As a citizen of Pakistan, I am to blame for the death of Khurram Zaki

Published: May 9, 2016

His colleagues say the murder is a "grim reminder" of the danger activists face. PHOTO: YAHOO

I lost my friend on Saturday night. He was sipping tea at a Chaikhana (tea shop) with two colleagues when four men on bikes showed up and showered them with bullets. He received five bullets in his upper body and was shifted to a hospital in critical condition before he was finally moved to the Agha Khan hospital for treatment. Khurram Zaki – the activist, the blogger, the progressive ideologue, the wall of perseverance against the rising tide of sectarian violence, a devoted father and a good friend – was martyred before the clock struck 12 am.

One never really has a clue to how they would react to the death of a friend. Tears are a normal reaction, followed by disbelief and then, haunting emptiness. I hadn’t had more than four hours of sleep a night for the past week but I still couldn’t sleep after hearing the news. I couldn’t stop remembering him and his memory brought along a lot more soul-searching than I could bear. However, at the end of it, the only thing I didn’t feel was anger.

Who should I be angry at?

The killers, who were probably, paid 10k a kill.

The government, which already heard consistent earfuls from Khurram talking against groups the government didn’t want to take action against.

The banned organisations, which were always at the receiving end of Khurram’s protests and had issued numerous death threats to him over the years.

How can I be angry at them, when it was not they, but people like myself who were more responsible for his death.

As a citizen of Pakistan, I am to blame for the death of Khurram Zaki.

His movement, his protests and his speeches were not for himself. He never made a speech in the morning only to detract from it in the evening. He never made tall claims or promises to the people, only to look the other way when he got what he wanted. He always spoke for the sake of the people and against the enemies of its citizens.

National security vs National’s security

A question that arises here is: who are these enemies of Pakistani nationals? Is it just the Taliban and some identified foreign governments who back them? Are not the agents of chaos in our country, who wilfully and openly kill Pakistani nationals our enemies? Why is it that whenever someone talks openly against men like Lal Masjid’s Abdul Aziz (he is not a Maulana, especially if you know the definition of Maulana) and his ilk, they are the ones who land in jail? Why isn’t Abdul Aziz in jail?

How could a man condone the murder of innocent children at the Army Public School, Peshawar and still not be behind bars? Are there different laws (or rather none) for people who possess armed zealots at their beck and call? Why is there no Zarb-e-Azb in our cities where it is most needed?

Is it because these organisations are backed by countries, we are politically and financially indebted to? Why does PEMRA cogently urge TV channels to stop spewing truth against ‘friendly’ countries in the name of national security? Are Pakistani ‘nationals’ not a major (or rather the only) consideration of our ‘national’ security policy? When will the interests of Pakistanis be more paramount to the State than the interests of the Arabs, the Persians, the Americans and the rest of the North, South, East and West?

This is a question that the ‘state’ needs to answer. What interests will be left if the nation doesn’t survive.

On whose hands should I find my blood?

Millions of Pakistanis lost a friend along with me. We buried him yesterday with his 12-year-old crying by his side and his four-year-old playing with the dirt around his grave oblivious of what people have done to him. Khurram was sincere to us in his quest to unearth and identify our enemies but we were not sincere to him. Scenes that were witnessed yesterday could easily make an apathetic person weep uncontrollably.

Khurram was forgotten even before we buried him. His will to his colleagues after being shot was to have the Namaz-e-Janaza at the Chief Minister’s (CM) House and not leave the premises until the killers were apprehended. Mischief mongers (whom I am not going to name) announced after his ghusl at Incholi Imambargah that since the FIR had been lodged against banned organisations’ leaders, it was no longer necessary to go the CM House. They coerced people to pray the Namaz-e-Janaza at Incholi and proceed with burial. When this failed they attempted the same tactics when the protesters were outside the CM House, lying to the people that Khurrum’s widow was asking the people to pack up and move ahead towards burial.

