A letter to the prime minister: My neighbour was killed, Sir, will I be killed too?

Published: May 20, 2014

Millions of harmless men, such as these, die each day and it breaks my heart to see this harmless man’s family in pain.I want to stay back and help my people, but, Sir, I am so scared.

Millions of harmless men, such as these, die each day and it breaks my heart to see this harmless man’s family in pain.I want to stay back and help my people, but, Sir, I am so scared. Dear Mr Prime Minister, can you please cure us of this fear we all Pakistanis have. PHOTO:AFP

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

My neighbour was shot yesterday. I heard cries erupt all over the house, when the news of his death was conveyed to his loved ones. He was a simple man, taking care of a family of four. One wonders why anyone would want to kill someone so harmless.

People say he was shot because of his sect. But, I guess that is not so important to you. Why would my neighbour or I be important? Millions of harmless men, such as these, die each day and it breaks my heart to see this harmless man’s family in pain.

But that is not why I wrote to you.

The purpose of this letter was to discuss a fear I harbour.  A fear that has incapacitated me so deeply, my hands shiver, as I write about it. I know you are not a psychiatrist, but my psychiatrist thinks only you have the answer to my fears.

The last time I remember being fine, Mr Prime Minister, was when President Musharraf was the President of this country. I remember walking on the streets without any palpitations. Then the elections took place and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) came into power. Those were the days in which the seeds of this excruciating fear were being sown deep into my heart. The fear that has kept me up for many nights; a fear of the unknown; a fear that encompasses many Pakistanis, such as my neighbour who like many others was killed in cold blood.

During this regime, every time a member of my family walked out of the house, my heart skipped a beat. My eyes would glue themselves to the clock, slowly ticking away every minute, waiting for them to come home safe and sound. Every minute felt like it was a day long, Mr Prime Minister.

Every time an unknown number flashed across my cell phone screen I would break into a sweat. Every buzz made me think of the worst, every ring made me think that the person calling bore bad news. Every time a motorcyclist crossed my path I would look at him with suspicion and anxiety. Every time I was out on the road my mind would start imagining what it would feel like to have a bullet penetrate through my body. I caught myself thinking how much it would hurt, or whether it would kill me before I would have time to feel the pain. I was scared, Mr Prime Minister. Right up to the last days of the PPP’s governance, I was living in a state of extreme paranoia. Television, as you may already know, was not much of a distraction with its hourly tickers of tragic bulletins.

Then it was election time again and this time you became our prime minister. I was secretly hoping for change, a cure for my paranoia. I thought you would bring that sense of security back, Mr Prime Minister. It has been a year and I still live in extreme fear. Fear for my life, fear for the lives of my family, friends and acquaintances.

Last week I graduated with a degree in medicine, Mr Prime Minister. I topped my class which leads me to believe that I am capable of doing great things for this country.

I want to stay back and help my people, Mr Prime Minister. I dream of a big hospital for the poor but, Sir, I am so scared. If I become a famous personality in this land, will it increase the chances of that bullet penetrating through me?  The one I’ve imagined countless times?

The image of Dr Haider Raza doesn’t leave my mind, Sir. He was shot a few days ago for the mere crime of helping his countrymen. I sometimes wonder whether you would even care if I left this country. Would it bother you, Mr Prime Minister?

Sir, I don’t need a laptop. I need a cure for this fear. It is eating me up inside and I am writing to you in a state of tremendous helplessness. I know you are busy but I do not know who else to ask.

I want to walk freely on the roads again. I want to do great things for this country, Mr Prime Minister. And I need your help, Sir. Can you help? Can you cure me of this fear?

I await your response eagerly, Sir.


Fearful citizens of Pakistan

Saba Fatima Ali

Saba Fatima Ali

A final year medical student at Dow Medical College. She tweets @SabaFatimaAli (twitter.com/SabaFatimaAli)

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

  • MrRollsRoyce

    Saba, heartfelt letter. It would not be cynical to say the PM will not take notice and go on his merry way. I am personally sick of the pandering to religious thugs and murders inspired by religion and sectarianism, whether it is killing of polio workers, school children, army officers, or of shia/hazara/ahmedi/etc.

