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Courage under fire: Social worker killed

May 15, 2013

THE war on progressive thought grinds on relentlessly in Pakistan. On Monday, Abdul Waheed, a social worker who ran a co-educational school in Karachi’s Islamia Colony and was active in polio campaigns and madressah education reform on a local level, was shot dead by unknown assailants outside his school. The attack also left his younger brother injured. While the motive of the killers is not yet known, Mr Waheed had repeatedly mentioned receiving threats to his life. It is pertinent to note that his school lies in a locality that is part of Manghopir, one of the areas in Karachi where the TTP wields influence. Many government schools here are reportedly closed because staff has stopped showing up for duty out of fear of violence.

Mr Waheed is the latest in a long line of social workers who have been targeted in Pakistan. Two months ago, Perween Rahman, director of the acclaimed Orangi Pilot Project that works on social uplift programmes in some of Karachi’s poorest neighborhoods, was shot dead. It is not yet clear whether the land mafia or militants are responsible for her murder. Mr Waheed, incidentally, was also working for the OPP. Since last December, attacks on polio immunisation teams have claimed over 20 lives in Karachi and KP. Earlier this year, six female teachers working for an NGO were gunned down in KP. Instances abound of kidnapping for ransom of aid workers. In Balochistan, after an aid worker was kidnapped and killed in April 2012 when the ransom demand was not met, several NGOs either wrapped up their work or severely curtailed it. According to a recent report, Pakistan is among the five most dangerous countries for aid workers. That is all the more reason to salute the courage of individuals like Mr Waheed, and to demand that the next government give priority to the security of those fighting for a progressive Pakistan against obscurantist forces who seek to take its people into the dark ages.