Shahzeb Khan’s murder has attracted a groundswell of support on social media, piquing and unifying at the same time the interests of rights activists and key political blocs in the country.
Till Tuesday night, only a few hundred knew who Shahzeb was. Now, the deceased young man has become a symbol of change.
On Tuesday morning, Shahzeb was shot dead, allegedly by Shahrukh Jatoi over a petty argument, just as he returned from his sister’s wedding. His friends and family started a Facebook page in his honour.
As condemnations poured in from the micro-blogging website Twitter, the contours of a justice movement for Shahzeb began to take shape on social media. Since then, the movement has gained quite a following.
Talha Alam, a close friend of the deceased, said the movement was initiated not only for Shahzeb but for all those who have suffered at the hands of politically stronger factions of the society that both own and know how to use weapons.
Speaking about the outpouring of mass support, Alam said: “We are overwhelmed with the response. It is good to see that while he was our friend, for others he has become an icon for change against injustice.”
Alam recalled how he had lost another friend, Ali Shah, in a gun attack carried out out two years ago by members of the same caste. The case, however, was dropped due to political pressure.
“We will speak out nonetheless. No one has the right to kill our friend like this; no one has the right to kill anyone like this. We will keep fighting till the culprits are captured,” Alam said.
Muhammad Hassan, a blogger wrote, “We don’t realise, that someday, our siblings or relatives (can be the victims). The only way to stop these perpetrators is to be united. Please don’t let the sacrifice of this young boy go to waste.”
Human rights lawyer Ansar Burney, nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and musician Salman Ahmad have all lent their support to the campaign, with the Ahmad tweeting, “While we struggle to move mountains of deception and deceit, do also remember Justice for Shahzeb Khan and Junoon for Change.”
Key political outfits such as Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf have also thrown their weight behind the movement.
MQM’s Rabita committee issued a press statement urging human rights activists to protest against Shahzeb’s murder and demanded President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to take notice of the issue.
Shahzeb’s peers are planning a peaceful protest against his murder on Sunday afternoon at the Karachi Press Club, demanding suo motu action from the chief justice.
Action against the accused
The names of key suspects in Shahzeb Khan’s murder were put on the exit control list (ECL) and Shahrukh Jatoi’s photo has also been uploaded on Sindh police’s unofficial Facebook page.
In remarks broadcast on television, Sindh Assembly Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza claimed that Shahrukh Jatoi had been deported from Australia to Pakistan, because he had beaten up a teacher in his university.
A team of investigators, led by Darakshan Station Investigation Officer (SIO), Aslam Khakrani, has been dispatched to different areas of the province.
“We haven’t caught anyone as yet but hopefully we will be successful,” SIO Khakrani told The Express Tribune. Sources privy to the matter told The Express Tribune that the police have also detained at least three suspects, including Siraj Talpur’s servant, who harassed Shahzeb’s sister.
“Since the suspects’ families are influential, they obviously have links with the media,” Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Investigations Faizullah Karejo told The Express Tribune.
“We think some people from the media are passing on information to the suspects,” Karejo said, adding that the police were also trying to trace the families of the suspects who are also in hiding.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2012.