    I don’t see a way out for our country until some leader does an Ataturk and declares religion to be a personal matter with nothing to do with the state. Until then, Pakistan will continue sliding backwards into the abyss of hate, intolerance, and utter violence all in the name of DOGMA as opposed to reason and rationality and basic human decency.Recommend

  • Sane

    And the PM responded with ‘no response’. He is extremely busy in ‘other important matters’. Yours is placed at the end of the list.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    I am extremely sorry for your loss and all other countless losses (if only words could help).

    We continue to live in denial, with another blogger mentioning just the other day on ET blogs nonetheless “what makes Pakistan a “great” country”. Really?!

    Great country? When we are butchering people left, right and center, prosecuting minorities, sects different than ours, all in the name of religion.

    Government is listless. They believe in talks when we all know the result of this. They have failed several times in the recent past even.

    But again, we will blame it on USA, India, CIA like they care for an already dying and a near-failed state, unable to protect its citizens, unable to protect its minorities, unable to provide food and shelter while the leaders plunder and loot.

    Please don’t tell me what have I done for a country instead of sitting of air-conditioned room, sipping my coffee. Let me tell you, you and me cannot do anything. Hope has faded. I would rather be quiet and be alive than be dead trying to speak out!Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Also, before you call me Indian (because you don’t want to listen to truth) I am as Pakistani as you and I comment regularly on these forums.Recommend

  • Teeb

    I would say write this letter with ink and send it to his address. Though it won’t change anything but at least it’ll increase the chances of him reading this piece. Maybe, one day he’ll pay a heed to that and feel something for his countrymen and actually work towards it. Don’t expect anything though.Recommend

  • Naila

    I am very sorry for your loss. As an Ahmadi, I completely understand what the Shias are suffering. Trust me, it is very hard to love a country which takes your identity away from you the moment the plane lands on its soil. But I still do. Call me an optimist. Recommend

  • aaaaa

    “Those who are uninjured by an arbitrary act must be taught to feel as much indignation at it as those who are injured.”

    People die needlessly and unjustly all the time. So it was during PPP’s regime, so it was during Musharraf’s dictatorship, and so it is now. Your sense of security during Musharraf’s time was merely an extension of ignorance and/or apathy.

    And by the way, if you live in Karachi, (where Dow Medical College is) this letter was addressed to the wrong person anyway. You have Musharraf to thank for reviving the MQM, and PPP for everything that followed.Recommend

  • Govinda

    I as an Indian though I don’t love Pakistan because Pakistan was responsible for Partition but I as a Indian Hindu feel like crying when I hear the news from Pakistan when someone is killed in the name of religion or sect. I feel if we were a united India then there would not have faced such a situation. I feel this happens when politicians protect the criminal groups who perpetrate the crimes. The nexus between criminals groups and politicians must be broken, it can only happen through political will. Let
    Saba Fatima Ali have a very bright career, Let she and her family be protect by god, god bless her. I request the prime minister of Pakistan please help the people of Pakistan, I cannot hear such news it really hurts me when some one is hurt. I request PM of Pakistan that minorities of Pakistan have great talent utilize it, please don’t waste it.Recommend

  • khan

    we cannot blame the prime minister for all the bad things that are happening in our country In my opinion there is a best way to handle these is to provide counseling services to all those people who create noise in our country through any channel/mode of communication.
    people died every day every minute and or every sec in our country it is not a positive impact it is very disturbing even when I go to my college my dad and mum calls me 2 or 4 times that son you have reached at you college safely.Recommend

  • Saad

    Is it because you are a karahiite or because your are a shia?Recommend

  • Salman

    Beautifully written as I could feel this fear the writer had. These issues mentioned by the writer are so common that one couldn’t deny but feel the words which a person reads. Dr. Haider Raza was a friend of my father, he was a good man but unfortunately, those criminals shot him dead. I hope Prime minister does something to take us out of this misery because that’s the least he owes us.Recommend

  • Nouman

    With regret, i am sorry to let you know that this will not help.
    You choose an emotive subject to be addressed which will go un-answered.

