Amina Masood Janjua, born on 28 April 1964, is a prominent Pakistani human rights activist and artist renowned for her advocacy against enforced disappearances in Pakistan. Her notable efforts include campaigning tirelessly for the release of her husband, Masood Ahmed Janjua, who went missing on 30 July 2005. Serving as the chairperson of the rights group Defence of Human Rights Pakistan (DHR), Amina Masood Janjua actively engages in providing legal assistance to prisoners in foreign countries.
Her multifaceted approach extends to arranging financial support for the families affected by enforced disappearances and advocating for the elimination of torture from jails and detention centers. Amina Masood Janjua serves as the spokesperson for missing persons, frequently appearing on both local and international media platforms. Additionally, she contributes articles in Urdu and English newspapers, further amplifying her commitment to shedding light on human rights issues and enforcing positive change.
Amina Masood Janjua was born to Shahida and Islam Akhtar Zubairi in Mardan, a city situated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
Commencing her early education at Presentation Convent High School in Risalpur, a town and air force base near Mardan, Amina Masood Janjua pursued her studies until the tenth grade. Following her matriculation, she enrolled in Nisar Shaheed College in Risalpur and later joined F.G College for Women in Rawalpindi after two years at Nisar Shaheed College. There, she completed her BA exams with English literature, Persian, and Fine Arts as her majors.
In an interview, Janjua revealed her long-standing passion for drawing and painting, a talent she cultivated since early childhood. This inclination towards the arts led her to Punjab University, where she earned a master’s degree in Fine Arts, securing the second position and being honored with a silver medal. Post-graduation, she further honed her painting skills under the guidance of renowned painters Mansoor Rahi and Hajira Mansoor, who played a crucial role in her artistic development.
Career in Arts
Amina Masood Janjua, expressing her artistic talent through the preferred mediums of oil and acrylic paints, demonstrates a notable inclination towards expressionism and romanticism in most of her paintings. Among her favored genres are portraits and life drawings, and her artistic creations have been showcased in various exhibitions.
In her personal life, Janjua is married to Masood Ahmed Janjua, hailing from a military family. Her father-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel (R) Raja Ali Muhammad, and two elder brothers-in-law have served in the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force. Amina Masood Janjua and her husband have been blessed with two sons and one daughter.
Masood Ahmed Janjua, Amina’s husband and a prosperous businessman managing multiple enterprises, departed for Peshawar on July 30, 2005, accompanied by his friend Faisal Faraz. Regrettably, he neither returned home nor reached his intended destination. Initially, the circumstances surrounding his disappearance remained unexplained. However, subsequent evidence led Amina to believe that he had been apprehended by an intelligence agency in the country.
This conviction was substantiated by the testimony of Dr. Imran Munir, who, having been in military custody, court-martialed, and later released under the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, officially declared that he had encountered Masood Ahmed Janjua in a clandestine detention facility. Amina, grappling with the anguish of her husband’s disappearance, experienced months of disorientation while tirelessly exploring various avenues to locate him.
Despite her persistent efforts, law enforcement, initially unresponsive, failed to register a case. Undeterred, Amina sought assistance from influential figures, even reaching out to Gen Pervez Musharraf, the Army Chief and President of Pakistan at the time. Regrettably, all her endeavors proved fruitless, as no one extended the help she desperately sought.
Defiance and Advocacy
In the early stages of her struggle, Amina Masood Janjua uncovered the widespread issue of enforced disappearances affecting countless individuals who were silenced by fear under military rule. To address this, she co-founded the activist group “Defence of Human Rights” with Abdul Rashid Ghazi and Khalid Khawaja, aiming to provide a voice for victims and their families. Faced with disappointment, she took her activism to the streets, initiating her first road protest on September 4, 2006. This daily protest continued for the next two months as part of her relentless efforts to seek justice and trace not only her husband but all those who had disappeared.
Suo Motu Breakthrough
After two months of continuous protest, a significant turning point occurred on October 9, 2006, when the Supreme Court of Pakistan initiated Suo Motu proceedings for the case of Masood Janjua and other missing persons. Amina Masood Janjua’s unwavering campaign bore fruit, as by the end of 2006, Defence of Human Rights (DHR) successfully registered and submitted one hundred cases of disappearances to the Supreme Court.
Amina Masood Janjua's Struggle at Flashman's Hotel
On December 28, 2006, Amina Masood Janjua, accompanied by her children and other families, sought to deliver a letter at GHQ gate. However, they faced a brutal crackdown near Flashman’s Hotel in Rawalpindi by the authorities. Amina’s children, Ali (14) and Muhammad (15), were particularly targeted, enduring merciless beatings. Her 9-year-old daughter fainted, and Muhammad was forcefully carried away by the police.
