Sabeen Mahmud, Pakistani Human Rights Activist, Murdered in Cold Blood

AP Photo/Fareed Khan
AP Photo/Fareed Khan

Gunmen shot Sabeen Mahmud, a leading Pakistani human rights activist, to death outside of the headquarters of The Second Floor, known as T2F, an arts venue she founded.

The gunmen sprayed her car with bullets after Mahmud and her mother left the building. Her mother was also shot and rushed to the hospital. She is still in critical condition. No group has yet to take responsibility for the murder, and police claim they do not have a motive.

The event at T2F included Mama Abdul Qadeer, “an elderly Baloch activist campaigning on behalf of so-called ‘missing people’ abducted by the state security apparatus.” Balochistan separatists and the Pakistani government are still involved in a dispute over territory. The separatists want to concede from Pakistan for their own independent state. There are “steady allegations of mass abduction.”

Mahmud reached out to Qadeer after authorities stopped the Lahore University of Management Sciences from hosting her and a discussion on the incidents.

“Despite the plurality of opinion, very little space seems to be given to the discussion in Pakistani mainstream media or academia; the debate seems to be shut down before it can even begin,” wrote Mahmud. “What is the reality? Has the media been silenced on Balochistan? What makes it dangerous for us to talk about Pakistan’s largest province at one of our most celebrated universities?”

A senior faculty member at the university told Dawn, a top Pakistani newspaper, that men from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) stormed into his office. They told him their boss wanted him to cancel the discussion panel about Balochistan. The ISI is “the military’s powerful spy wing.”

Her friends believe Pakistan’s “deep state” killed Mahmud. The army’s spokesman Asim Bajwa said the death is “tragic and unfortunate.”

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) denied any involvement in Mahmud’s murder. Spokesman Mohammad Khorasani claimed an “investigation by the TTP’s intelligence wing suggests government agencies” killed Mahmud.