My father was 1984’s long-forgotten Shahzeb Khan

Published: January 8, 2013

My father died for the same cause as Shahzeb Khan did 28 years ago. Has justice been served? No.

My father was murdered in Karachi in 1984. He was shot dead.

Some 28 years later, Shahzeb Khan met the same fate.

Cause of death?

They were trying to protect a woman’s honour.

My father, Syed Rabbani Zamir, was trying to prevent the harassment of an unknown woman at the hands of a Saudi naval cadet who had come to Pakistan for training and was shot dead.

My family pushed long and hard for justice and ultimately it was served.

The offender was court-martialled and ended up serving some time in jail as well. Regardless of what happened to the culprit, the end result was the same as in Shahzeb’s case – a life that could have achieved so much was ultimately cut short in its prime over the same reason – a man’s utter disrespect for a woman’s honour.

Not long after my father’s death, my now-deceased maternal grandfather wrote a letter to then-president Ziaul Haq in which he recounted the circumstances of my father’s death and put forth the following questions to the dictator:

“When will the sanctity of a woman’s chadar be safe? When will it be safe for women to walk the streets of Pakistan without fear of harassment? How many more Rabbani Zamir’s will it take before we will see this?”

He never received an answer to these questions.

Today, despite the passage of 28 years – an entire generation – it seems as if these questions are still unanswered.

To date, a woman’s honour is not sacred in a country that calls itself an “Islamic” Republic and that was created to “uphold” Islam, a religion in which respect for women is considered supreme.

In 2012, 150 rape cases were reported by The Express Tribune, but the stigma associated with rape means that many more go unreported. Women still avoid going out alone in certain parts and completely abstain from being out after dark on their own. They are stared at lewdly, harassed verbally, and assaulted physically with alarming regularity. For those who blame “revealing” attire worn by women, it should be clarified that being clad in “hijabs” and “abayas” does not automatically guarantee respect – the woman in my father’s case was fully covered with a dupatta all around her.

Most of the women one sees in buses and rickshaws have their dupattas and chadars in place, yet they are not safe from ogling men.

How many more Rabbani Zamir’s and Shahzeb Khan’s will it take before women are given the respect that is their due?

My father’s case was taken up by the leading English and Urdu dailies of the time and a great hue and cry was raised in the media. Today, no one outside our family probably remembers who my father was. The only proof we have of what happened to him is some newspaper clippings. The cause he died for remains stagnant, just as he left it; nothing has changed.

I am certain that while many are raising their voice for Shahzeb Khan today, 20 years down the line he too will be forgotten, and women will continue to be dishonoured and disrespected with impunity.

If the culprits in Shahzeb Khan’s case are allowed to go free – which is the most likely outcome given the circumstances – the situation women face will only get worse.

Considering what happened to my father in 1984 and Shahzeb Khan in 2012, it also seems extremely likely that in the future no one will dare to stand up against the harassment of women for fear of meeting the same fate.



Just realistic.

Do you think Shahzeb Khan died for a lost cause?

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This post originally appeared here.

Read more by Sufia here, or follow her on Twitter @sufiazamir

Sufia Zamir

Sufia Zamir

A marketing communication planner, blogger, creative content writer, and a part time Urdu translator, Sufia blogs at and tweets as @sufiazamir

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahsan


    There will be nothing coming out of this case. Its been a lost cause for a long time, and will remain so unless we make wiser political choices.Recommend

  • cynical

    @ahsan: what political choices has got to do with the respect of women? it is the mentality that sucks….Recommend

  • Raza Khan

    Beta, I do not have words to explain my pain after reading your article. May God give you courage to bear this loss. Unfortunately we are living in a very sick society where women have no respect although they are mothers, sisters & daughters! Recommend

  • Ovais

    It took the whole social media and karachi’s elite to get shahzeb a son of a DSP to get justice imagine the common man who works day and night and gets bullets in name of sectarianism , ethnicity etc ,, CJ i like you but its time karachi police understand their responsibility . I hope mr Aurangzeb Khan learns from this and becomes the savior of Pakistan foregoing all his past antics . Its time that every common poor pakistani is treated as Shahzeb Khan .. .at least one should make the jatois an example and serve justice to shahzeb at least .. but not forget abt the thousands that die every year in khi … Aurangzeb Khan , u have the power and chance .. i hope u become a change manRecommend

  • Doolittle

    The social media has played a big role in this case. Any injustice done in the society can be highlighted in the social media and demonstration organized via the social medium. I am sure the guy who fled to Dubai has run away, but thanks to Allah and the timely use of social media, he will not have a place to hide.Recommend

  • Mena

    Your father was an incredible man it seems. All my prayers with his soul, may Pakistan protect people like Shahzeb and your father. Our flag can’t hold aother bloodstain. Recommend

  • The Only Normal Person Here.