Defiance Amidst Crisis
In 2007, Gen Perwaiz Musharaf dismissed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the entire judiciary, placing judges under house arrest on 9 March and 3 November. This sparked widespread outrage, leading to a historic movement known as the ‘Lawyers’ Movement’ by Pakistan’s civil society and legal community. Amina Masood Janjua, at the helm, mobilized many families of missing persons to join this cause, actively participating in the movement’s endeavors for the rule of law. Ultimately, on 16 March 2009, the deposed Chief Justice and other judges were reinstated.
Undeterred Resolve: Amina Masood Janjua's Vigil for Missing Persons
Amina, relying on the judiciary as her sole hope, faced immense disappointment as the missing persons’ case lingered off the Supreme Court’s docket for months. Despite the setback, she took bold action to jolt the Court into action. Setting up a protest camp in a small tent outside the Supreme Court’s gate, she remained there for 12 days and nights from November 2, 2009, to November 13, 2009.
Her determined stand prompted the Registrar of the Supreme Court to call Amina Masood Janjua into his office on November 13, 2009. He promised an immediate hearing and requested her to end the sit-in. Consequently, the hearing of missing persons’ cases resumed on November 23, 2009.
Relentless Pursuit Amidst Setbacks: Amina Masood Janjua's Struggle for the Missing Persons
In 2010, responding to the Supreme Court’s directives, the government established a commission of inquiry, chaired by Justice (r) Mansoor Alam, to address missing persons’ cases. Amina actively collaborated with the commission, tirelessly working day and night. She submitted cases for investigation, accompanying complainants throughout the proceedings. Despite the commission’s findings issued after months, the government neither published the report nor acted upon its recommendations, opting to form another commission. Despite Amina’s growing skepticism about the efficacy of such commissions, she reluctantly engaged with the second one. However, this commission seemed more inclined to defend perpetrators than locate missing persons.
On March 16, 2011, Amina, her daughter, and 40 others were arrested and detained overnight by authorities while en route to present flowers to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on the anniversary of the judiciary’s restoration. This arrest coincided with the release of Raymond Davis.
Persisting in Protest: Amina Masood Janjua's Ongoing Struggle for Missing Persons
Disheartened by the perceived inefficiency of the commission of inquiry and waning interest from the Supreme Court, Amina Masood Janjua initiated a second day/night protest in front of Parliament House Islamabad on October 31, 2011. However, she concluded the camp the following day upon the arrival of Justice (r) Javaid Iqbal, the head of the commission of inquiry, who assured a final solution within two weeks. Unfortunately, this promise went unfulfilled.
Undeterred, Amina organized a third day/night protest camp in front of Parliament House Islamabad, commencing on February 15, 2012, and lasting for 75 days until April 30, 2012. Alongside families of over 500 missing persons, she endured the roadside protest, garnering substantial support and media attention.
Political Support and Ongoing Threats: Amina Masood Janjua's Advocacy Journey
Leaders of major political parties, including opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharif, visited Amina’s protest camp, expressing solidarity with the cause. In response to mounting pressure, the government passed unanimous resolutions in the National Assembly and Senate, committing to trace missing persons and prevent future enforced disappearances.
Facing persistent death threats via mail and phone, Amina reported the threats to the Supreme Court, prompting a court order for the government to provide her with security.
Amina’s advocacy extended beyond borders; in 2008, she was invited by Amnesty International for visits to Europe and the United States. She addressed conferences in multiple cities and engaged with government officials. However, her US visa was abruptly cancelled in 2008, with no reasons disclosed by the embassy.
A Global Advocate: Amina Masood Janjua's Multifaceted Role in Human Rights
As the chairperson of Defence of Human Rights (DHR) Pakistan, Amina serves as the sole spokesperson, consistently addressing the missing persons issue in both Pakistani and international media. Her role involves extensive coordination with various government offices, including the PM’s secretariat, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Law and Justice, Supreme Court, Foreign office, FIA, NAB, City Administration, Army, provincial and tribal governments, and more. She organizes campaigns and oversees all DHR activities, maintaining ties with international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Cageprisoners, and others.
In the Supreme Court, Amina filed her first independent petition in November 2006 for 16 missing persons. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry allowed her to plead for other missing persons as an advocate. Presently, she represents over 700 cases of enforced disappearance in the Supreme Court.
Amina also plays a pivotal role in the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance, preparing and submitting cases and representing complainants. Her dedication extends to addressing the challenges faced by individuals detained abroad. In 2010, she successfully repatriated twenty-two Pakistanis from Thailand, facing life imprisonment for minor crimes. Amina’s ongoing projects involve the repatriation of fifty-two foreign prisoners detained in Pakistani jails and over three hundred Pakistanis detained in China.