Wednesday, 14th February , 2018, 10:27 pm,BDST
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Profile of a true friend of Bangladesh



||Azizul Islam Bhuyian ||

Asma Jahangir

It was September 1995. This was the year of the fiftieth year of the founding anniversary of the United Nations. On this auspicious moment a grand congregation of world women leaders was held in Beijing in connection with holding fourth convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), better known as   International bill of rights for women. A grand galaxy of luminous  women leaders including heads of states, heads of government, human right activists and social leaders thronged in Beijing to attend this World Conference on Women.

As the prime objective of this conference was to ensure full implementation of the human rights of women and of the girl child    as an inalienable , integral and indivisible part of all human rights   and fundamental freedoms, the issue of violation of rose-like chastity of 200,000 women of Bangladesh by the notorious Pakistani occupation forces during 1971 great War of Liberation came prominently at the central  of discussion at the conference. Taking floor, Pakistani human rights lawyers and social activist Asma (Jilani) Jahangir made a strong plea to Pakistan to seek unconditional apology to Bangladesh for resorting to genocide, mass killing, arson, rape and all other forms of  war crimes and violation of fundamental human rights. Asma , particularly called upon Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto , who was representing Pakistani delegation in the conference , to seek apology for rapes and genocide committed by Pakistani troops in the sacred soil of Bangladesh, the then East Pakistan.

The world leaders pressed on Benazir Bhutto to comply with the proposal and request of Asma Jahangir as they said “it is the right forum of the women to seek apology for humiliating the women of Bangladesh by the perpetrators of human rights and war criminals”.  Ironically though, to the best surprise and languishment of attending icons of world women leadership, with a note of exclamation Benzir said “ This is for the first time I have come across such a news that Pakistani soldiers raped East Pakistani women”. It was nothing but a blatant lie of Benazir and the audience at the conference venue cursed and condemned Pakistani prime minister for resorting such travesty of truth.

Bhutto’s  audacious remark evoked worldwide condemnation.  In Bangladesh, the women rights activists brought out a procession carrying effigy of Benazir Bhutto protesting her remarks distorting the history of 1971 War of Liberation. The women activists were supposed to bun the effigy of Benazir in front of the National Press Club. But what an irony of fact for the nation, the police force of the then Jamaat-BNP led united government attacked on the women rally and dispersed the marchers by resorting to lathy-charge. The police on action also snatched away the effigy of Benazir Bhutto from the possession of the processions.

However, let’s again turn to  Asma Jahangir who safely can be called an icon of human rights movement. Time and again, in various forums and platforms as well as in her various writings, Asma was vocal in favour of Bangladesh and its people while being a citizen of Pakistan she always condemned the war-mongering attitude of Islamabad government and its heinous role in 1971 war of liberation.  As a trustee at the International Crisis Group, she was vocal for protecting the rights of Bangladesh in various international arenas.

A distinguished lady, Asma co-founded the Human Rights Commission  of Pakistan and became its Secretary General and later its chairperson. In 1980s , she became a democracy activist and was imprisoned for participating in the movement for restoration of democracy against the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq. She was again out under house arrest in 2007 after imposition of state emergency.  She was the first women president of Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association. A distinguished personality Asma also served as the United Nations  Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion . She was a member of the fact finding mission on Israeli settlements.

Asma  Jahangir bagged many covetous awards including the 2014 Right Livelihood Award,  2010 Freedom Awaed, Hilal-i- award Sitara –i-Imtiaz, Ramon Magsaysay  Award, 1995 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders and the UNCESCO/Bilbao Prize for promotion of Culture of Human Rights.

Asma was born into a prosperous and politically active family with a history of activism and human rights work. Her father Malik Ghulam Jilani was a bureaucrat –turn-politician. He spent long period in jail for opposing Pakistani Military rule. He also went to jail for denouncing the Pakistani government for genocide during their military actions in formerly East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Asma became involved at a young age in protest against the military regime as well as opposing her father’s detention by the then President, Benazir’s father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Asma’s father was a great exponent of Bangladesh when its people were fighting for self-determination and for braking out the shackles of Pakistani subjugation. It was a great pleasure for the nation that when coming to power Sheikh Hasina’s government had started relieving its debt to history by honoring those great personalities who stood besides Bangladesh during its 1971 critical days of the nation. In this process, the dynamic daughter of the Father of the Nation , Sheikh Hasina honoured Asma’s father by giving him “Friend of Liberation War” Award .  Asma Jahangir came to Dhaka to receive this prestigious award on behalf of his illustrious father. Asma also visited Bangladesh on some other occasions and was always vocal in favor of Bangladesh’s interest.  We deeply mourn the premature demise of Asma Jahangir and convey our heartfelt sympathy to the members of her bereaved family.   We also pray for salvation of her departed soul.

Writer: Editor of Bangladesh News, Bangladesh’s khabor & Advisory Editor of Lastnewsbd.com)
Email: aibdhaka@yahoo.com

 

 

 

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