LAHORE – An iconic Pakistani human rights defender and journalist I.A. Rehman has died in the eastern city of Lahore after a brief illness, his family and friends said Monday. Rehman was 90. He spent his life defending human rights, opposing military dictators, fighting for the rule of law and democracy.
Rehman was also a strong voice for the country’s minorities, including Christians and Hindus.
He died of old age, high sugar, and blood pressure level, according to Harris Khalique, secretary-general at the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Rehman had been associated with the commission for a long time.
Rehman worked as an editor for various newspapers before joining the commission. He regularly contributed articles for Pakistani newspapers.
Rehman was born in 1930 in Haryana in neighboring India before Pakistan got independence from British colonial rule in 1947. He was the author of three books an advocate of peace between Pakistan and India, the two South Asian nuclear rivals who have fought three wars since 1947.
Rehman campaigned for amendments to the country's controversial blasphemy laws, which domestic and international rights groups say have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and to settle personal scores.
The reports of his death prompted an outpouring of grief on social media, with Cabinet ministers to the country's opposition paying tributes to Rehman for his contribution to journalism and human rights. Among the mourners was Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who tweeted that the country had lost “a true icon.”
A longtime friend, human rights defender Afrasiab Khattak, tweeted that Rehman's death marked “the end of an era.”
The U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Lahore also extended condolences to Rehman's family and friends, calling him “a journalist and defender of human rights.”
Rehman, the statement said, “will inspire countless future generations.”
Rehman was expected to be buried in the city of Lahore later Monday.