    Extremely sorry to read about your father.

    However, there is a lot of difference between media then and media today, esp the social media. So hope that things will change. Slowly and gradually but they will.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Of one thing I am certain and that is, the man looking down on you from above must be a very proud father.Recommend

  • Faisal

    Men like your father do not need acknowledgment from a morally bankrupt society, they attain eternal life by lying down their lives for their principles. I assure you that there are scores of people like your father around us, who go unsung, but are saving this society from a complete chaos. Recommend

  • Atiq Rehman

    Full respect for your father. May every man be that brave and chivalrous Recommend

  • Human

    Your Father is a HERO .Recommend

  • Samia Malik

    Well it is a usual story if you belong from any Sub Urban region of Pakistan and you belong from a Poor middle class family. My uncle ( Chacha ) was killed when he was young by a Guy who still lives in Islamabad and the only reason he got killed because the young Guy was learning driving. Until now we want justice but we are middle class and they are rich of Islamabad and they told us that if we will persue our case then they will kill our entire family. Similarly I know one family near Gujar Khan and their daughter was raped and until now perpetrators are roaming freely and now they are in the Party of Change and one in PMLN and nothing happened. And believe me i know tons of stories like these and just visit any Place other than bigger cities where media can mention these news and believe me it is going on a daily basis. Just visit Internal Punjab where Illiterate Arains , Chaudaries and Jutts are treating poor like animals and Molesting Poor girls is a norm but nothing is happening. So just pray from God to destroy this land like I am praying as there is no hope left other than that to cleanse this land of the pure.Recommend

  • kanwal

    Lot of respects for your very courageous father. A city where a young man very recently died while the hoards of men standing in front of the building falling from where he died. No one raised a finger and cameramen kept capturing his fall and death. Yet that city has had men as brave as ur father. BravoRecommend

  • Shaami Lahori

    Well i can send you my story where my friend was Sexually Molested by One Chaudary and now he this Chaudary is roaming freely and a member of PMLN and every time i see him tears fell from my Eyes as I cannot do anything. That Chaudary is also a Tableeghi now a days and even I left my Religion because of that reason as I dont want to became a Part of that religion from which that Chaudary belongs and it is better to live without any Religion in my case. ET is mostly read by Urban Elite of Pakistan and just write this article in some Urdu Daily and believe me you will get thousands of stories and hundreds of cases are going on a daily basis. Shahzab belonged from a Higher class and he was a Son of DSP and believe me i am sure while i am writing this comment some poor must be beaten or disrespected or some child or girl be subjected to brutality in this land of the Purest Islamic people.Recommend

  • Zia

    Anyway Your father’s new came in the news. What about thousands of people who dont have any say in Pakistan. ?. Do you know at present there are more than 500,000 cases of property, land disputes, murders, beatings and lootings in our Courts and there are thousands of them who property have been confiscated by Rich thugs and who are beaten on a daily basis and many of them have been murdered and their cases are pending in our courts and I am sure nothing will come out. In Pakistan you must be a numb person otherwise anyone with feelings could not survive longer in this country because of the mess and inequality in which we are living right now. Recommend

  • Hasan

    Your story for me is very usual. I was covering one story in the past where one Student faced sheer brutality and because she was poor enough to meet the Standards of Express Tribune so she was not mentioned here and until now she wants justice and this case could not go further because the people who did that are a landlord family of Punjab and have political influence as well.

