Save the youth from disillusionment, Mr PM – give Sabeen’s cause a voice!
Dear Mr Sharif,
There is no doubt that you have heard about the murder of Sabeen Mahmud. Other members of parliament and politicians have extended their grievances.
And I’m sure that even as I write this, your PA is vigorously typing out your official response; one that will attempt to soothe the flaring tempers of the people who knew her and those that didn’t. But Sir, haven’t we been here before? Someone beloved and irreplaceable gunned down because they said something that upset someone more powerful than them, and everyone condemns their murder via an official channel.
What more will you do Sir, as the prime minister of a country home to those brave enough to say that which you cannot openly admit? Isn’t it strange Sir that you, the ‘democratically’ elected leader of a nation 18-crore strong weren’t a threat, but Sabeen, a humble woman running her library-cum-coffee shop from a quiet part of Karachi would threaten factions strong enough to silence an uprising that broke Mohandas Gandhi’s world record?
You’ve never lived in Karachi, so I don’t know if you’re familiar with Sabeen or her work. She was incredibly sweet. When I was 17, I was involved in a student NGO. We had big dreams and no money, and Sabeen was one of the five people who agreed to help us. My friend and partner went to visit this lovely lady, recovering from a knee surgery, who humoured the ‘I want to change the world’ sentiments of a teenager. She invited Karachi’s public and its intellectuals over for coffee and conversation, keeping the spirit of community alive and vibrant. And most recently, she took a stand against oppressive elements and agreed to let the gaping wounds of Balochistan use her tiny ‘second floor’ as medicine.
Please don’t misunderstand me, Sir. I am not advocating her case to you. Her genius does not need your endorsement. Her bravery does not need your medals. But as a Karachiite, I need you to understand what has been taken from us. I need you to understand what we have lost. She was more important than your campaigns Sir, because she never had to claim to understand our grief, feel our pain or value our opinions. She never had to pretend to be one of us; she was one of us!
And I know that just like before, her murder will be dismissed with a brief ‘condemnation’. But it cannot stop there. You cannot let her death end what she had the courage to start. You cannot let the Balochistan cause disappear into the abyss once again. Before this, there were few who spoke about the atrocities in Balochistan. Many tried in vain, and were silenced. And now there are reports that Sabeen too was threatened.
But she went ahead with it sir. At the risk of her own life, she went ahead with it.
The least you can do is honour her sacrifice. If a single woman with little power, and lots of knowledge, could raise her voice against this dangerous subject, then the most powerful man in the country should have the gall to ensure that death does not silence her cause.
I will not condemn this country; because I have lived in Pakistan long enough to know that it is a brave and resilient nation. I know that the children of Pakistan value the lives of others more than their own. I know that the mothers of Pakistan can recover from the massacre of their children. I have lived in Karachi long enough, and have met enough of its people to know that in some circles Sabeen wasn’t the exception, she was and will always be the norm.
But sir, neither you nor I can ignore that the government has failed this brave nation one too many times. Since news of the tragedy broke, I have heard the voices of naysayers. I have been told that Sabeen’s example wasn’t that of inspiration, but of a warning. That there are some aspects of civilian rights that must remain anonymous. And I’m sure that you would caution me in the same way.
Why am I even writing this? I suppose these are the outpourings of one who is truly powerless. I suppose they are the confusions of the child in me, who saw Sabeen’s little space and said,
“I wish I could do that!”
Ultimately, I suppose it is a feeble act of desperation, of disillusionment. But it is to remind you that you and I both have a voice; yours is louder than mine, and perhaps this is to urge you to, for once, use it.
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