Sabeen Mahmud, a fearless lady with bright eyes and open mind, was shot dead by unknown assailants on April 25 at a traffic signal in the cosmopolitan city of Karachi, Pakistan – a country which gained independence some six decades ago from British India in the name of Islam.
Fourty-year-old Sabeen was not any ordinary woman but an individual who believed in the policy of “live and let others live”; a lady with a liberal mind and an open heart for every one.
Known for her works as a Human Rights activist, she was a creative owner of cafe T2F (The Second Floor) in Karachi. The cafe was created as a platform for easy access to people to share ideas, thoughts and concerns. A community shop where people could easily access second hand books, hold book launches, art-exhibitions, book/poetry readings, debate on the country’s socio-cultural-politico-economic issues.
She was mentoring many youth in the fields of science and technology, and loved music.
On April 24, she organised a talk on Balochistan’s missing persons with a Baloch campaigner Mama Qadeer, who has himself lost his son to a stream of ‘enforced disappearances’ and ‘custodial’ killings – often blamed on intelligence agencies, a charge they deny.
Qadeer has become a ‘controversial’ figure, since he has tried to raised voice for the affected families that have lost male members, allegedly been taken by the law enforcement agencies from the province of Balochistan for over the past decade.
Sabeen had welcomed Qadeer and gave him the platform of T2F to voice the miseries of the Balouch people. According to one participant Mohammad Naveed, who not only attended the April 24 session but also knew Sabeen for some years, told me that she was “comfortable” on that day and the program had lasted for more than two hours.
“All those who had attended were against the ISI and the State establishment. Most participants were from elite class or Balochs. It was an aggressive debate. But Sabeen was very calm. And ran it with full control.”
One of the slain activist’s close friend Mohsin Sayeed told me from Karachi about her: “She was a great friend, who always stood by her associates. She was a true supporter and believer of freedom of speech and expression.”
Sabeen stood for equal opportunities for both genders and was always keen on Pakistan to have a normal neighborly relations with India. She was not only the Karachi’s daughter, but that of entire Pakistan. People of every age and gender present in the demonstrations following her killing, mourned her brutal murder.