmed

    The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) elections on Wednesday saw Asma Jahangir win despite the fact that her opponents had started a maligning campaign against her.. Ms Jahangir is not just a leading light of the legal fraternity, she is one of the most vocal advocates of human rights, women’s rights, minority rights, democracy and justice.
    One of the reasons for those opposing Ms Jahangir in the legal fraternity is because of her criticism of the bar and bench for getting embroiled in politics. The judiciary’s newfound assertive activism has been a cause of concern and controversy lately, especially in the NRO and the 18th Amendment cases. The SCBA’s role during this time was also criticised since former president SCBA, Qazi Anwar, openly opposed the government and sided with the judiciary instead of remaining neutral, which is what is expected of any bar association. Some sections of the legal fraternity have tried to use the judiciary to destabilise the PPP government and some of the lawyers from the bars have been accused of trying to take advantage of their closeness to the restored judiciary. This may not be the judges’ fault, but the attitude of the bar was questionable. Qazi Anwar damaged the credibility of the SCBA by being partisan even though a bar is not supposed to be an appendage of the bench.

  11. Sardar Khan.

    Just wilful thinking.Nothing will change.Just a hallow victory.

  12. bilal

    Shame on those who lied in the name of


    They should apologize to the nation.

  13. Humanity

    Chote Miyan October 29, 2010 at 11:12 am

    “Didn’t know Kayani used kohl.”

    Now you stand enlightened 🙂 And thanks for making me laugh 🙂

  14. It is very nice that she was elected, as we were between the rock and the hard-place (the choice was between Placebo One, and Placebo Too) but I do think it should be probed whether her husband who ran away to Canada, en familie .. after owing huge amounts of loans to banks, re-paid those loans.

    Memories of our asstablishment are eimanabaaad-short, sounding in chicanery more than in chancery.

    THEREFORE, we will, hopefully, see and see what actually happens before deliriously playing music on our armpits.

    Kathmandu, Nepal

  15. It is very nice that she was elected, as we were between the rock and the hard-place (the choice was between Placebo One, and Placebo Too) but I do think it should be probed whether her husband who ran away to Canada, en familie .. after owing huge amounts of loans to banks, re-paid those loans.

    Memories of our asstablishment are eimaanabaaad-short, sounding in chicanery more than in chancery.

    THEREFORE, we will, hopefully, see and ponder what actually happens before deliriously playing music on our armpits.

    Kathmandu, Nepal

  16. YLH

    “Just wilful thinking.”


    “Nothing will change.”


    “Just a hallow victory”

    Hallow as in holy?

  17. Safder Munir Nawaz

    God may bestow upon you,baji Aasma courage health and spirit to fight all the forces desiring Pakistan to become a theocratic state.I am besides with joy to know your victory.
    Please accelerate your efforts for dispensation of Justice at gross root level.Yet there are Banks,Govt Institutions and inertia offering employees of certain organizations which want to suppress the have nots who have disguised their prejudices behind the ruthless interpretations of Laws and procedures in these institutions.
    I also pray God for providing us with boldness to offer collective resistance to discrimination intolerance and oppression.This is prolong war we have to fight for centuries.Irony of our Nation is the incorrect perception of knowledge and manoeuvrings of distortions,rumor-mongering and devising of conspiracy theories.

  18. Prasad

    Barrister Saab ..too good writing as usual.. 🙂 thoroughly enjoyed ( not wanting to get into the background of asma/canada connection!!)

  19. nasir

    a great day for Pakistan – this women has the potential to do a lot of good for pakistanis

  20. salam
    congrlts u elected as President bar council supreme court of Pakistan

    .mam pliz take an othere bold step to give rights to poor female

    teachers .eduction department Lahore is continuously condemning high

    court orders according to write petition No 18264/2010 dated

    07/10/2010 in which the owner able court said “all the transfers

    orders violate of the judgment passed by Apex Court and polices of

    the Provincial Goverment shell stand canceled”but unfortunately the

    EDO Lahore Secretary eduction still violate the court order and

    transferring and re leaving the teachers by force with the

    cooperation of the corrupt headmistress .pliz help females teachers

    i will provide evidence if u need . they dismiss a headmistress of

    who obey the orders of high court now she is in great trouble

    .kindly pay attention on this serious matter .
    a lot of thanks and prayers for u.
    zaina jawad

  21. More power to Ms. Jahangir!


    I endorse the succinct views expressed by the Syeddna MohamMED Jawaid Iqbal Geoffrey of Slarpore. I send Asma bon cordialements, and pray that she rises to the occasion; and grows in her significant new appointment.

    While sins of the father shall not visit the son (both the Bible and the Holy Quran, and indirectly Holy Bhagvadgita Ji, command/counsel that, quoting God Almighty) .. and, conseuently, by extension, a fortiori, the sins of the husband should not visit the wife … but since law is a noble calling; as soon as Asma Baji is settled in her new slot, she ought to frankly explain – – not as an obligation but just as an expression of responsibility – – if her butter-half (Mr Jehangir) has repaid the “industrial loans” he had artfully obtained and were )Ooper Aisa He Hoetah Haey, Na!) remaining unpaid at the time of his sudden departure and paradigm shift to Canada SharrReef; and whether she (Asma Jii), like her beloved husband, acquired Canadian citizenship. Nothing is wrong with acquisition of Canadian citizenship, as Pakistan allows multiple citizenships simultaneously and forex nest eggs.

    Most of our Leaders have acquired (purchased upfront, under the table), by fair or foul means, atleast dual citizenships so that they can save forex on applying for visas. No doubt patriotism of Jehangir Ji is unquestionable, nonetheless, the unpaid loans have to be repaid, there is no impunity or immunity in any democratic setup or Islamic polity.

    Goods governance is not good governance, says Iqbal Geoffrey, the Grater of Closet Evilmongering.

    May God bless Asma Ji and Geoffrey Ji. And those paranoid quacKKKs who catcalled in the past, made threats or made obscene phone-calls to me in the past, curb your self now onwards.