  • Mustafa

    May Allah rest both souls in peace. I myself is a son of DSP, my father never allowed me to join the police department by stating that police department will never back you in your life. That’s what happened with Aurangzaib khan. The serving DSP was unable to register a case against these culprits. His own police department register the case after the delay of days. I am a law graduate and I know the fate of the said Case. These culprits will walk between us within year or so; they will be acquitted respectably because their servants will take the responsibility of firing the bullet on Shahzaib khan. Intentionally the police department had registered an FIR with lot of culprits name, so these Culprits can walk away easily.
    You are right Sufia noting has changed in our society it’s getting worse day by day. We have no moral values anymore. Alas! Someone can teach us to respect our own mothers, sisters and daughters. Alas! We would be able to vanish this feudal system and educate our children. The only solution of this dilemma is to educate our children.Recommend

  • Sheraz Ahmad

    Its all come to one point, “We need Great Mothers to built Great Nation”. Recommend

  • GrimmJow

    @Parvez – truth is that no one knows about afterlife, so your statement holds any substance? Please don’t get too swayed by the sentiments, we should rather try to focus on the un-answered questions.Recommend

  • Tamoor

    Ab khud kuch karna pare gaaRecommend

  • AA

    I dont get it … if men are so superior to women why cant they treat her as a human instead of a piece of meat?Recommend

  • Smj

    Brave Man. May his soul rest in peace. Recommend

  • amaltaas

    I am very sorry for your loss, Safia. It was very strange reading Ghazala Rehman’s superbly written obituary for your father. The sense of loss seeps through every word she has written, but admixed with the sadness at this tragedy, I also felt this bizarre joy that such a man once lived. Having only learnt of his sometime existence a few minutes ago, I find myself yearning for his company.

    What a pleasure it must have been for those fortunate enough to know Rabbani Zamir. Recommend

  • Mahum

    Your father was a true hero, may his soul rest in peace and we can only hope for Shahzeb Khan to get justice. Hope is still alive in the state called Pakistan.Recommend

  • Andy

    AsSalam O Alikum :
    Dear Ms.Sufia Zamir :
    Read your article with great sadness, as it flashed me back into Oct. of 1984. You might not know me.. but I know you ! .. As I had met you when you were just a little kid. You dad was a very brave man, whom I regard as a SHAHEED and everyone knows SHAHEEDS never die ! You might be wondering who am I ? … Let me tell you ..Your paternal grandmother {Mrs. Zameer} was my class teacher in 1984. She used to teach english, as a subject, in paticular. It was a Thursday afternoon, sometime in late october of 1984, when we got the sad news. When we met Mrs. Zameer, on the following Sunday at your home in Gulshan block 6/7.. at was really heartbreaking. Its been a long time since then, and those memories still haunt me. And whenever incidents like Shahzebs take place, they always bring memories of your Brave dad ! What your dad and Shahzeb did.. needed, a lot of courage ! ..And they were full of that. Real Men always stand tall and strong in testing times. May Allah {S.W.T.} rest their souls in heaven.. Ameen. For all the good people out there… Always stay strong and tall because as the saying goes ..” The only thing necessary for the triumph of Evil.. is that..Good Men do nothing” {Edmund Burke}, Truly, A.Recommend

  • Majid

    Were your family given justice by the same dictator or by the next govt?Recommend

  • Bilal

    You are right!

    I personally know a widow who lives just a few yards from my home. Three years ago, four robbers broke into her house and her son was murdered because he was trying to keep away a robber from his sister…And after three years not even FIR has been registered!

    But as we are taught by a great man,

    agar Usmaniyon par koh-e-gham toota to kya gham hai
    k khoon-e-sad hazar anjum se hoti hai sahar peda

    ~ Iqbal (Bang-e-Dara, Talooe-e-Islam)

    Therefore, NOTHING goes wasted, I think.

    pewasta reh shajar se umeed-e-bahar rakh!

    ~ Iqbal (Bang-e-Dara)Recommend

  • honey

    @cynical: political choices have everything to do with respectof women if there had been an Islamic law-following government that ensured the application of hudood as per Quran ppl would not have been brave enough to do such sins so easily Recommend

  • Historian 1

    @ honey: and what are Hudood for women as per Quran ( 7th century) so we should apply in this 21st century? Also, are there any Hudood for men?Recommend

  • pmbm

    how is murder of 7th century different than murder of 21st century? or lying, or getting drunk,
    .Quran deals with issues that human beings face now or then. It may be worth reading and understanding it before mocking it.Recommend

  • Khurram Zia Khan

    @Sufia Zamir,Your father was a brave man who have courage to stand in front of evil.Society today need more people like him. It is very sad to know that political parties also have rapists in their ranks as mentioned in some of the earlier comments.Crime happen in all societies but sadly in out society criminals are not apprehended. Rules only apply to poor or middle class person while the mighty can enjoy life with out caring about laws of the state. May Allah grant higher place to your father in paradise. Recommend

  • Omer Butt

    Give capital punishment to them publicly so that everyone knows about it. Terrorize the terrorists!!Recommend

  • Historian 1

    @ pmbm:
    comment from honey is about ” respect of women” and not about ” murder”. Please read first and than comment. Recommend

  • Sufia Zamir

    @All, thank you for your words of support, and I hope that Shahzaibs killers are brought to justice in the same way.

