Silencing the voice of the voiceless

Published Jan 12, 2013 01:42pm

290-Irfan-Ali-Khudi
His parents named him Irfan Ali but he added ‘Khudi’ to it later on. He strongly believed in Iqbal’s ‘Khudi ko kar buland itna kay hurr taqdeer se pehlay … khuda banday se khud puchay bata teri raza kya hai’.

Ali had an intense devotion to education, which is why he was hugely disappointed when he, like many of his fellow citizens, was unable to complete his schooling due to the worsening security situation in Balochistan, particularly his home city – Quetta. His dream of becoming a social psychologist was never realised.

Not one to give up, he found the next best way to quench his thirst for knowledge: engaging with people from various ethnicities and religions. He would try and study every person he met, interacting with them to better understand their lives, their struggles. The honest effort he made in getting to know someone made him approachable and trustworthy.

Ali never remained a mere spectator to what was happening in his country, his province and particularly, his home city where members of his community were being unabatedly slaughtered. His voice rang loud and clear; mobilising the youth, and organising seminars and conferences to address the deteriorating human rights situations in Balochistan.

A peace activist

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Young Ali: First left.

In early 2011, Ali actively launched the ‘Human Rights Commission for Social Justice and Peace’ organisation. This initiative was essentially aimed at raising awareness about the human rights violations in Balochistan and working towards solutions. Not remaining limited to his own community or province, he traveled across Balochistan and around the country to campaigning relentlessly for education, justice and peace for everyone.

Being a member of the persecuted Hazara community, Ali was very personally feeling the pain inflicted by terrorism, more so than most Pakistanis his age, and because of which he was ever-present, expressing condolences to and solidarity with the victims of terrorist attacks from Karachi to Peshawar to Gilgit and Parachinar.

Paying tribute to ANP’s Bashir Ahmed Bilour.
Paying tribute to ANP’s Bashir Ahmed Bilour. Ali grew more determined as ethnic and sectarian clashes in Pakistan amplified, preaching tolerance, unity and love to anyone and everyone who would listen.

Ali and Shahzada Zulfiqar (Balochistan’s renowned journalist) at a meeting held by Aman Ettihad in Quetta aimed at sustaining ethnic and sectarian harmony.
Ali and Shahzada Zulfiqar (Balochistan’s renowned journalist) at a meeting held by Aman Ettihad in Quetta aimed at sustaining ethnic and sectarian harmony.

Ali was of the view that Balochistan’s issues could be solved through dialogue. In his speeches and discussions, he would emphasise that extremism was being purposefully nurtured in the province, urging all ethnic groups of Balochistan to unite and resist it.

A representative

Ali at ‘Pakistan India Social Media Mele 2012, Karachi.
At the 'Pakistan India Social Media Mela' 2012, Karachi.

Representing Balochistan on multiple national forums, he enlightened his audiences about the ground realities in the province which he thought ‘were never portrayed in the mainstream media’. His focus became spreading awareness amongst ordinary Pakistanis about everything that was happening in the province that he believed were kept secret.

A true patriot

Taking part in #ProjectCleanUpForPeace in September 2012 when he and other Pakistani youths rushed to the streets to clean up the mess created by the angry mob who had protested against an anti-Islam movie.
Taking part in #ProjectCleanUpForPeace in September 2012 when he and other Pakistani youths rushed to the streets to clean up the mess created by the angry mob who had protested against an anti-Islam movie.

Hurt by the anti-Islam movie, Ali entirely disagreed with the way the mob expressed their frustrations by burning up public property, rioting, lynching and threatening religious minorities in the country. He believed that ‘mutual respect, religious harmony, peace and social justice were the only way forward’.

Talking at the Balochistan University of Information and Technology on International Corruption Day in 2012.
Talking at the Balochistan University of Information and Technology on International Corruption Day in 2012.

Troubled by the ‘culture of corruption’ in Pakistan, Ali believed it was this very mentality that had paved the way for terrorists and enemies of the country to penetrate into sensitive institutions to cause instability.

