The killing by the assassins at Karachi of a democrat, liberal and secular activist Sabeen Mahmud, a dear friend, is a great loss to the fraternity which is fighting state terrorism, totalitarianism and religious bigotry in the Indian sub-continent. Sabeen, a prominent Pakistani social and human rights activist was shot while she was returning home with her mother after hosting an event on Balochistan's "disappeared people".
Sabeen, 40, was the director of T2F [The Second Floor], a café and arts space that has been a mainstay of Karachi's activists since it opened its doors in 2007. She was one of the country's most outspoken human rights advocates. According to reports she was shot four times at close range, with bullets going through her shoulder, chest and abdomen. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the National Medical Centre hospital in Karachi. Her mother was also shot twice and is fighting for her life.
Sabeen was an outspoken critic of the "disappearance" of thousands of innocent Balochis for resisting the inhuman policies of the Pakistan government towards the Balochis. Sabeen had been present at the opening of a discussion called "Unsilencing Balochistan," hosted at T2F, where prominent Baloch rights activists Mama Qadeer, Farzana Majeed and Muhammad Ali Talpur had been speaking.
Qadeer and Majeed have long championed the cause of Balochistan's "disappeared," a term used to describe people who have been abducted in Balochistan, with their bodies often found years later. The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons organisation, which both activists belong to, says that more than 2,825 people have "disappeared" in this way since 2005. Sabeen was a moving spirit behind the campaign to unearth the truth behind these disappearances.
It is to be noted that "disappearances" or kidnappings by the state intelligence agencies is not confined to Pakistan only. In India's Jammu and Kashmir more than 9000 young Kashmiris are believed to have been kidnapped by the state agencies in last three decades. They remain untraced even today. In Indian Punjab, thousands "disappeared" when police/military campaign was launched to cleanse Punjab of Sikh militancy. A noted crusader to find out the truth behind these disappearances, lawyer Jaswant Singh Khalra too disappeared on September 6, 1995 never to be found again.
Sabeen Mahmud was a sane voice against militarization in Pakistan and state terrorism. She was a brave young activist who dared to challenge the evil forces and did not care for her safety. She used to say that what would be the use of surviving when justice, liberty and democracy cease to exist. Those who hired killers believe that by physically liquidating individuals like Sabeen they can win. They can kill an individual but cannot kill ideas. There will be many more Sabeens to carry forward the fight against fascism.
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