After Sabeen, who’s next?

The Killing Fields of Karachi
So after expressing our anguish and our anger, our protests and our protestations, on Facebook and Twitter and in drawing rooms, at the brutal killing of Sabeen Mahmud, how long will it be before we go back to our French Beach and our fashion shows, our restaurants and our raves, our overseas vacations and overboard lifestyles? How long before Sabeen too becomes a fading memory and spoken of as a ‘bechari’?

I am sorry if that opening sounds accusatory and even holier-than-thou. I stand accused as much as anyone else. But right now, I am overwhelmed by a great sense of déjà vu, recalling the innumerable times we have been faced with similar situations, vowing not to bow down to the forces of evil, only to forget everything in a matter of weeks if not days, and plunge back, perhaps even with an subliminal sense of relief, into the pursuit of our own material comforts.

I ask everyone to take a hiatus from outraged outpourings to ponder over why Sabeen got killed. Why, beyond the immediate apparent reason that she took a stand on an issue or issues which various quarters did not appreciate. Even as many writers in the mass media and the social media are expressing shock and rage at her killing, there are others, many others who have quite the opposite view . Don’t believe me? Do a little search on the Net. Be prepared to be quite shocked. How is that people of this country can have such diametrically opposite and deeply ingrained beliefs?

It is because hate and intolerance and extreme polarization is the order of the day. This society has gone very, very wrong and the cancer has spread to every human activity. Wanton killings, violent street crime, burglaries, child molestation, sexual harassment, rapes, widespread drug addiction, rampant corruption, class exploitation, adulteration in everything, cheating, lying, fraud, land-grabbing, bearing false witness, ethnic and religious intolerance …. The list is endless and each evil has assumed gargantuan proportions. We are a society dangerously close to total anarchy. Don’t be misled by the glitz of malls and fashion weeks and the like. All this is a cloak of bizarre unreality barely concealing the rotting soul of society.

What can

one do? This is the inevitable question young people especially and those with no connections or influence often ask forlornly. There is goodness in all of us but we feel so helpless. But what we can do is to work towards change; make whatever difference we as individuals can, to bring about a change, even knowing that the change will not transpire overnight and can take years, even generations.

I believe if there is one single factor that can save our society in the future to come, it is widespread education. Only a literate populace can be sensitive to what is right and what is wrong; take on the responsibilities and obligations of every individual to society and to the state; respect the rule of law; develop strong nationalism; fight against tyranny and oppression; work for progress and harmony; build the nation. It is widespread education which has placed countries like South Korean, Singapore, Malaysia and even Sri Lanka where they are today, all having started off their independent status after us and with far more modest resources.

So if you want to move beyond lamenting and work for change, educate a child. Can’t give time? Just make a donation to an organization like The Citizens Foundation; Rs. 14,000 educates a child for a year. Rs. 154,000 educates a child from KG to Matriculation. Go on to TCF’s website and Walk the Talk. Or sit back and wonder, after Sabeen, who’s next?

The Killing Fields of Karachi:

My city sadly has been the Killing Fields of Pakistan since as far back as I can remember. Many a valiant champion of human rights, many a fighter for justice and many a brave soul who could tell all has been snuffed out in this city. Names I can recall immediately:

Shahid Hamid, managing director of the then KESC was killed along with his driver and bodyguard in July 1997. In October 1998, Hakim Saeed was assassinated by a group of unknown assailants. Mir Rustam Jamali, excise and taxation minister of Balochistan, was assassinated in August 2009, while driving in Gulistan-e-Jauhar. Social activist and director of Orangi Pilot Project, Perween Rahman was shot dead in March 2013. Wali Khan Babar is one among many journalists whose life was cut short by unknown killers. Ali Akbar Kumaili, son of Shia scholar Abbas Kumaili was shot dead in September 2014, adding to the list of literally thousands of Shias who have been victims of target killings in this city over the years.

Not to forget Murtaza Bhutto, killed while his own sister was the Prime Minister of the country.

The scale of killings in Karachi is mind-blowing, even in the past few years. In July 2011, continuous target killings claimed the lives of over 300 people. In the next month, 44 more people were killed. Most of these killings were of Urdu speaking people. In 2012, over 2,000 people were killed during the year. In 2013 the figure went up to 2,700 people killed, with 40,000 reported incidents of crime. Last year, in 2014, a HRCP report states that 2,909 people, including women, children, suspects and law-enforcers, were killed in the city.