    @Majid, yes justice was served during Zia’s time. My family kept knocking on his door and in the letter mentioned in the blog my grandfather also asked him, how dare you call this an “Islamic” republic when women are disrespected and a citizen of this country is not able to get justice for a wrong? The initial reaction to this letter was of a “How dare you say such a thing” nature, but I think the letter pricked his conscience enough for him to take action.

    @Andy, a special thank you to you for remembering my grandmother so fondly. I’m not sure whether you are aware of this, but she too passed away as a result of Alzheimer’s in early 2003.Recommend

  • aslam

    Quiz time: Guess which country is this ?
    Foreign minister – Salman Khurshid ~ Muslim
    Spokesperson – syed akbaruddin ~ Muslim
    Army Cheif – General Bikram Singh ~ Sikh
    Prime minister – Manmohan singh ~ Sikh
    Defence Minister ~ A K Antony ~ Christian
    Chief of ruling party ~ Sonia Maino Gandhi ~ Christian
    Chief Justice of supreme court ~ Altatmas Kabir ~ MuslimRecommend

  • Sheikh Ali Tariq

    @ aslam


    Dude two wrongs don’t make a right

    Here we reflect and respect for those who have died for a cause and not worry about India or Pakistan and which is better.

    Try to be a better person and you will have served your country. Recommend

  • Sane

    Dear Ms. Sufia Zamir,

    I understand your feelings. Your father is Shaheed by all definitions. I am sure that Almighty ALLAH has placed him in Jannat ul Firdous. Even if forgotten by people, but will remain hero of the nation and savior of women respect. Remember! how many of us know about Maj. Tufail or Capt. Sawar, but they are the icons of bravery and so your father is. One who sacrifice his life to save others is the real brave.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Hasan: I hope hospital collected enough of DNA and other evidence to get these goondas convicted. Problem is if these young men belong to powerful families, police can easily destroy the case. I think kidnapping girls was common few hundred years ago. Powerful people just picked any girl they liked. I think burqa was invented to prevent that. This girl was openly picked from the market. That shows no mother, sister, friend, daughter is safe.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @aslam: Foreign minister – Salman Khurshid ~ Muslim
    Spokesperson – syed akbaruddin ~ Muslim
    Army Cheif – General Bikram Singh ~ Sikh
    Prime minister – Manmohan singh ~ Sikh
    Defence Minister ~ A K Antony ~ Christian
    Chief of ruling party ~ Sonia Maino Gandhi ~ Christian
    Chief Justice of supreme court ~ Altatmas Kabir ~ Muslim

    Makes me feel proud as an Indian. I personally feel, Pakistani agencies are still trying to divide Indian Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims.

    In a recent attack on LOC, Pakistanis killed 2 people and took head of one army soldier with them. It seems like some one did that to prove the killings and carried head with them to get the reward. In Bombay 26/11 attack Kasab and his friends pretended to be Hindus and killed 40 Indian Muslims and 124 non-Muslims from 12 different Nations.

    In one Sikh massacre in Kashmir LeT terrorists dressed In Indian army uniform
    killed 34 Sikhs point blank and attack was blamed on Indian army by Pakistan sources. Recommend

  • Emir Hamza

    It makes me so sad to read this article (and specially the one concerning your father) that a gem of a person was lost in the prime of his age. Countless other have lost their identity (just like your father) in this place which we call pakistan. Growing up in his absence would have been so much more traumatizing and frustrating considering the fact that when you hear amazing stories about him. I wish you luck and a good future ahead of you. Recommend

  • sahar syed

    I read your article with a painful heart…
    I hope your father gets the reward in the next world….Recommend

  • Pmbm

    Please read ur comment first,then mine. U imply 7th century book has no relevance in 21st century.
    Peace & wisdom.Recommend

  • Raja Muhammad Sarfraz

    As media is evolving a lot, it’s the right time to develop a concise on the punishment of the culprits in women’s harassment case. Set an example so nobody can even think about thatRecommend

