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Three cheers for Asma Jahangir

Mehmal SarfrazAsma Jahangir, former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President, noted lawyer and human rights activist, is being hounded by the Pakistani Urdu press these days.

The reason for another malicious campaign against Ms Jahangir is simply the fact that her name was included in the list of nominees for the next caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Just because the PML-N has included her name in a list does not mean she will actually become the caretaker PM but her detractors cannot even digest the fact that her name is being considered for this post.

Asma Jahangir
Asma Jahangir is regarded as a personal hero by many, which is why she has made a lot of enemies, especially in the military establishment

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has also rejected the appointment of Ms Jahangir as caretaker PM because of her objective views on the Supreme Court and her supposed attachment with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Mr Khan is ignoring the fact that the same Asma Jahangir has fought for the independence of judiciary all her life.

Just because she has been objective about the judiciary’s political role and some controversial decisions does not mean she is undermining the judiciary in any way. In fact, her well-meaning objections are based on the fact that these actions by the judiciary will undermine the dignity of the courts. But those who have blinkers on their eyes will always be afraid of those who have principles and will not be swayed by threats.

Yesterday, Ms Jahangir (@Asma_Jahangir) tweeted: “My freedom of speech, thought and independence is far more important to me than any office. Is that so frightening? … Progressive Pakistanis do not need offices to fight narrow-mindedness. We learnt the hard way. Respond to vulgarity with reason and facts.”

Ms Jahangir is right. She really does not need any office because even without one her stature is so high that her voice is heard all over the world. Asma Jahangir is an icon and regarded as a personal hero by many, which is why she has made a lot of enemies as well, especially amongst the military establishment, rightwing fundamentalists and some in the judiciary.

It is because of her bold stance over the years that she has ruffled so many feathers. Propaganda campaigns against Ms Jahangir are not new. Despite her enemies maligning her name on many an occasion, she has never backed down. She will always be lauded for being a person of integrity and one of the bravest souls in Pakistan, if not the bravest.

Now that a democratically elected government in Pakistan is about to complete its tenure for the first time in our history and the next elections are only a few months away, there are many forces out to undermine the democratic system. We saw it during Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s ‘Long March’ and in his anti-democratic demands. Other powerful actors are behind these moves. If there is one person who will be able to resist these moves during a caretaker setup, it is Asma Jahangir. There is certainly no doubt about it because she has never supported any military dictator and has always fought for democracy.

For the women of Pakistan, the inclusion of Asma Jahangir’s name in the caretaker PM nomination list is a landmark in itself. It would be the best thing to happen to Pakistan if Ms Jahangir becomes the caretaker PM and would be a great tribute to the long struggle she has waged for women’s rights, human rights, democratic rights, civilian supremacy, etc. Three cheers for Asma Jahangir, a woman who makes us all proud to be Pakistanis.

The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at mehmal.s@gmail.com

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