KARACHI: Just as *Hussain was disembarking from the six-seater rickshaw, a man wordlessly placed a paper on his thigh. Hussain dismissed it as one of the advertisement gimmicks of the local medics but little did he know he was sharing a ride with a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan emissary.
He had taken only a few steps when he froze in his tracks as the letter had a very loud and clear message for him: “You people are involved in immoral activities not permitted by Islam. Stop them or else be ready to face the consequences.”
Hussain was associated with the Bright Educational Society (BES), a non-governmental organisation started by the late civil society activist Abdul Waheed in the restive Qasba Islamia Colony. The BES office housed a school by the name of Naunehal Academy and a resource centre which ran a polio eradication programme and provided medical facilities to the slum residents for free.
Waheed’s murder on May 13 took place exactly two months after Orangi Pilot Project’s director Parveen Rehman was killed.
The school and resource centre were shut after Waheed’s murder, but his brother, Abdul Wahab, vowed to reopen the school in August. “No one can replace Waheed but the least we can do is keep his dream alive and educate the area’s people.”
The school did reopen on August 15 but was attacked with a grenade only four days later. “No one was hurt in the attack as the grenade was lobbed at night,” said Syed Latif, Waheed’s partner in running the school and BES. “We are still receiving threatening calls from unknown numbers, asking for extortion money worth Rs3 million. A letter was also sent to the school, threatening to destroy the building if the money was not paid,” Latif told The Express Tribune.
Although the school is still open, Latif stressed that they needed proper security – either private or by the police.
Constantly on the lookout
According to Wahab, they have restricted their movement and prefer to stay home. “We are facing a hidden enemy,” he said, adding that his brother only tried to help people and was being sorely missed by the residents now that he is gone.
“The terrorists are targeting individuals instead of institutions to sow fear,” said Latif. “They kill those who work for development of the society – the case of Parveen Rehman and Waheed are no different.”
Latif shared that he had lost the drive to continue his work in the field after his friend’s murder, adding that he was also attacked in August 2012. “Luckily, the attackers failed to kill me. I was shot in the leg which to this day is still not fully functional.”
In Latif’s opinion, Waheed was killed because of his polio programme. “Now that we have closed down the centre, we’ll be able to reopen the school with the support of the community’s elders,” he said. “From now on, we will work on projects that have people’s support. We had to convince people to let us administer polio drops to their children but in case of education, they approach us.”
The resource centre will be relocated to a safer area but the when and where has yet to be decided. “Waheed’s family also needs to be shifted to some other place as they are still receiving threats.”
*Name changed to protect privacy
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2013.