NOVEMBER 2001
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NOVEMBER 2001 Contents

Women's Issues

Muslim Women challenge
Islamic Fundamentalism

- Dr. Sima Samar

- Asma Jahangir & Hina Jilani

- Sultana Kamal


Omar Abdullah


Overlooked & Ignored
- Kashmiri Hindus


Pakistan Squash - The Khan Supremacy

- The Hashim Saga

-Azam, Roshan, Mohibullah

-Lahore 1960 - 80

-Gogi Alauddin

-Qamar Zaman & Hiddy Jahan

-Jahangir Khan

-Jansher Khan


Security & Trust in Internet Banking

-South Asian E-Banking

-Telecoms & Banking

-Security Issues in Banking

-PKI - Digital Credentials

-Internet Banking & E-Govt in south Asia


Perceptions of a  Lahorite

Editor's Note



the craft shop

the print gallery


Silk Road on Wheels

The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in Bangladesh


Page  3  of  4


Muslim Women challenging Islamic Fundamentalism


Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani

People-_asma_jahangir.jpg (10372 bytes) People-_hina_jalani.jpg (10887 bytes)
L-R: Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani

Internationally known and respected advocates of women’s rights, and human rights, sisters Asma and Hina, from Pakistan, won this year’s Millennium Peace Prize for Women, an award to recognize women's contributions to preventing war and building peace.

Twenty years ago they set up the country’s first all-women’s law firm, fifteen years ago they set set up AGHS Legal Aid, Pakistan’s first free legal aid centre, and were the founding members of Women’s Action Forum (WAF) – a women’s pressure group for women’s rights in Pakistan. Most recently, they have been the founding members of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Both Asma and Hina are Advocates of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the highest court of the country.

Achieving the above has not come easy – they have both paid a heavy price to fight for what they believe in. Defending and representing victims of domestic, fundamentalist violence, and victims of human rights violations in a society that still carries feudalistic traditions, has not been easy. "As a result of their campaigns for peace and human rights, Asma and Hina have been arrested, received death threats, and faced hostile propaganda, intimidation, public abuse and murder attempts on themselves and their family." The Fundamentalists have accused them of ‘misguiding women’ and declared them ‘kafirs’ or non-believers.

"An outspoken defender of justice since she was a student, Asma Jahangir was imprisoned for opposing Martial Law in 1983 and was a leading campaigner against anti-women laws in the early 1980s. She was one of the first in Pakistan to publicize and defend violations of human rights against women, bonded labour, child labour and religious minorities. Her defence of the rights of brick kiln workers, who are mostly bonded labourers in Pakistan, was successful in getting legislation passed in parliament in favour of bonded workers."

Asma’s relentless work attains even more relevance when one takes into consideration the low literacy rates within the country, where most people are unaware of their rights and at times do not even comprehend the implications of what they have been charged with. This is where Asma and Hina have brought relief to many unsuspecting victims. Asma is also a leading voice in a people-to-people effort aimed at reducing tension between India and Pakistan and believes that peace in South Asia is possible if Pakistan returns to democracy.

Addressing the Asia Society in New York last year, Asma commented on the staus of women in Pakistan - "A lot of women in Pakistan have become so inferior that unless you make structural changes, and critical changes, the plight of women in Pakistan is not going to improve." Commenting on the ‘Honour Killings’, she added, "So far, there has not been a single case of honor killing where a person has been convicted by the court." Despite the fact that it is common knowledge, in the case of Samia’s murder, who committed the murder, no one has been tried or punished.

Asma Jahangir - Her beliefs & views

"I am of the view that there is no such thing as a country having a religion. …we have to be a State that believes in secular values. We have somehow distorted the meaning of secularism. Secularism does not mean that people have to give up their religion. It just means that people have to be tolerant of other peoples' religions."

"..The people of Pakistan do not want the grandeur of nuclearisation. What the people of Pakistan want is economic prosperity, where their children can study, where they can get health services. When you ask the people why they're miserable, they don't say," We're miserable because we don't have a nuclear bomb. They are miserable because they do not have the next day's meal. They have no security."

"Perhaps terrorism is just simply use of arms without politicization of religion. Jihad only simply adds politicization of religion, making it even more lethal."

"There has been no initiative by Indian or Pakistani government officials, to lessen these tensions. The only initiative has been taken by the people themselves. That has been people-to-people dialogues, and there have been people-to-people missions. At the last mission that we took, there were 64 women that went to India. It was written in the Urdu newspapers that 64 prostitutes went to India. It was written that there should be a case of treason against me, because I gave sweetmeat to an Indian soldier…It was said that I and some of my colleagues met Mr. Khushwant Singh, who is a sex-starved person, and we, as Muslim women, had no business to meet him because all Mr. Khushwant Singh can think about is taking women to bed, whether they are Ghazalas or whatevers or Hinas or Asmas."

"I like my religion. I don't want people to be intolerant towards my religion. Therefore, I would not want that a Christian Pakistani should suffer because people are intolerant about his or her religion. Or a Hindu Pakistani, or an Ahmadi Pakistani, for example." 

The above quotes have been excerpted from Asma Jahangir's address to the Asia Society in New York in 2000.



"Asma has held a number of positions at an international level including with the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Canada and LAWASIA in Australia. She is a board member of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva. In 1998 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights appointed Asma as a Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. She has visited Kosovo, East Timor, Mexico and Nepal in this capacity and has produced a number of reports."

Hina Jilani is the Secretary General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and runs AGHS, the free legal aid centre, which also provides shelter to women fleeing domestic or any other violence. She has defended the rights of women and children, and promoted religious tolerance, and spoken against 'honour killings'.






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