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Sabeen Mahmud, social media campaigner and human rights activist - Khuda Bux Abro
Sabeen Mahmud, social media campaigner and human rights activist - Khuda Bux Abro

The fingers type, but I don’t feel them moving. The ears sense a commotion, but I cannot hear. The eyes fight back tears, but it’s futile to resist.

How can you feel, how can you react, how can you respond, when the news of a friend’s death hits you, right between the eyes?

But Sabeen was far more than a friend, she was a beacon; an island of calm in a sea of madness.

The Second Floor, conceived and modelled in her own image, was the physical embodiment of her intangible love for all things; food, the arts, knowledge and ideas, and, of course, people.

As bleeding heart liberals go, Sabeen’s was the bloodiest heart I have ever come across. Sabeen did a lot more than just help people. She championed causes, thought outside the box and wanted, with every breath, to make a difference.

Also read: Sabeen Mahmud — a profile

A leading light of the #PakistanForAll and #ReclaimYourMosque campaigns, she was usually the first to hit the streets and the last to go home.

When they came for the Shias of Alamdar Road, she was at Numaish from the very beginning to the bitter end.

When they came for the Christians of Peshawar, she was right there at the heart of the human chains that protected churches on Sunday mass.

Always one to challenge convention, always one to take the unpopular stand, always one to side with the underdog; Sabeen Mahmud never backed down from a fight.

When the bearded brigade came after her for daring to say “Faasla na rakhein, pyaar honay dein,” she didn’t get cowed.

When Maulana Abdul Aziz was shouting obscenities into the loudspeaker, she was right there with Jibran Nasir and Shaan Taseer. I remember, because I met her, hugged her and asked her for some words of wisdom.

Also read: T2F hosts the Balochistan discussion that others shy away from

That was the last time I met Sabeen. On a cold Islamabad evening, outside the Aabpara police station.

She paced the crowd as Jibran held forth. She saw from a distance the incivility of a civil society, but turned and walked away, quietly smiling to herself.

I remember her as the flower-child in a sage’s body. I remember her youthful exuberance in the face of all adversity. I remember her because she introduced me to half of Twitter when she single-handedly conceptualised and hosted the Social Media Mela. I remember her because of our shared love for bad 80s pop.

I remember her because I can’t forget.

Over the days to come, a lot will be written and a lot more will be said on the woman I’m talking about. Some of it will be good, some bad. But none will manage to capture the essence of the woman herself.

No one can ever take her place and nothing can ever make up for the loss we’re all mourning. It comes in spurts.

As I fight back the tears and force my fingers to type words, all I remember is her slight smile, the fire in her eyes and the conviction in her voice.

We once bonded over our mutual love for the Wax song, ‘Right between the eyes’. As I write these words now, I’m listening to the same song again. It’s a love song, as much as this feeble blog is a love letter. But then, why does it feel like a bullet?

Why does it feel like I’ve taken one, right between the eyes? It’s because we all have.

Rest in peace Sabeen. You were truly the best of us.

All I’m afraid of now is, who will stand up when they come for us?

Who will stand up when they come for me?

Author Image

Hassan Belal Zaidi is a member of staff.

He tweets @mightyobvious

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (40) Closed

lkhan Apr 25, 2015 11:38am

Tears and more tears.. A very very sad day, deep loss... Her poor mother, dreadful. Never having known Sabeen, feel the loss as if she was close to heart and mind. Thank you Hassan for your touching words, and may you have strength to carry on the good work, and a long life.

NM Khan Apr 25, 2015 11:41am

See you on the other side.. of the dark moon.

Talat Haque Apr 25, 2015 11:44am

tears in my eyes - tears in my heart - tears for the past, present and future

A. Ercelan Apr 25, 2015 11:56am

its the outspoken liberals who threaten a violent state. think of Perween Rahman. isolated radicals are just a nuisance. who next?

Zaida Parves Apr 25, 2015 12:01pm

Another wonderful human bites the dust. Pakistan has nearly 200 million people but humans are in short supply.

Uzma Apr 25, 2015 12:01pm

Another flame extinguished, another voice supressed; another nail that stuck out and got hammered, another hope battered.... May her soul rest in peace and give us courage, strength and wisdom to take the caravan of civilization forward.

Rustam Ali Khan Apr 25, 2015 12:04pm

Another sane mind and kind soul brutally silenced by the evil mind. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

Bin Ismail Apr 25, 2015 12:23pm

The valiant fade away while the cowards linger. May God bless her soul.

sta Apr 25, 2015 12:34pm

Sabeen Mahmud Shaheed has become immortal by laying down her life for the cause of Justice, for the cause of the Voiceless and for the cause of the Persecuted. She was braver than most brave men.

Noman Ansari Apr 25, 2015 12:42pm

@Talat Haque

"tears in my eyes - tears in my heart - tears for the past, present and future"

Wonderfully said.

ali ahmed Apr 25, 2015 12:55pm

luckily Hamid Mir survived...and we know the truth... who are real target killers in Karachi? and no body will point it..this is the work of highly trained killer,every body point towards political party or toward religions extremists

HDI Apr 25, 2015 01:02pm

another amazing pakistani who's life has been taken; what a brave woman; its so sad; how many more voices will be silenced

Babar Ayaz Apr 25, 2015 01:36pm

Most of the reports in the media did not say that she had the courage to organise 'Unsilencing Balochistan ' unlike LUMS elite. So much so about freedom of expression in this country. Let there be 100s of Sabeens for every Sabeen silenced

Saeeda Fancy Apr 25, 2015 02:31pm

Shocked, can't find words, who are these mad people, what did she do that deserved death! Sabeen was a beacon of light, everyone must fight for justice, justice for Sabeen and all others who have been silenced by these cowards.

shriram Apr 25, 2015 02:53pm

she never backed down but pakistan's people did. whole of pakistan could not save her!!

