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A human life for human rights: Rashid Rehman, my hero.

Activist and lawyer Rashid Rehman Photo courtesy of HRCP

"If you cannot give them (women) equality, how can you give them justice? Even if justice is dispensed, it is as a favour, as charity. Justice dispensed as a favour is more cruel.” Rashid Rehman-Human rights activsit and lawyer

The first Pakistani man I met who referred to women as human beings and not as property was Rashid Rehman. He condemned the way men treated women, he mockingly mentioned it was for them to feel better about their insecurities. He was my trainer during my very first trainings on human rights in Multan, Pakistan. As a young activist, I was in awe. How could a man belonging to a patriarchal society, live in such a society and not let himself be influenced by society’s norms and behaviours? I quickly found out that Rashid Rehman was a champion of women rights in Southern Punjab. He became a source of inspiration, a trusted friend, mentor and an excellent legal advisor.

I remember we would call him up at all times or just walk into his office and ask for advice on cases or issues we would be working on. Rashid Rehman never turned anyone away. We would refer countless cases related to women violence and he was always ready to help.

It took five bullets to silence him. He was shot dead in his office by two gunmen on May 7th, 2014. The very office I frequented during my youth activism in Multan. Rashid Rehman had decided to take up the case of a university lecturer accused of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan. No lawyer wanted to take up this case because of threats from the extremist groups. Rashid Rehman took the case and paid for it with his life. He was the bravest soul of Multan, Pakistan, the torch bearer and face of human rights in the region.

As life goes back to normal after this tragedy for human rights scene of Pakistan, many of us silently wonder; who will fill the massive void Rashid Rehman has left behind. There is none like him. His murderers should be brought to justice without question but it breaks my heart to write this; anyone who speaks against the blasphemy laws, be it journalists, activists, lawyers or politicians, are silenced forever. So will exceptional people like Rashid Rehman, who dedicated their whole lives defending the rights of others, ever get justice?

He is no more. He will remain to be an inspiration and source of courage to many.

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