Sabeen Mahmud, the director and founder of The Second Floor (T2F) cafe, was shot dead by gunmen in an upscale neighbourhood of the metropolis on Friday.
Sabeen, along with her mother, was returning home from T2F in Defence Phase-II Extension when her car was attacked near the Defence Central Library traffic signal.
Hours earlier, she had hosted a seminar on the troubled province of Balochistan, featuring Mama Qadeer, the chairperson of Voice for Missing Baloch. This was a similar session to the one that had been cancelled by the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) a few weeks ago.
Sabeen had left T2F one hour after hosting the session titled “Unsilencing Balochistan Take 2: In Conversation with Mama Qadeer, Farzana Baloch & Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur”. At the traffic signal, gunmen riding motorcycles intercepted her white-coloured Suzuki Swift from both sides and opened fire, police officer Mohammad Arshad said.
Sabeen was shot five times and was pronounced dead on arrival at the National Medical Centre. Her mother suffered two bullet wounds and is under treatment at the Aga Khan University Hospital, where her condition is said to be critical.
Sabeen’s body was later shifted to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), where a crowd of well-wishers, friends and family gathered. JPMC joint executive director Dr Seemin Jamali said the victim had been shot five times in the upper torso.
Outside the mortuary, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MNA Dr Arif Alvi told the media that Sabeen had been receiving threats for the past few days. “She was running a movement for the missing persons and had been receiving threats,” he said without elaborating. “It is tragic that a woman of Sabeen’s stature, who was speaking out for human rights and for an end to terrorism was killed so mercilessly.”
Police have gathered evidence, including spent bullet casings, from the murder scene and are also trying to obtain the CCTV footage from cameras installed in the area, police officer Arshad said. He added that as the victim had been receiving threats, her cellphone records might also help in tracing the culprits.
Different political leaders also condemned Sabeen’s target killing and demanded immediate arrest of the perpetrators.
The Sindh chief minister has sought a report from the provincial police chief. An investigation team, headed by DIG South Dr Jameel Ahmed, with SSP South Tariq Dharejo and SSP Investigations Faizullah Korejo, has been formed. The team will report back within three days.
Sabeen’s driver, Ghulam Abbas who escaped unhurt in the shooting, has been questioned by the police about the events leading to the incident and will probably be asked to help the police in making sketches of the suspects. Abbas is a constable in the excise police and works part-time as a driver.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2015.