  • Historian 1


    You said that Quran laws are still applicable in this century. Burden to prove this is on your shoulder!! Go ahead and enlighten us. ( and don’t advise others to read Quran if you have never read it ). Higher wisdom.Recommend

  • Sane


    Can’t you be on topic. This is an attempt to divert attention of other people. This is a serious discussion.Recommend

  • Mohammed Farooq

    A Pakistani would not dare even make eyes with a Saudi woman. However, Saudis can come to our country and rape our women with impunity it seems.
    Shahzeb Khan tries to defend the honor of a women and he gets shot and for 28 years his family wait for justice.
    For Arabs, others peoples women can use and abused to satisfy their carnal lust. And we lack the self-respect to stand up for the honor of our women and the brave citizens like Shahzeb Khan to stand up for them. Shame on us.Recommend

  • kamran ahmad kami

    sad incident :( Recommend

  • Pmbm

    Only U can enlighten yourself, no one else can do it. Not knowing me, your conclusion that I have not read it is no way wise. Unless U are a scholar in Arabic, Mohammad Asad’s is the best translation if U ever decide to enlighten yourself.Recommend

  • Dr Imran Khan

    Two tragic losses , I am at a loss of how uneducated people behave.
    People have no fear of ALLAH. Never understand what is in the Quran.
    Rescpect for women.

    The Saudia kill their Phillipine maids after rapeing them and they die in hospitals , I witnessed a case in Mecca and no police case was ever filed.

    Your dad and Jehanzeb are both alive, as the Quran states the Shahid are alive. They are in Heavens .

    Next time kill them before they can kill you.Recommend

  • Adeel

    We all protect and stand up for our families. Shahzeb’s sacrifice is not in vain. Eventually we will all die however in such cases a individual’s life went for a just cause which is definitely higher in status. In case of your father, the cause was at a further higher level of nobility i.e he stood up for an unknown person. Allah (SWT) will definitely reward him for that!Recommend

  • Umer Soomro

    I doubt this case has been taken up and highlighted with such a vigor to settle some old accounts of personal and political grudges, revenges and rivalries. Before concluding it as a women respect case one should carefully go through the circumstances, not only those as narrated by bereaved family, but those too which might have taken place among all concerned families during past some days, and besides that among all stalwarts that have either jumped into or have been dragged into the arena.Recommend

  • Historian 1

    @ pmbm

    “Only U can enlighten yourself, no one else can do it.”

    Than what are the scholars and teachers for? If i could understand why would i ask you? Please give me references at least stating ” how to respect women” from the quran. My understanding is that quran does not give equal rights to women as compared with men.Recommend

  • anwar

    i feel really ashamed and sorry to read such an article but one thing you said is right. Outside your family perhaps nobody will remember. Clearly you still feel strongly after all these years. I think respect for elders, teacher, mothers etc is taught in schools, homes and in the society. Criminal justice system can reinforce the teachings. A dysfunctional society can never give justice and mark my words “when a great religion dies is on its last breath blood is sure to flow”Recommend

  • pmbm

    @ historian1
    It is a misperception that Quran does not give equal status to men and women.
    You, sir, seem quite an intelligent person. I did give you Muhammad Asad’s translation as reference.With him you do not need any other teacher or scholar. If U R serious, we can communicate by email.

  • Sane

    Will all the murderer of Shahzeb shall be nabbed and hanged. Let’s see. This the test case of our conscious.Recommend

  • Historian 1

    @ pmbm

    Dear pmbm please don’t play the ” mis perception ” card now. This is the reason we could not progress after so many centuries.Recommend

  • aryzha

    The reason women are disrespected in our society is not because men are not ‘doing their job’ by defending women’s honour, but because our culture and society raises them into believing they are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and actions. No law n the world will change this. Recommend


    It is a very sad story MAY ALLAH GIVE UR FATHER PLACE IN JANAT UL FIRDOUS , Yes of course this is a fact that even we are living in a world where there are rights of animals too THERE IS NO RESPECT FOR WOMAN IN OUR SOCIETY. Justice will be given to such criminals HOW MUCH SHAHZEB KHAN AND PROUD FATHERS WILL BE KILLED INSHALLAH JUSTICE WILL BE GIVENRecommend

  • pmbm

    @historian 1
    there is no card ,sir. The reason we did not progress because we refuse to enlighten ourselves, instead keep waiting for ‘scholars’ and ‘teachers’ even in our adult years.Recommend