A women’s rights activist

During a conference organised by Civil Society Advisory Group to UN Women Affairs, Lahore Nov 2012.
During a conference organised by Civil Society Advisory Group to UN Women Affairs, Lahore Nov 2012.

It was impossible for a man with a real heart to remain indifferent towards violence against women in Pakistan. And so, he didn’t organise a single event without engaging a notable number of women representatives.

Holding the banner for a 16-day campaign to stop violence against women.
Holding the banner for a 16-day campaign to stop violence against women.

At one such event called the ‘Gender Equality and Sensitization Session with Media’ at Laureds, Quetta, where I too had the honor to speak, I remember being overwhelmed by the sincerity Ali and his co-activists displayed in their efforts to improve women’s livelihood conditions.

A democrat

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Whenever asked to suggest the three best solutions to the current crisis in Pakistan, Ali would reply with “Democracy, democracy, democracy!”

“Had Pakistan been ruled by a democratically elected governments from the very beginning, it would have been one of the most prosperous courtiers of the world,” he said during a workshop at Tajai Khan Sports Complex, Quetta in 2011.

A voice for the voiceless

A true, tireless human rights defender, he traveled across the country to raise his voice for the voiceless despite receiving direct and indirect threats.

He once tweeted:

Dismissed by the otherwise ultra-active Pakistani media, he never lost hope.

Dressed in blood-stained clothes while protesting in front of the Parliament House, Islamabad, against Hazara killings in Quetta.
Dressed in blood-stained clothes while protesting in front of the Parliament House, Islamabad, against Hazara killings in Quetta.

As in the case of most attacks, Ali rushed towards the site of the bomb blast on Alamdar Road, Quetta, on January 10, 2013 to help the victims. He lost his life trying to save another - his death, a symbolic embodiment of his life.

Earlier that day, he had informed me about the letters being thrown into Hazara houses in the Machh and Khuzdar areas of Balochistan threatening them to leave the towns.

His last tweet also read:

Irfan Ali’s body along with 104 other dead bodies are still lying on Alamdar Road, Quetta surrounded by hundreds of thousands of mourners who have rejected to bury their loved ones unless the state of Pakistan promises to fulfill its prime duty — providing protection to its citizens.

For the better part of his life, Ali fought for all Pakistanis, regardless of race and religion. Will Pakistanis now fight for him?


The author is a freelance journalist and human rights activist from Quetta. He can be reached at dr.saleemjavid@gmail.com


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


The author is a freelance journalist and human rights activist based in Quetta. He tweets at @mSaleemJaved and can be reached at dr.saleemjavid@gmail.com


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (46) (Closed)