How could we be so insincere to someone the moment their eyes are closed is just appalling. Let’s all look at our hands and like Macbeth, see the blood of all those who stood for us on it.

In truth, we do not deserve people like Parween Rehman, Sabeen Mahmud and Khurram Zaki – no matter how much we need them. They showed us how we could help people, be progressive and be religious without killing anyone for it. They stood for what was right and paid the price for it in full. They paid this price because we didn’t support them when they needed it, didn’t stand with them when they were standing for us and we didn’t join them when they spoke against injustice. Their blood is on our hands and we can only wash it if we add ours to it.

Support their cause, rise against injustice and speak the truth. We all have to die. Let us all die with dignity like they did.



The author holds an MPhil in Public Administration and has taught Politics and Public Policy at the University of Karachi.

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

  • siesmann

    Said nothing about the narrative,and need for its change.Start with school books,so that young minds are not poisoned.Put Mullah back into the mosque where he belongs(won’t be easy as he has tasted he power that he claims comes from God,and have declared himself above God).If Mullah has to decide everything,what is the use of national institutions?Recommend

  • Syeda Ali

    Very well written & I agree to your POV completely. What an irony :-(Recommend

  • talha usmani

    Its such a shame for every Pakistani, but no one will ever realize.Recommend

  • محب اللہ کراچوی

    you’ll find gleeful posts celebrating the assassination of Sunnis, justifications for the Rawalpindi massacre, justification for Shia terrorism in general, blatant abuse of revered Islamic personalities & blatant racism against Pakhtuns and Arabs. “Peace activist” – yeah right! You’re responsible for the death of Khuram Zaki, since you two were so close, you should have stopped your friend from engaging in vile sectarian & racial hate-mongering Recommend

  • محب اللہ کراچوی

    Does this include hate-spewing Shia Mullahs like Khuram Zaki or just the religious leaders of the Sunni majority?Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Start embrassing nativity, starting with giving up Semitic names. That includes me. My name needs to be Shri.Shailesh Mumbaikar. Later day abrahamic religions are darbari constructs to divide & enslave natives. It worked when the rulers were barbaric marauding Turks and Anglos and masses were native dharmic on whose jizia converts could feed. Now in Pakistan there are no native dharmic, so converts have to work for their earning.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Mullah is a Mullah,whatever his denomination.Manufactured similarly, have same mind-set,same regressive attitude…Recommend

  • Juan

    False equivalence and the same old prejudiced narrative against any sort of minority activism which the majority sees more as threatening than their own evidenced detrimental supremacists amongst them, whom they choose to ignore.

    Khuram Zaki wasn’t a religious leader nor was he part of the state education. What you see as ‘hate-spewing’ was in reality speaking out against Sunni Islamist extremism (note not all Sunnis), though he did blame the entire Deoband sub-sect, particularly that carried out against the Shia minority.

    I believe siesmann means the separation of state and religious figures of all types. And I’m pretty sure he’d rather not see the regressive Islamist types, many of whom are from the Sunni sect, such as Lal Masjid’s Abdul Aziz, whom I hope you don’t consider as a ‘religious leader’ of the Sunni majority, given his extremist views and history, which Zaki was against.Recommend

  • Lotus

    Very pertinent article.When will we as a nation get awakened by the agents of the Mullah brigade who know only one language that is fire power?We should learn from the history of countries like Cambodia, Angola,Vietnam,etc which have faced massive destruction of their civilians but they as a nation threw out all the internal differences whether religious,cultural,linguistics,etc amongst themselves and are now confidently trudging on a road of economic development.When will this day dawn in Pakistan?Only when we learn to tolerate difference among ourselves of any kind and completely throw the fire power out.We as a nation should appreciate the power of ballot and not bullets.But as long as Mullah brigades and individuals like Abdul Azizuddin are there,the hope,if any,in this context are minimal.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Islam is in use as WMD by all kinds crooks, criminals and imperialists, so progressive among converts will be killed like Saddam, Gaddafi and Mujibur Rehman. For token extremist like Osamas will be killed but otherwise the ideologists like Zakir Naik will be made popular and even will be helped with media time and $s.Recommend

