Have you heard of Sabeen Mahmud? If you read a decent broadsheet newspaper, watch an informative news channel or regularly read articles about Pakistan chances are you will know her name. Remember it, please.
This intelligent, caring, outstanding woman activist was shot dead in Karachi yesterday evening. Murdered. Assassinated. Killed.
Sabeen was a founder member and director of ‘The Second Floor’ – affectionately known as ‘T2F’ in her liberal circle of friends, under the umbrella of an NGO called ‘PeaceNiche’. How tragically ironic. The venue serves as a place to meet for coffee, to debate and as an arts venue. It does not sound threatening to me, far from it.
On Friday evening, an event was publicised to be held at T2F, entitled ‘Unsilencing Balochistan Take 2’. A number of high-profile activists, who had made a march from Quetta to Karachi in October 2013 to pressure the authorities into revisiting their policies and actions over missing political Baloch activists, were invited to attend. This included Mama Abdul Qadeer, who together with Sabeen organised the event.
His son had disappeared in the region in 2009. His dead and mutilated body was found in 2011. As a parent would you walk 1200 miles to protest against missing people, one of whom is your child? Qadeer, 73 years old did just that. I admire and respect his brave protest.
The event had been scheduled to take place at a university in Lahore. On advice from the Inter Service Intelligence Directorate, it was cancelled. Hence ‘Take 2’. Surely Sabeen knew the risks? Yet she was prepared to go ahead with the event. It cost her her life.
Shortly after the event an unknown gunmen fired a number of shots into Sabeen’s car, killing her and critically injuring her mother. A number of journalists have been killed in Balochistan too, not to mention a list of 12,000 (yes 12,000) missing people that was handed to the UN three years back.
What are these faceless murderers scared of? That the truth will out? Or that liberal Pakistanis want to debate the disappearance and murder of people in Balochistan, and the political reasons behind them?
It is a cowardly way to silence an opponent. I am thankful that I am able to voice my opinion. Free speech is a privilege. Journalists worldwide endanger themselves to present the human stories to you and I. On occasion they pay the ultimate price for doing so.
Surely the debate must continue. Surely these murders must stop.
Please read something Sabeen Mahmud wrote on the PeaceNiche website : http://www.t2f.biz/some-thoughts-and-thank-yous-on-t2fs-6th-birthday/
R.I.P. Sabeen Mahmud…