I.A. Rehman, Pakistani journalist and human rights activist, dies at 90
By Staff Reports and News Services,
I.A. Rehman, a Pakistani journalist and human rights activist who spent decades opposing military dictators and fighting for the rule of law and democracy, died April 12 in the eastern city of Lahore. He was 90.
Mr. Rehman was the honorary spokesman and former secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which confirmed the death. His family told the English-language newspaper Dawn, where he was a columnist, that he had high blood pressure and was diabetic.
Mr. Rehman was a strong voice for Pakistan’s religious minorities, including Christians and Hindus. He frequently spoke out against the country’s strict blasphemy law, which carries a potential death sentence, saying that it was often used to settle scores or target minorities and political opponents.
“Blasphemy has become a political battle,” he told the New York Times in 2014. “It’s no longer just a criminal or religious problem — it’s become a political issue that is used to silence voices and create a climate of fear.”
Earlier that year, his nephew Rashid Rehman, a lawyer and fellow rights activist, faced death threats for defending a university instructor accused of blasphemy. Weeks later, he was shot dead in the city of Multan by gunmen who forced their way into his office.
“He did not fail anyone, everybody who mattered failed him,” Mr. Rehman wrote in Dawn. “What matters more now is the sight of a society that seems to have lost all sense of shame or responsibility.”
Ibn Abdur Rehman was born in the northern Indian state of Haryana on Sept. 1, 1930. He was 17 when British India was partitioned into two independent states, India and Pakistan. Years later, he championed peace between the two countries, nuclear rivals that have fought multiple wars since their 1947 founding.
Mr. Rehman wrote and edited for newspapers including the Pakistan Times before joining the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which he led as director beginning in 1990. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he campaigned against anti-terrorism programs in Pakistan that he said were intended to crack down on government critics.
Reports of his death prompted an outpouring of grief on social media, with cabinet ministers and opposition leaders alike praising his journalism and human rights efforts. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tweeted that the country had lost “a true icon” who had championed “tolerance, inclusion, equality and dignity.”
Mr. Rehman’s wife, Tauseef Rehman, died in 2015. Survivors include three sons and two daughters.
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