rukhsanashama
Jan 13, 2013 09:56am
It is indeed a great loss. And we will fight for him.
AJ
Jan 13, 2013 08:05pm
Pakistan is a nation of talkers and not do'ers. The army of Pakistan indeed is the most disappointing institution, with the unquestionable budget and policies are playing with the fate of Pakistan and running it slowly but surely into the ground. Sadly we are getting consumed by our own monster that our esteemed ARMY.
Ismail
Jan 13, 2013 08:48am
enlightened moderation in a land with no light....Deeds, not words. No showboating, no charity balls, no handholding and candlelight vigils, no drama and religious frenzy. Just one concerne, nationalistic, son of Pakistan. Dead. Business as usual in the this cursed land...turn the page. RIP Irfan Ali.
AHA
Jan 13, 2013 02:35pm
And very, very confused.
hARRY
Jan 13, 2013 02:50pm
Talibans are the worst people in the world.They are criminals and beasts . they must be crushed down. they are a serious threat to our country. they are much more dangerous than India or Israeil.
aniket
Jan 14, 2013 11:17am
Let me give a short and sweet answer to your question. NO!..:)
Sam
Jan 13, 2013 10:29am
This sad. May her rest in peace. I hope peace comes to Pakistan.
naveen
Jan 14, 2013 01:09pm
What a brave young man, loss to Pakistan and Pakistanis. May he rest in peace.
Yogesh
Jan 14, 2013 07:44am
Why there is no attempt to dissect, analyse and investigate the source of inspiration and motivation of those indulging in these killings? Perhaps they are afraid it may reveal some uncomfortable truths.
Khanzada
Jan 14, 2013 07:31am
Irfan Ali was still a young man who died while fighting for a cause he believed in for his people. He stood for everything that was GOOD and his life was short but rich in achievements! He was a TRUE HERO!
Mohsin Ehtesham
Jan 14, 2013 07:21am
You were A brave Soldier ! INdeed! May Allah Bless Your soul in Peace!
Bassi
Jan 13, 2013 08:24pm
Irfan Ali - You indeed were a courageous man, true patriot and model citizen. May your soul rest in peace.
Drummer
Jan 14, 2013 07:07am
For every soul that departs, there is always a voiceless story that needs to be told.... My heart goes out to Irfan Ali Khudi and the other martyrs. Justice and Peace will prevail InshaAllah, and these deaths will not be in vain.
Majority
Jan 14, 2013 01:04pm
Salute to this young brave soul. You dies while trying to help others. You campaigned for peaceful political change and believed in non-violence. How can you but not be a true martyr. Victory is indeed yours Proud should be the parents who gave you life... and proud should be the community who had an enlightened youth like you Irfan. Adieu my friend and brother. May you rest in peace.
KB
Jan 14, 2013 06:12am
this is very very sad - my heart goes out to him KB (India)
kanwal
Jan 12, 2013 02:01pm
When will this nation speak up as one against the atrocities of the Taliban and LeJ likes? When will they be stopped frim spreading this campaign of hate and killings? Where is the army chief? Mwhere is president and the CJ? Or is it just some fickle hazaras and shia dying so no one cares?
Zulfiqar
Jan 12, 2013 02:09pm
I am Very Sad. Most of the people are Silent..
Khan
Jan 14, 2013 05:43am
Reviewing all the comments, it seems that Talabans are an open Pandora box. But there are so many other extremist organizations working in parallel with Talaban's ideology. It is the pit fall of our interior ministry to find out the truth and make it public. Our incompetent agency’s failures and their aloofness have brought Pakistan to its knee. Unfortunately when we choose our leaders we choose them on the basis of corruption not on their credibility. In my opinion Pakistan is the only country where people are loyal to their political parties and the provinces they belong to not to the country.
Rida
Jan 12, 2013 02:42pm
Ali is a symbol of courage for the youth of Pakistan. If Pakistan is to survive, we need more voices like him.
Akram
Jan 13, 2013 12:36pm
Irfan bhai, your loss is a great one for Pakistan, but we must resolve to pursue what you and I believe in. The sectarian groups must be terminated.
really upset
Jan 12, 2013 03:04pm
We need to do two things: 1) Understand that existing set up will not bring justice, so some of us have to decide how justice could be served to protect the innocent and bring the animals to justice.... we should so to the source 2) Protest peacefully walk to Islamabad and choke the city unless all involved are brought tho justice... time for talking is over...
Tahir
Jan 12, 2013 03:10pm
Dear Kanwal, we as Ahmadis have been posing the same question since 1952. The problems may appear as Taleban connected but they are not new and years of manifestation of such mindset and upbringing are now bearing such ugly fruits. There is still hope though.
S.A. Hyder, Ph.D.
Jan 12, 2013 03:22pm
Where is the army chief? Where is president and the CJ? Or is it just some hazaras and shia dying so no one cares?.
AHA
