Abdul Waheed Khan: When a social worker dies, a little piece of Pakistan dies too
A one-year-old daughter’s father died.A family’s pride died and a member of Pakistan’s well-wishers died.RIP...
Ladies and gentlemen, the conundrum for you today is to guess what March 13, 2013 and May 13, 2013 have in common.
Many of you will answer, ‘the number 13,’ but looking beyond this obvious similarity, the former date marked the death of Perveen Rehman whereas May 13, marked the unfortunate death of Abdul Waheed Khan.
Perveen and Abdul were both human rights activists, trying to improve the situation in Pakistan in terms of social mobility. It has been two months since Perveen’s death and nothing has been reported with respect to any investigations or legal proceedings against her killers; attaining justice for her death has become a long lost cause.
Similarly, Abdul Waheed Khan was shot dead by three men in front of his house when he was with his one-year-old daughter and his brother. The man was not only a human rights activist, but was running a co-educational school, the Naunehal Academy under the Bright Educational Society which he started in the late 1990s, in Qasba Colony, Karachi.
He was also running a pharmacy that provided free medicine to the poor. He was a man determined to improve the distribution of income and wealth in the country through the provision of education and medical supplies. Abdul’s death has been a severe loss for Pakistan.
It is suspected that Abdul was killed by religious extremists, possibly the Taliban. However, this is old news to us having encountered the incident with Malala Yousufzai and what she suffered merely because she wanted to educate herself. Abdul was bringing modern education to the slums of Karachi where most of the inhabitants were those who had migrated from Northern Pakistan, for better job prospects.
Perhaps Abdul’s case is different. His elder brother was killed as he refused to stop the modern education of girls and boys. Abdul had been receiving death threats ever since then, but his commitment to bettering the lives of others was endless and this is the price he paid for it.
So, was he wrong in being brave and not a coward?
Should every human rights activist drop everything at the first sign of a threat? Should we live our lives in fear of unfortunate but unforeseen things happening to us?
If that was the case, people in Karachi would not leave their homes, no child in the Taliban territory would go to school, and Musharraf would never have returned to Pakistan.
So what should one do?
Fight for what one believes in, like Perveen and Abdul, and fight for all those who are under threat for their efforts in the form of social work.
However, I do wonder what social workers get in return of their relentless struggle.
Just a blog in The Express Tribune praising their efforts and expressing sorrow at their unfortunate death? That’s all?
Let’s hope not. What these people need is protection and justice. Every death should matter and death shouldn’t be a news headline for a day and then forgotten the next day. In such cases, an FIR is usually registered against an unknown person and I do not remember a name being substituted for this word ‘unknown’ in the previous incidents of human rights defenders. But let's hope this changes and people are held accountable for their actions.
In this case, it is believed that the Taliban are involved and one can only request the government to arrest the assassins of Abdul and not make his death ‘just another life’, which will be long forgotten in the police stations in a matter of days.
Moreover, an educated population is an important step towards the development of a country and therefore the efforts of human rights activists like Abdul should be appreciated and their deaths investigated. The government must take some action in the form of legislation to protect human rights activists who are constantly under threat in our country. They work to improve our lives - something that the government is unable to do.
On May 13, 2013, Abdul Waheed Khan did not just die; a one-year-old daughter’s father died; a family’s pride died and a member of Pakistan’s well-wishers died; education died.
May his soul rest in peace.
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