    Next time ask for double road passing by your residence, may be you’ll get facilitated.Recommend

  • Dr. sara

    May I know ,what are u doing in medicine school ?
    u should be bold enough & have nerves/courage to control & face situations ,I am shocked to read what are u going through ,u need to consult some Doctor before u start PracticingRecommend

  • Ali Haider

    There are many who share the same fear as you. I, for one, have never ever imagined myself being afraid of a bullet but now, anything is possible.Recommend

  • Janissary

    You have a pretty short memory; as much as i like Musharraf even in his time, Pakistan wasn’t safe, in fact 2007 was one of the bloodiest years in Pakistan’s history and so was 2006; in fact there was sporadic violence throughout 2001-05, it did escalate when Zardari came into office but it was never ‘safe’, in fact as a Pakistani expat that lived in Pakistan during those periods and visits frequently, i’ve never felt safe in Pakistan post-9/11.

    I wish Pakistan could be as safe as it used to be in the 70s.Recommend

  • Janissary

    I wouldn’t blame India for terrorism in Pakistan apart from the Baloch insurgency(confirmed by Chuck Hagel) but the Taliban was propped up by the Saudis,CIA,America and Pakistan and Ronald Reagan compared the Talibs to the founding fathers of america, and in recent developments, the Afghan governnment is now supporting the TTP by providing refuge to Fazlullah, that being said, this our war and Pakistan should root out the Talibs and their ilk.Recommend

  • fze

    Fa-bu-lous! A cry in the darkness- for some shred of light. Koi hay????Recommend

  • Nasir J

    No I think you should speak out. So what if you die? Everyone has to die one day… you’ll be one of the Shuhada’s. I know very mean comment. Unfortunately, it is the truth but it bites. Until and unless we have a courage to fight through pen we cannot change the mindset. Many Ahmadi Muslims (oops.. I mean Ahmadis) died because they speak up truth and sanity they don’t have a fear if a bullet comes they haven’t changed their stance dispite of being marginalized, butchered and it reminds of “Shob-e-Abi-Talib”. Recommend

  • Billoo

    But again, whom am i trying to get around?
    Shameless regime, Shameless people. So yeah no escape in sight Saba. Eventually its bound to happen, so be safe. What an irony that the country who send most no. of troops to UN missions can’t save their ‘own citizens’. Recommend

  • Ghulam Sarwar

    May ALLAH bless his soul ! Hamid Mir ko army k samnay goliyaan maardin Benazir was attacked in Karachi U saw events like 12 may 2007 in Karachi Prime Minister is coming again & again In Karachi for its peace when the secret hands are involved in secterian killings in Karachi Who will solve our issues things are not simple People of Karachi should come out against Govt of Sindh & those secret hands who r playing with people of Karachi from 25 years you may recieve answer of Your Letter from PM but it will not solve our issues it will not be a guarantee that no such event will occur in Karachi PMLN s govt did necessary steps for peace in Karachi Target Killing is 50 % as compare to PPP s tenure but this is not the solution We should stand for Peace in Karachi We Should stand independently & demand peace from those who r ruling Sindh We should make them accountable for peace in Karachi U r supporting peace because of Your Sect this is not the way We All Should demand Peace in Karachi not on secterian or political grounds but on the basis that We Own Karachi We r the real citizens of Karachi When we will represent our political opinions when we will represent our religious opinions it will not be considered as nuetralRecommend

  • Proud to be Muslim

    Dear writer,
    It was really a heart-touching writing and my feelings were same when I used to walk through the roads of Karachi. I don’t want to left my country so I left my city. Only one thing I want to mention in your comment is where you wrote than when PPP came into government it started all wrong but the correct point is that it all started with the days like 12 May 2007. Musharraf released all the criminals to get some sort of support by hook or by crook after the creation of PML-Q government and it took 3-4 years to organize these criminals back.Recommend

  • Fuaaza Qazi

    Dr. Haider Raza treated my daughter at Darul Sehat Hospital. I was shocked to hear his news. One of my neighbours, a 22 year old boy shot dead on the basis of sectarian killings, nothing happened. But what I think until and unless these killers are not hanged on streets nothing will ever happen.

    Mr. Prime Minister doesn’t have time for all this nonsense. He has other important issues to resolve. You and me don’t matter to him at all.

    We are living in a jungle and have to protect our selves in our own way. Don’t expect anthing from the Government.