Go back in history and to this day we are not sure if Fatima Jinnah died a natural death or not in July 1964.

And are you aware of the circumstances in which the founder of Pakistan himself died? Draw your own conclusions from the below excerpts from the book ‘With the Quaid-e-Azam during his last days’, written by his personal physician, Col. Ilahi Baksh; a book that was banned from 1949 to 1976.

“He (Jinnah) landed at the Maripoor Airport at 4.15 (September 11, 1948) and a great load was taken off my mind. As I got out of the plane, I saw the Military Secretary to the Governor-General, Colonel Knowles, standing by an ambulance but could see no nurse.…We had hardly gone four miles when the ambulance stopped. Wondering what had happened, I got out and found that there had been a breakdown due to engine trouble. The driver assured us that he would soon put it right, but he fiddled with the engine for about twenty minutes, and the ambulance would not start.

Miss Jinnah sent the Military Secretary to fetch another ambulance….It was very oppressive in the ambulance, and the Quaid-i-Azam was perspiring in spite of continued fanning by the nurse and the servants. ….Except for the most distressing breakdown of the ambulance, everything had been going in the patient’s favour. What a catastrophe if, having survived the air journey, he were to die by the road-side….. I kept on looking distractedly towards the town, but there was no sign of an ambulance…. I felt utterly forlorn and helpless. After an excruciatingly prolonged interval the ambulance appeared at last.

We quickly shifted the Quaid-i-Azam into the new ambulance and resumed our unhappily interrupted journey. The ambulance did not fly the Governor-General’s Flag, so nobody knew that the Quaid-i-Azam was being take in a critical condition through the streets of Karachi.

…..The ambulance was driven to the front of the Quaid-i-Azam’s room. He was brought in on a stretcher, and I helped in lifting him to his bed.….. I asked Colonel Knowles to ring up Col. M. H. Shah to arrange for a night nurse and send an enema can with her. But Colonel Shah could not be contacted anywhere. We then rang up Colonel Saeed Ahmed Surgeon to the Jinnah Central Hospital, but having just started an operation, he was inaccessible. I then went myself to look for Col. Shah and bring the nurse and enema can with me. But he was neither at his house nor at the Hospital.

Not wishing to disturb Colonel Saeed Ahmed in the middle of a major operation, I went to the Nurses’ Home, but found the matron out and no experienced nurse available. I felt exasperated and at a loss as to what to do. Everything had started going wrong from the moment we had landed at the Aerodrome….. After another injection of the medicine, I said reassuringly to the Quaid-i-Azam, “Sir, we have given you an injection to strengthen you, and it will soon have effect. God willing, you are going to live.” The Quaid-i-Azam shook his head and said faintly, “No, I am not”. These were the last words he spoke to anybody before he died about half an hour later.”

5 Responses to After Sabeen, who’s next?

  1. Hunaid says:

    Bob, this is a very moving piece from you and nothing needs to be said.

    With regards to comparison with South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and even Sri Lanka, I must make a couple of simple observations – they were all benevolent dictatorships. Also, all those countries have Buddhism as its moral base and even Malaysia has a strong Chinese presence making Islamic laws a bit more benign in the 21st century.
    Without a Mao type of insurgency, education as you see it is not possible for the masses and I only hope I am wrong.

  2. afia salam says:

    education? have you seen the comments posted by the ‘educated’.. the vitriol, the hatred…. how will it change if the new generation is brought up in the same environment, reading the same things that are taught… they will but emulate:(

    • Zohare Ali Shariff says:

      You are also educated, Afia. But there is no vitriol or hatred from you. So what does this mean?

  3. ayesha says:

    Can’t agree with you more! Indeed it’s doing time, education will pave way for tolerance, open mindedness and co existence!Support TCF, you can’t change the world but u can change someone’s world!

  4. Hunaid says:

    Today is the 40th anniversary of when Vietnam was liberated from the West and I have to ask what is it about certain people that can rise from being beaten down in such a way and learn to forgive those who killed thousands of them and displaced millions. What did they have, other than US Aid, that countries like Pakistan does not have?

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