  • rukhsana shama

    The fact remains. No matter how much hate spewing they become it is a reaction to what Sunnis, being in majority have done to them. So for me their ‘hate spewing’ (which is not so much anyway) is very justified. Please clear your own heart before pointing fingers to others.Recommend

  • Ali Vazir

    Shar, that was a brilliant piece. The end was even better than the beginning. I can never forget the words of Jibran Nasir of 08-May,
    “A year ago when Khurram protested for 36hrs outside CM house against SSP, only a handful came. Today when he is no more 1000s came for his funeral at the same spot. This is why we lose activists because we leave them alone when it matters.”Recommend

  • محب اللہ کراچوی

    No it’s actually the opposite, any hatred by Sunnis is merely a reaction to the invidious teachings of Shia Mullahs. Unlike Shiites, who are subjected to intense hateful brainwashing at least forty days an year, Sunnis are never brought up to hate Shiites, it’s only after they come across the crazy conspiracy theories and historical fiction that Shia Mullahs spin out of enmity of revered Islamic personalities that some of them start hating Shiites instead of just pitying them.Recommend

  • محب اللہ کراچوی

    As previously noted, Khuram Zaki’s website celebrates & defends Shiite violence & terrorism. Khuram Zaki was a Shiite religious leader, other Shiite religious leaders considered them one of their own. A recent statement by the head of the Shiite hate group ironically named Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen said the same. Zaki came in talk shows to defend Shiite practices like Muta (how’s that for women’s rights?), it was obvious he was a trained preacher of Twelver Shiism.

  • محب اللہ کراچوی

    You name IS Shailesh Mumbaikar you’re such a transparent Hindutva troll that someone trying to produce a caricature of dimwited Hindutva trolls would look up to you as a master of parody.Recommend

  • Juan

    Yet by example he didn’t pick the gun and instead held public civil protests. If it were a practicing religious Sunni person on his or her opinion on religious matters, does not by necessarily by default become a cleric.

    His views on sexual liberalization or legalized prostitution, as opposed to other conservative Sunni Islamist views on one sided divorces, underage marriages, etc, does not disqualify him as a human rights activist.Recommend

  • Juan

    You clearly have a great deal of animosity and prejudice against the minority Shiite Muslims and seem to be justifying Sunni Islamist extremism, which non-Sunnis and moderate Sunnis, apart from Shiites, have suffered from.Recommend

  • Insiya

    Then pray, tell me why Shi’as constitute the majority of victims? Also, it isn’t ‘Sunni extremists’ but rather Saudi-backed miscreants that seek to divide us as Muslims and humans; sadly, your actions of blaming others may contribute to and motivate sectarian violence.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    The Marathi medium school not n Medium where the fees were 4 anas, indeed had Sanglikar Mastar who and Devlale … nobody knew the were Muslim, in fact I who had Semitic name and last name did not knew. But then we did not care then whether Shuddh/Pak Marathi speaking Wu was Chinese or not, though he had Mongolian features. Sickularism of Nehru, the Lutyen Coconut variety had not come to the small town where I grew up. The Tazia carrying crowd in Muharram was 95% Marathas whom you would call Hindu. So you can call me Hindu and I would be proud to be Hindu, the son of the soil. No white man or Turki marauder can tell me who am I. I have as much claim on Ramanujam, C. V Raman, Khorana, Arya Bhatt, Leelavati the mathematician and Shivaji, the great as any so called Hindu, be it Modi or Togadia. I will not allow anyone to cut my roots and make me parasite. Marathi is more dear to me than Hindi and defintely much more dear than enslaving and roots cutting Urdu.Recommend

  • Shar

    Dear Ali,
    Thanks for the kind words!Recommend

  • Muhammad Salman

    Absolutely right!Recommend

  • Muhammad Salman

    Very well written SHARRecommend