Pakistan: Victory of Ms. Asma Jahangir as the President of the Supreme Court of Pakistan
The Asian Human Rights Commission extends its congratulation to Ms. Asma Jahangir and her colleagues for their victory of different offices at the Supreme Court Bar Association elections. Her victory as the president of the highest bar association of Pakistan will strengthen the lawyer's movement for an independent bar, the supremacy of the judiciary and the rule of law. Her success is a victory for the democratic forces, lovers of freedom of expression and the independence of the media.
From 1998 to 2004, Ms. Jahangir served as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. From 2004 until July 2010, she was the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. She resigned as chairperson of the human rights commission of Pakistan in July of this year in order to run for the SCBA presidency.
The AHRC sincerely hopes that she would continue to contribute to the improvement of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Pakistan. Under her leadership the Bar can continue the work of her predecessors to ensure the independence of the Bar so that the interest of justice can be served.
We hope that Ms Jahangir will take decisive steps to create a legal aid system that will ensure access to justice for all, particularly the poor and the under privileged.
The survival of the rule of law and the independence of judiciary requires overcoming such problems as the undue delays in adjudication and the inefficiencies in the administration of justice inherited from the past. If this is to happen there needs to be the proper allocation of budget for the administration of justice by the government. When adequate funds are not available for the proper functioning of all sections of the justice mechanism people are deprived of justice. The defects of the justice mechanism gives rise to the many abuses which end in problems such as forced disappearances and other gross abuses of human rights.
Today leadership is required from the bar as well as from the judiciary to deal with these problems so as to ensure the benefits of a modernised system of justice for the people of Pakistan.
We trust that Ms. Jahangir will give expression to the aspirations and inspire the bar as well as the judiciary to pursue this objective.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
International Crisis Group Media Release
Crisis Group Congratulates Asma Jahangir as President of Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan
Brussels, 2 November 2010: The International Crisis Group congratulates its board member, Asma Jahangir, on her election as president of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association. Ms. Jahangir, a leading Pakistani lawyer and human rights activist, is the first woman to serve as head of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan’s most influential forum for lawyers.
“This is a very important step in the reinforcement of constitutionalism and the rule of law in Pakistan,” said Louise Arbour, president of the International Crisis Group.
Ms. Jahangir has previously served as an advocate to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and co-chair of South Asians for Human Rights, among many other prominent positions. In 1998, she was appointed the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions and later served as the United Nations Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. She has been on the Board of the International Crisis Group since 2002.
As an attorney, Ms. Jahangir has fought for the rights of labourers, imprisoned minorities, women and children. In the 1990s, she was influential in passing legislation to improve the condition of bonded workers. She is a staunch critic of the country's Hudood Ordinance and blasphemy laws that were put in place under General Zia-ul-Haq. For her advocacy, Ms. Jahangir has endured house arrest and imprisonment. Most recently, she was confined to her home after Pakistan’s 2007 imposition of emergency rule. She and her family have faced numerous death threats from militant groups.
Ms. Jahangir is recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Sitara-I-Imtiaz in 1995, the American Bar Association International Human Rights Award in 1992 and the Martin Ennals Award and the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1995.
“Asma Jahangir’s election to the Supreme Court Bar Association could be a game changer in the relationship within Pakistan’s judicial-lawyers' community,” said Samina Ahmed, South Asia Project Director for the International Crisis Group. “It is a positive step forward for the democratic transition.”