Obituary: I. A. Rehman, a light in the darkness

Last Tuesday Pakistan lost its “Father of Human Rights” Akhtar Rehman is famously known as I. A Rehman. His work encompasses women’s rights, Labour rights, Rights of the disappeared and for every oppressed voiceless of this country. That’s just the Human Rights part, Rehman sb actively took part in bridging the peace gap between India and Pakistan by creating a forum for peace. Despite him losing his family in the riots pre and post 1947, he didn’t ever preach hate but rather understood the fact that these differences will be sorted when we the people of the Subcontinent come together on a table of tea and resolve our outstanding issues. Hussain Naqi his old friend recalls the last exchange they had some time ago I. A Rehman said, “I am still a Marxist”. Rehman sahib’s bond with journalism started fairly early. He told me one day that luck is on your side that you are studying Journalism I didn’t get to study it(that was so very humble of him). Many accomplished writers and rights activists have penned down their expression about I. A Rehman demise here is my two cents on it.

I have a bleak memory of when I first met him, this was the first time I went to Lahore with my family. He came to receive us in a Suzuki Bolan and took us to his home. He used to call my Grandma “Bi” I haven’t yet understood why he called her that but they went on with the conversation and I went to play with other kids in the garden.

Growing up, I was realizing the fact that Rashid Rehman, nephew of I. A Rehman and my Uncle was a great personality with a sea of knowledge and still being so humble. I saw him feel so proud when “Abbi”(I.A Rehman) was around. He used to ask him and took guidance from him at any difficult point in life.

 Whenever I. A Rehman came to our house Uncle Arshad Rehman, Rashid Rehman, and Uncle Sajid Ashfaque stood for him with vigilance and in dedication to I.A Rehman.

I.A Rehman was a really humble human being. He himself was a huge library, a profusion of knowledge but never depicted himself as an acclaimed person.

Uncle Rashid became a Supreme Court lawyer which was a huge feat for the family. He was so buoyant and zestful. By that time I. A Rehman also congratulated him and said, “Rashid, Multan will not allow you to go to Islamabad”. This sentence became Universal truth in a few years.

Things were changing in the first half of 2014 when Uncle Rashid took the case of a blasphemy accused (now convicted) professor. Uncle Rashid was getting death threats from Mullahs (such as TLP today). He talked about these threats with HRCP Secretariat Lahore of which I. A Rehman was General Secretary (at the time). They did whatever was in their hands to ask for protection for Uncle Rashid (all to no avail). The threat has been ironed on my forehead so I’ll repeat it here again “keep quiet otherwise you will not come to the next hearing”. And the terrorists being true to their word did that exact thing and murder Uncle Rashid on May 7th, 2014.

Well, after the incident, I was furious with everyone doing nothing to fight for Uncle Rashid’s case. I. A Rehman came to our house as he himself was grieving. The best man from his family to carry on his legacy had lost the battle against these armed terrorists.

I.A Rehman allowed me to question him why he didn’t stop Uncle Rashid from being robbed of his life. I don’t recall what he really answered because I had lost all my energy after the question.

I had many such instances in my teenage whenever Rehman sb came to our city and I would ask him questions about the family, partition and the Case.

Last year when I went to Lahore for a convention, I went to his house to meet him and it was after so many long years that I saw him in his usual attire in the library reading and writing. I recall calling back to my mom and telling her that the food was so delicious. He gave me a gift that I hold dear to my heart because it was I. A Rehman after all. My last meeting with him was last December at HRCP Lahore. The last time he came to Multan to meet the family at Uncle Athar Rehman’s house It did not felt like this was the last time he came to Multan. We all knew about his health but never knew this could swell to eventual death.

I can proudly say that I. A Rehman was and will be the greatest Icon of Human Rights Movement in Pakistan.

The author pictured with I. A. Rehman in a memorable picture

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