Pakistan's 'fearless' rights champion dies at 66

In 1987, she went one better, establishing the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent body that still fights for justice in Pakistan.

She was highly respected and decorated activist in Pakistan.

CM's Adviser on Social Welfare Shamim Mumtaz said that with Benazir Bhutto as prime minister, women had always been the top priority and different programmes had been introduced under her leadership.

"She embodied courageous support for journalists' fight for freedom, and will endure as a powerful symbol of freedom".

Asma Jahangir died of cardiac arrest in Lahore on Sunday at the age of 66. Large numbers of her friends, family members, politicians, and followers reached the stadium for prayers.

The US State Department issued a press release on Tuesday condoling the death of Jahangir. In addition to speaking out for democracy and against military rule, Asma Jahangir was an unwavering defender of minority and women's rights, criticising the horrific legal and societal persecution that religious and national minorities in Pakistan face, as well as the unjust situation of many women across the country.

People pray during the funeral of prominent Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir | AP
People pray during the funeral of prominent Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir | AP

Jahangir secured a number of victories during her life, from winning freedom for bonded laborers from their "owners" through pioneering litigation, to a landmark court case that allowed women to marry of their own volition. Jahangir tried hard to rid Pakistan's judicial system of corruption and manipulation and rose to become the first woman President of the Supreme Court's bar association.

Jahangir co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and was president of the Supreme Court's Bar Association.

There is still bad violence against women, discrimination against minorities and near-slavery for bonded laborers, Ms. Jahangir told AFP during an interview in 2014, but human rights have made greater strides in Pakistan than may be apparent. Both the Asian and global ecumenical movement worked with Asma Jahangir on the global advocacy against the misuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan.

The death of the pro-democracy activist and women rights defender, who was also a cancer patient, was seen as a major blow to the country's embattled rights community. The programme took place at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi. Yet nothing stopped her from speaking out against injustice, whether it was at protest marches on the streets, interviews on television, or speeches at universities overseas.

Her attempt in 2005 to hold a mixed gender marathon in Lahore to highlight violence against women resulted in attacks by conservative Islamist groups in which the police were complicit, later confessing that they had been ordered to beat the participants and tear off their clothes. Two years ago, Asma was on the stage in Lahore with Romila Thapar during the Lahore Literary Festival discussing the upsurge of religion and the resultant injustice in South Asia.

Vanessa Coleman