Mir Rasiq Apr 25, 2015 03:09pm

But Sabeen was far more than a friend, she was a beacon; an island of calm in a sea of madness. This line says more than the whole story.

Zak Apr 25, 2015 03:33pm

Blot to humanity, blot to Islam , blot to world peace , Quaid-i-Azam what did you dream and what have we become , we should remove photos of Quaid-i-Azam from all govt offices , courts everywhere in Pakistan, he would be ashamed to represent today's Pakistan.

Imtiaz Piracha Apr 25, 2015 03:34pm

It is so simple to select a target and then kill her or him.

Indeed, it happens almost everywhere, but not with the impunity and frequency with which it does in Pakistan. It is rare that the killers DO NOT get away with it. One murder is a smaller manifestation of an overall environment where all kinds of crimes and violence thrive, which is what we need to address. From rulers to law enforcement, judiciary and the ordinary citizens will have to own the responsibility for allowing this environment to flourish.

I admired the lady and what she stood for - ‘alleviation of intellectual poverty.’

IndianJones Apr 25, 2015 03:36pm

now just mama qadeer left for balochs once he too silenced no one will be there to raise the voice for the suppressed ones. now Balochs must demand security for him else he will be too a gone case and pakistanis will again shed their keyboard tears.

khan Apr 25, 2015 04:12pm

i hope the investigation of herdeath, doesn't end in black pit with no light and results, whoever has done this ,achieved nothing SABEEN WILL BE more poular, recognized and her cause to stand up for humanity will be more wide spread than ever. Taking her life DOES NOT END HER CAUSE. R.I.P SABEEN!

MAH Apr 25, 2015 04:20pm

It is heartening to read these words. I hope and pray that people keep remembering her and her work so the bullet never wins.

Mahendra Singh Apr 25, 2015 04:21pm


Vaqar Apr 25, 2015 06:05pm

Thank you Bilal for expressing what all her friends are feeling, but unable to express. T2F will never be the same again.

Anwar Ahmad Apr 25, 2015 07:15pm

@Zaida Parves Aadmi to bhi mayasar naheen hai Insaan Hona - Ghalib

M. Emad Apr 25, 2015 07:30pm

West-Pakistani 'Human right activists' / liberals were silent in 1971.

Saima Khan Apr 25, 2015 09:11pm

Same group is responsible for killing who did try to Kill Hamid Mir

Please investigate on this theme

Later we will find same people killed Zahra Shahid , Hakeem Saied, Azeem Ahmed Tariq, Dr Imran Farooq

AWAM need to stop this. Please stand up together against them.

Ajay vikram Singh Apr 25, 2015 09:15pm

Pakistan's bright and brave daughter has got killed.

Rest in brave one. Salutes! Kudos! Bravo!!

Pakistan - You MUST avenge her.

Ajay vikram Singh Apr 25, 2015 09:37pm

"The streets of a surrendered city are full of fear, pulsing with the particular gloom of the stubbornly meek, adamant in the knowledge that the brave will die, and the surrendered will live."

  • I read it on a blog on Dawn only. How true!
Canadian Pakistani Apr 26, 2015 12:23am

WOW, what a great person Sabeen was and it is uplifting to read the article and the comments and realize all the nice people that are still there in Pakistan. However Pakistan is not likely to see peace until we see the criminals captured, tried and given the punishment they deserve. This is your challenge- all involved in providing security. Security services, where are you?

Bharat Apr 26, 2015 03:38am

This is such sad news These terrorists are killing the only people who matter

Suresh Nayak, Melbourne Apr 26, 2015 06:41am

Wow you made me cry - she found for underprivileged is an understatement.

JZ Apr 26, 2015 08:27am

Damn Pakistan, cannot provide security to its people. Anarchy at it heights. Whoever tells the truth is killed. Solute to brave people still fighting for rights. Salute to Sabeen. Salute to Sibte Jaffar and many more....

asad dogar Apr 26, 2015 08:57am

i disagree what you say but defend death ur right to say

Sanjoy Sankar Guha Apr 26, 2015 09:00am

What a terrible tragedy for the World in its fight for justice and peace. May her soul rest in peace. Heartfelt condolences for her mother. A great loss for Pakistan.

Truth Apr 26, 2015 11:49am

Apparently a lot of you have a fair idea who killed her?

saminabano Apr 26, 2015 11:53am

Thank you Hassan. Thank you…

syed baqar ahsan Apr 26, 2015 01:48pm

lets see deep who killed her ? those who are constantly bent upon to destroy our image and soul of Pakistan.

imran Apr 26, 2015 02:42pm


Akaash Afridi Apr 27, 2015 05:21pm

It was the third day of her demise, when i fell in love with her. RIP Sabeen Mehmud!

Surinder Jeet Apr 28, 2015 07:02am

Shahbaz Bhatti, Salman Taseer and now Sabeen Mehmud, the wheels of Pakistan, on whose shoulders hopes of amity travelled. Farewell the true martyrs, the rare breed of humans who gave their lives for their beliefs.