6-11-2012By Rasika Teredesai
Human Rights Defenders
Asma Jahangir, a preeminent human rights activist in Pakistan, revealed last week that she is the target of an assassination plot. In a television interview, Jahangir disclosed that she had been informed by a “responsible and highly credible source” that the state intelligence agency, or “ISI” (Inter Services Intelligence), had planned and ordered her assassination. This recent threat comes after Jahangir criticized the military’s actions and security establishment numerous times.
Jahangir has been a pivotal supporter of human rights, especially the rights of women, children, and religious minorities. A lawyer by training, she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and has worked to reform discriminatory legislation targeting women, such as the Hudood Ordinance, and end persecution of Muslims and religious minorities through the abuse of blasphemy laws. She is currently president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and co-founded Pakistan’s first legal aid center. She has served as UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.
Human Rights First worked closely with her when she was the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and has worked with her on other issues since. She received our Human Rights Award in 1999.
A coalition of civil society members signed a statement highlighting the seriousness of this threat. Though Jahangir has been the object of death threats before, this one is particularly alarming in light of the increasing number of targeted killings of activists and dissenting politicians in Pakistan, as well as the allegation that state actors are behind the threat.
United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has also denounced this threat, stating that these targeted killings are part of state and non-state actors’ attempts to undermine democratic reform. She stressed the need for increased security for Jahangir as well as lesser-known activists facing death threats.
Human Rights First echoes this statement: Pakistan should provide full protection for Asma Jahangir and other activists.