Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jilani Jahangir was awarded the Litvack Award for Aboriginal Human Rights Tuesday evening at Chancellor Day Hall for her “distinguished contribution to the defence of the rule of law and the protection of the individual against arbitrary power.” Janangir’s work has focused primarily on women’s rights, making her work a difficult feat in a country which seldom investigates crimes against women, according to Samantha Lamb, a lawyer who spoke about her experience interning with Jahangir.
Jahangir has also served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedoms and founded the first law firm established by women in Pakistan.
She could not be present for the ceremony because of extenuating circumstances, but briefly addressed an audience of at least 70 through a pre-recorded video.
“Pakistan is usually associated with violence, Islamic militance, and military rule. On the one hand [we have] lawyers from civil society calling for the rule of law. [But] as we sit here, we have Islamic militants imposing their own interpretation of Sharia. The government just watches,” Jahangir said, describing contemporary Pakistan.
During an emotional discussion of internship with Jahangir, Lamb explained that her name is ubiquitous for Pakistani women, referencing women who risk their lives to come to Lahore seeking Jahangir. Both Jahangir and her clients have been threatened, though Jahangir has been luckier.
“It’s a testament to the rule of law [in Pakistan] that we’ve had clients killed on courthouse steps, and we know nothing’s going to happen,” Lamb said.