04/13/2021, 15.53
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I. A. Rehman, human rights defender, scholar and writer, passes away

by Shafique Khokhar

Samson Salamat, president of the Rwadari Tehreek movement, calls the late rights advocate “a mentor, a guide and a father to countless human rights defenders in Pakistan and around the world.”

Lahore (AsiaNews) –  Ibn Abdur Rehman, a former secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, died yesterday at the age of 90. A writer and journalist, he was born on 1 September 1930 in Haryana, British India.

He worked with several newspapers and published hundreds of articles locally and internationally, and was known for three books: Jinnah as a Parliamentarian (which he co-edited), Arts and Crafts of Pakistan, and Pakistan under Siege, a collection of his editorials.

Activists, writers and marginalised people across the country mourn his passing and are praying that his soul may rest in eternal peace.

Samson Salamat, president of the Rwadari Tehreek movement, spoke to AsiaNews, about I. A. Rehman. “On behalf of all the members of Rwadari Tehreek Pakistan, I would like to express my condolences to the entire human rights fraternity because we lost our guardian in the fight for human rights.”

In his statement, Salamat extended his condolences to Rehman’s family. Paying tribute to the deceased, Rwadari Tehreek's president lamented the loss of “our guardian whose words and actions for the advancement of human rights and civil liberties have always been a source of inspiration and courage.

“I. A. Rehman was a mentor, a guide and a father to countless human rights defenders in Pakistan and around the world. There is no doubt that he will always live in the hearts of marginalised people and communities who lost the greatest defender of their rights.”

Ifran Mufti, deputy director of the South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-Pak), shared the grief. “Today we lost I. A. Rehman, a person of great deeds, intellect and a tireless missionary for human rights and democratic development. During his life he had a great impact through his fearless, principled journalism and then as a great defender of human rights.

“In interacting with him for more than 30 years I found him a person of great values, an uncompromising missionary for human dignity, passionate about peace and non-violence, and a supporter of regional cooperation in South Asia. He was a conscience for our generation, a mentor to all of us in the fight for democracy and peace.

“With his pen as a journalist, his words as a writer, and his actions as a defender of human rights, he fought many battles against tyranny, dictatorships, oppression, violence, and human suffering. Today is the end of an era in the struggle for human rights and democracy. Rest in eternal peace Rehman Sahib, you have earned it through your words and deeds.”

Echoing the same sentiments, Xari Jalil, a well-known journalist, noted: “Words fail me today as we mourn the passing of Rehman Sahib. Anything I say would be a cliché”. His death has “left people voiceless, [. . .] without a guardian, a protector: he stood for so much.

“Was any person who met Rehman Sahib not impressed by his strength and energy?” she asks. “At a fragile age where one seeks retirement, Rehman Sahib was seen tirelessly advocating human rights principles, always ready to endorse and patronise those he felt were doing genuine work.”

“Is there anyone who was not touched by his compassion and empathy, his kindness? Did anyone miss out on the valour he exuded every time he spoke? He was unafraid. When he spoke against the powers that be, he would say it out loud, cut and dry.

“We often took his presence for granted. He was always there, everywhere, with people fluttering around him whenever he was around. ‘Let's ask Rehman Sahib.’ Have a keynote speaker to find? ‘How about Rehman Sahib.’ Need to find a senior person to lead a campaign? ‘No one better than Rehman Sahib.’”

As a final note, Xari Jalil acknowledges that “Rehman Sahib is gone now, as all men and women must go. There can never be another Rehman Sahib in ages to come, just like there will never be another Asma Jahangir, or Abdul Sattar Edhi. That is the distressing thought. He and his work will never be forgotten and no matter how well we disguise it, the blow has been hard, and its mark deep. Let’s hope his life's work brings forth others like him. My deepest condolences to his family.”

Dil Nawaz, a researcher in Interfaith Dialogue and Theology at Liverpool Hope University in the United Kingdom, also spoke to AsiaNews about the late Rehman. In his view, the latter was “a father figure in Pakistan's struggles for freedom and human rights.

“Over the years I, personally, and many other youth have learned a lot from him. My parents were with him at the inception of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 1987.

“His wisdom, knowledge and courage will be missed. He sacrificed his own nephew, Advocate Rashid Rehman who was martyred in the fight against blasphemy laws. His contributions will be remembered when someone writes the history of Pakistan impartially.”

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