Jan 12, 2013 03:26pm
We never will. We are a very confused lot.
S. A. M.
Jan 12, 2013 04:54pm
Im not a pessimist but the way things are going the Pakistan there is very little hope in things getting ever back to normal. In fact through out the tenures of Gen Zia, Benazir, Nawaz Sharif, Musharaf and definitely the of Zardari we had always been hoping that things would get better one day but they were always deteriorating. In Musharraf's period the hopes were very high as situation in the country was really improving but he was shown exit. I must say that the situation was never ever so hopeless, so frustrating and so threatening as it is now in the government of Zardari. Still there is a ray of hope that someone totally new having no connections with the present day political parties and so called politicians will to take us out of the clutches of terrorists. Will we survive to see that day?
rich
Jan 12, 2013 05:34pm
with this sort of massacre the people of pakistn should have taken to the street and brought the govt to its knees, all over pakistan, the silence for most part is criminal pakistn people shouls realise with killing people like him soo there will be noone to stand up for the common people. in india one brutal rape and the govt was brought to its knee, where the PM went to the airport to receive the victims body, why is pakistani president/PM not in quetta? hope he has peace in the other life god bless his soul Richie
Ali
Jan 12, 2013 05:40pm
Dear Kanwal!! Yes Indeed. No one really cares about us dying in this country, their silence is a mere acceptance of what they believe in, and thats to consider Shias not their Muslim brothers.
Tabassum
Jan 12, 2013 05:51pm
this is such a sad time for our country
Indian
Jan 12, 2013 06:52pm
God bless pakistan
a
Jan 12, 2013 07:02pm
The nation should get up and join the vigil!!!! This should never happen again!!!
Fraz
Jan 13, 2013 01:19pm
Where is our so called great nation.why are we all not in the vigil and expressing support . Shame on not only zardari but on all of us
S.A. Hyder, Ph.D.
Jan 12, 2013 08:04pm
Keep up the hope. There is nothing wrong with hoping. Only, that many hopes and wishes never get fulfilled!
Zeeshan Qazi
Jan 12, 2013 08:11pm
A place where the bloodied hands of Sipah-e-Sahaabah or rather Sipah-e-Shyateen are allowed to roam freely on the streets, can never attain peace.
Aqil Siddiqi
Jan 12, 2013 08:18pm
People of this nation is in Coma. I am afraid, by the time they wake up, it will be too late.
Aqil Siddiqi
Jan 12, 2013 08:23pm
When the will of it's citizens dies, a nation dies a slow death. For last 65 years, what we have seen is beyond anyone's wild imagination. As ttime goes by, a nation forge ahead, but Pakistan has always receded, and now, they are back in stone age. Now I wonder, why we ever got an independense, and what we have done to our opportunities.
alo majumdar (new delhi)
Jan 12, 2013 10:09pm
I salute this incredibly brave and committed soldier who tirelessly fought for peace, human rights and understanding. The best tribute to Ali would be for thousands more to come forward and spread his word and his work all over Pakistan.
Rabia Shoaib
Jan 13, 2013 01:59am
Dear Ali, thank you for bring there for Pakistan and its people. Today, they got you, tomorrow its my turn. you went down fighting for what is right. Thnak you for being a great inspiration and there are good people like you in this world, that's why there is still light. the oppressed will rise. Rest in Peace.
Naveed Lotia
Jan 13, 2013 02:01am
Beautifully written and very moving. God bless his sould and grant him the highest place in heaven. Shame on the barbarians, shame on them. Shame on the government of Pakistan, who watches silently, quitely and does nothing to stop the barbarians at the gate......!
Observer
Jan 13, 2013 01:53pm
Stop taking start doing,Just do it. :)
AHA
Jan 13, 2013 01:53pm
RIP, the brave one,
Naseer
Jan 13, 2013 06:19am
People of Pakistan are cowards. They can not side with the innocent. Yesterday it was Ahmedi's. Today it is Shia, tomorrow it will be the other sunni's. Taliban will never stop until they kill every one.
Prof.Anjum Paul
Jan 13, 2013 03:51am
Mr.Arfan Ali, we salute your efforts for peace and harmony esecially in Pakistan. Your martyrdom will surely bear fruit one day.
Afaq
Jan 13, 2013 04:02am
Nation is divided on ethnic line by these shameless politician and self made leaders of the country.
Amjad Wyne
Jan 13, 2013 04:45am
Where are Zardari and Bilawal?
mazharuddin
Jan 13, 2013 05:13am
I appreciate peace activities. Such activities can only be fruitful if honest and sincere efforts done. Honesty and sincerity need thorough study of conflict and try to bring people together on truth. Writer must prove by his sincere efforts, the present need is to settle sectarian dispute once for all on the basis of justice and reality.
Ganesh (India)
Jan 13, 2013 06:10am
People are not in Coma... rather they have become Zombies...