    And thats the bitter truth we have to face.Recommend

  • Abuzar Jamil

    There is a proverb in Pashto, I will try to translate it “My Chicken wouldn’t have laid egg in foreign place, if she wasn’t dishonest”.
    Stop throwing it on others, there are many in this country who will do anything to watch it burn.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Ummmm… Pakistan was the result of partition, not the reason.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Madam if that is what you gather from this blog…..I would think twice of coming to you for medical advice.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Congratulations on your medical degree.
    If you manage to get the Prime Minister’s attention…….kindly write about. Good Luck .Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    Pak or Ind were never reasons for the partition. One big huge entity would have been difficult / scary to face . So it was in you-know-who’s advantage to split the continent as much as possible . Smaller entities are easier to handle .Recommend



  • bigsaf

    Its both…an average Sunni Karachite does not feel safe or secure as well and ALL Karachites, including non-Sunni Karachites, face the same risks as them, such as robbery, kidnapping, murder, terrorism, etc. However the fear is greater for religious minority/sect, in this case a Shia Karachite, whose situation is worse (being Karachite AND Shia) facing a higher risk and probability of being victim of sect violence by extremists as compared to a Sunni Karachite.

    If you follow the first embedded link in “shot yesterday”, which leads to The Nation news report about 8 people murdered the other day, the first 4 victims are sectarian minorities and the motive of the crimes are sectarian. The other 4 murdered victims of different crimes and motives, include a home invasion robbery, political, police officer and personal enmity.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    Not to dismiss your good letter or the responsibilities of PPP or PML-N, but there was still anti-Shia sectarian cleansing, like target killing of professionals/doctors, and overall extremist terrorism under Musharraf (before and after 2001) within Karachi and outside (those in Kurram and Gilgit saw worse). It seemed relatively better, at least in Karachi, earlier in his time (perhaps some ironic credit to the MQM relationship in Karachi) compared to the worse situation now (or atmosphere of fear in the 90’s), but it was still there, and of course deteriorated at the end and into the PPP years.

    He put a cosmetic lid on certain militants and extremist groups (of course this still angered them) and didn’t eradicate all of them. No accountability at the top, which included his own security colleagues or religious political leaders/militants/assets, continuing 2-faced policies favouring certain religious militants, which is mad since they are all ideologically related. The Daniel Pearl affair perfectly sums up our lack of sincerity and security under Mush, at least in terms of extremism and sectarianism. It was going to comeback and get worse. Still,the current state of Karachi’s target killings is higher than what was under Mush, and not just sectarian, but political, criminal theft, spite, etc too. PML-N must tackle it.Recommend

  • ABKhan

    During the PML-N and Modi government minorities should hide to save the lives.Recommend

  • atika

    Agree completelyRecommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    The seeds of terrorism were sown during the musharaf era and it were the last years of his regime when terrorism engulfed pakistan and continues to do till day. So stop blaming the democratic govtsRecommend

  • sam

    eemm a big part of being a doctor is having compassion for those around you. courage or nerves of steel aren’t the only things that make one a doctor.Recommend

  • Syed Bukhari


    Nicely written.. Unfortunately I faced the same dilemma and eventually decided to leave the country. As far as I can see, not a single leader in any political party would want to curb it, though I can name many who are hoping to come to power with the help of terrorism.
    Hence I don’t tell people to “man up” anymore..

    Kind regards;

  • Rangoonwala

    You allow this kind of response from Indian trolls? But you would
    censure something written about Modi? By a non Indian? Why?Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Mr Author, fear is universal and survival is a ntural reaction. Mr Parvaz is seeking medics because on his watch Bibi was murdered. Most Pakistani muslims including the present Prime Minister ancestors were Hindus and converted to Islam to survive! Do what you must and protect yourself.Recommend

  • Alann

    Once Mr. Nawaz Sharif has enough BMWs for himself and his families, and once Pakistan Army has enough funds to produce atleast 2000 more nukes, and purchase some Series 7 BMWs and build few more DHAs and some Cinema Halls, then they will get to the work of looking after the ordinary citizens of Pakistan.
    In the meantime, I will suggest stacking up few hundred stacks of grass in your house somewhere, if in case you need to eat grass to survive in the years to come. Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto the Great will be so proud of you.
    Long live Pakistan the Islamic Nuclear Power, Yeah!Recommend