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UN Chief Pays Tribute To Pakistan's 'Human Rights Giant'

Asma Jahangir (file photo)
Asma Jahangir (file photo)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has paid tribute to Pakistani right activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir following her death by cardiac arrest, praising her courage in campaigns for justice and equality for all.

"We have lost a human rights giant," Guterres said in a statement after Jahangir's death was announced on February 11.

He described the pro-democracy activist as “a tireless advocate for inalienable rights of all people and for equality -- whether in her capacity as a Pakistani lawyer in the domestic justice system, as a global civil society activist, or as a [UN] special rapporteur."

Jahangir's daughter Muneeze said that her mother died in a hospital in the eastern city of Lahore where she had been rushed after suffering a heart attack.

Jahangir co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and was president of the Supreme Court's Bar Association. She also served as a UN special rapporteur on human rights.

On February 12, the front pages of newspapers in Pakistan were dominated by tributes to the human rights activist.

In an editorial headlined "Asma The Fearless," the Dawn newspaper said Jahangir was “a citizen that all of Pakistan could be proud of and whom most can only hope to emulate.”

In a statement, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi praised Jahangir’s contributions toward upholding the rule of law, democracy, and safeguarding human rights.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai described her as a "savior of democracy and human rights."

A fierce defender of democracy, Jahangir was a critic of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment and Islamic extremists.

In recent years, she was outspoken over the misuse of blasphemy laws that carry the death sentence.

She was imprisoned in 1983 for her pro-democracy activities during General Zia ul-Haq's military rule and put under house arrest in 2007 for opposing President Pervez Musharraf's removal of the Supreme Court's chief justice.

The activist and lawyer received several awards, including the French Legion of Honor and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

Funeral prayers will be held in Lahore, according to an obituary published by her family in local newspapers.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and the BBC