Asma Jahangir, the human rights activist and lawyer, passed away on 11th February 2018 due to cardiac arrest. She was in touch with the times and with younger people’s concerns. Some of the causes she espoused during her life were women’s rights, minority rights, freedom of speech, and democracy. She was amongst the few lawyers who took up missing person cases and spoke out against enforced disappearances.
As the co-founder and former chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), she deserves a lot of praise for all the things she has achieved in her lifetime. Known as a fearless soul who never gave up on a cause, she also faced a lot of slander while alive. One of the strangest things I heard while growing up was that Asma and her sister were heading a prostitution ring and that’s why they offered shelter to displaced women (Hilarious, I know). Anything to discredit fighting for women’s rights- because that’s what influences decision making in our country. If you want to make people distrust someone, make them seem like someone your parents wouldn’t want you to hang out with.
From being somewhat annoying to most people, she is now being embraced as an icon, a hero, and an inspiration by most people. Criticized earlier for having a blunt personality, she is now being hailed as fearless.
So let’s take a look at something she would want us to focus on.
I clicked on the HRCP press release tab and saw the latest press release about the Junaid Hafeez blasphemy case. My first reaction was, “—-! This is still happening?!”
Controversial news gets old fast. It gets boring. Protestors lose interest. Progressive liberals find other causes. It’s up to all of us to follow up, make sure we bring attention to old cases that have faded away because they’re not as exciting as recent news.
Who is Junaid Hafeez and what happened to him?
Born underprivileged, Hafeez educated himself and won the Fullbright Scholarship. He went on to study Photography and Literature in the United States, returning to Bahauddin Zakaria University in Multan to complete his degree.
He became a professor of literature at the university. Eventually, he was accused by some students (allegedly belonging to Jamat-e-Islami) of having blasphemed. The students arranged protests, got him fired, and then imprisoned under blasphemy charges. A Facebook account with ‘blasphemous material’ surfaced, but a link to Hafeez was never proven. Hafeez’s first lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was murdered after continuous death threats. In late January 2018, Hafeez’s case was transferred to yet another judge (the sixth one, I think), further delaying his trial. Imprisoned since 2013 for vague charges that can’t be proven, he could stay in prison for 5-10 more years if trial keeps being delayed.
Our question should be: Why is our court system so strange where civil liberties are concerned? Why is it so easy to delay fair trial? Why is Hafeez’s trial being delayed, in fact?
If Hafeez was born privileged and had better ‘connections’, would he be in this situation at all? Hafeez has been in jail for six years over unproven charges and could stay there for many years. That too, in a country where child molesters, rapists, and murderers often get off easily.
About the Author:
Talia is a writer and a blogger. She has a passion for social justice and believes that it can overlap with fun. She studied Creative Writing at City University London and currently writes for Propergaanda as well as her blog In My Shoes Pakistan.