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Pakistan human rights icon I.A. Rehman dead


He was an advocate of Indo-Pak. peace

Pakistani Human rights crusader and former journalist Ibn Abdur Rehman, who won the Ramon Magsaysay award for his work on fostering India-Pakistan relations, passed away in Lahore on Monday aged 90. I.A. Rehman, as he was called, had several run-ins with the Pakistani establishment as he took a bold stand against atrocities by Pakistani forces in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) in 1971, marital law under General Zia ul Haq and later the emergency imposed by General Pervez Musharraf, and fought for several causes, including minority rights and excesses by security forces.

Announcing his death, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan(HRCP), where he served as Director from 1990-2008, and Secretary General from 2008-2016 called him a “titan of human rights” adding that “his integrity, conscience and compassion were unparalleled.” During that time he often raised the issue of freeing Indian fishermen and prisoners with the Pakistani government and fought for a more humane treatment of the issue on both sides as a founder of the Pakistan India People Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD). “He was always available, and was always ready to help any Indian in need of assistance in Pakistan, and unafraid to be vocal about their problems,” Jatin Desai, who works on similar issues for Pakistani civilian prisoners in India, told The Hindu.

One of the cases Mr. Rehman took up strongly was that of Hamid Ansari, a 33-year old software engineer who travelled to Pakistan in 2012 to try and meet a girl he had met online, and then was arrested on allegations of being an Indian spy. Mr. Ansari was released in 2018, in large part due to the efforts of human rights activists, including Mr. Rehman, and a young journalist Zeenat Shahzadi, who was mysteriously abducted and found two years later and then detained, reportedly because of her decision to take up Mr. Ansari’s case.

Indian reunited

In a mercy plea to Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain in November 2017, Mr. Rehman wrote that it would be to Pakistan’s credit if it listened to humanitarian calls and “the chances of relief for Pakistani citizens in Indian prisons might improve if [the President] could remit the remaining period of Hamid’s prison term.” A year later, Mr. Ansari was released by Pakistani authorities and returned to his family in Mumbai, where he lives now.

“It is said that once a person leaves this world, everything stays back and only deeds go along. Rehman Saab was one of the chosen one’s who brought happiness in the dark lives of many broken houses,” Mr. Ansari commented on Monday.

Mr. Rehman was born in Haryana, and studied at Aligarh Muslim University before moving with his family to Pakistan in the wake of violence during Partition. He considered himself a protégé of the famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and then took to journalism, writing for an Urdu paper, and later becoming the Chief Editor of Pakistan Times in 1989. He often visited India to pursue India-Pakistan dialogue during period of tensions between the two countries, and was awarded the Ramon Magasaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 2004, along with Indian Admiral L. Ramdas.

A prolific writer, Mr. Rehman remained a columnist for the Dawn newspaper till the very end of his life, writing regularly human rights in Pakistan, including allegations of human rights violations in Balochistan and violence against the minority Hazara community. He was particularly vocal on blasphemy law judgements, despite the dangers commonly facing those who raised their voice against religious extremism in the country. In his mercy plea to the Pakistani president, Mr. Rehman explained that it was necessary to highlight injustices even if they had become commonplace. “Aap kahenge yeh tau roz hota rehta hai. But jo roz hota hai woh kisi na kisi din band karna hoga, (You may say but this happens every day, but what happens every day must be stopped one day), Mr. Rehman wrote.



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