“Unsilencing Pakistan” and the ongoing “intellecticide”

Vigil for Sabeen in Harvard Yard, April 28, 2015. Poster designed by Erum Sattar shows a painting by Frida Kahlo whom Sabeen loved. Photo: Ken Shulman

Vigil for Sabeen in Harvard Yard, April 28, 2015. Poster designed by Erum Sattar shows a painting by Frida Kahlo whom Sabeen loved, with a word play on “mARTyr” she would have enjoyed. Photo: Ken Shulman

In the summer of 2011, young academic Nosheen Ali, and journalists Sahar Habib Ghazi and Malik Siraj Akbar approached me to work on a new initiative they called “Unsilencing Pakistan” that aimed to make an online record of all the journalists, activists, and thinkers in Pakistan who have been harassed, tortured, and/or executed. I had written at the time about those killed as ‘enlightenment martyrs’, part of an ongoing intellecticide. The “Unsilencing Pakistan” idea included a statement that we got several progressive voices to endorse  — Sabeen Mahmud among them (see below). We weren’t able to take the idea forward then but the concept remains critically important as Sabeen’s murder a week ago reminds us. I was also reminded by my friend Huma’s Facebook post today about the vigil for Sabeen uses the term #unsilencePakistan; and by the seminar titled Unsilencing Balochistan that was canceled at LUMS but held at T2F after which Sabeen was killed. 

Back in June 2011, we agreed that documentation is important to memorialise the brave voices of Pakistan, and make clear the enormous nature of the crimes. “The aim is to build public awareness, attention, and pressure. The documentation will happen through open collaboration with volunteers in news rooms who have been tracking the data. The final database will be visible to anyone on the web, with mappings of the total number of cases, where the most intimidation has taken place, details about the most common forms of torture etc. This documentation will also be instrumental for any legal proceedings that may be brought against the culprits.” What has changed?

Saluting Sabeen, May Day, 2015, Facebook post by Sharad Sharma with the comment:

Saluting Sabeen, May Day, 2015, Facebook post by Sharad Sharma with the comment: “Remembering those who deserve to be @May Day”

STATEMENT, drafted and endorsed, June 2011

An Honest Pakistan Will Be a Better Pakistan

We, the undersigned, condemn the continuing harassment, torture, and killing of progressive thinkers, journalists, and activists in Pakistan. Although few inquiries have been conducted so far, most fingers point to the security establishment because of its track record of intimidation that is familiar to anyone involved with the press in Pakistan. The most recent cases include the assassinations of the respected journalist Saleem Shehzad and the prominent Baloch scholar and poet Saba Dashtiyari. Most major Pakistani newspapers have written editorials and published opinion pieces that attest to the new depths that the nexus of the ‘agencies’ and militants have reached in the country, and to their continued immunity from serious investigation or accountability.

The situation in Balochistan is particularly disturbing in this regard. Hundreds of students, lawyers, journalists, and activists have been abducted and tortured in the region since 2005, in response to Balochistan’s legitimate demands for its rights. According to the organization Voice for Missing Baloch Persons, around 149 of those missing have been brutally murdered and disposed off, in what Amnesty International has termed “kill and dump” operations. These operations are then being used to justify the deplorable revenge-killings of non-Baloch, worsening the situation even more.

There have been attempts to question the policies that have led to this situation, but to no avail. We urge the elected civilian government as well as the judiciary, the military, the opposition, the media, the bureaucracy and the citizens of Pakistan to work together and ensure accountability, justice, and due process of law.


The Undersigned (with Name, Profession, & Institutional Affiliation)

Thank you.

  1. Sahar Habib Ghazi, Hosh Media
  2. Nosheen Ali, UC Berkeley
  3. Malik Siraj Akbar, Editor-in-chief The Baloch Hal
  4. Beena Sarwar, journalist
  5. Mehreen Zahra-Malik, Assistant Editor, The News International
  6. Shehrbano Taseer, journalist, Newsweek Pakistan
  7. Samina Omar Asghar Khan, Sungi Development Foundation
  8. Sheikh Asad Rahman, Sungi Development Foundation, freelance journalist.
  9. Amber Rahim Shamsi, BBC Urdu Service
  10. Professor A. H. Nayyar, LUMS, Lahore
  11. Syed Mustafa Qadri, Researcher, Amnesty International
  12. Mehmal Sarfarz, journalist, Daily Times
  13. Huma Yusuf, freelance journalist
  14. Fahd Husain, Executive Director, ARY News
  15. Kamran Asdar Ali, University of Texas, Austin
  16. Ayesha Jalal, Tufts University, Boston
  17. Saba Hamid, actor, Lahore
  18. Dr Omar Ali, MD,  Asiapeace and Brownpundits.com
  19. Zubeida Mustafa, freelance journalist
  20. Zeeshan Haider Producer, BBC Pakistan
  21. Dr Asad Sayeed, economist
  22. Zahid F. Ebrahim, lawyer
  23. Zofeen T. Ebrahim, journalist
  24. Haris Gazdar, researcher
  25. S.M. Naseem, economist
  26. Zohra Yusuf, editor and writer
  27. Kamran Arif, lawyer
  28. Ghazi Salahuddin, journalist
  29. Iqbal  Ali Alavi, Social  activist, Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences
  30. Asad Ali Ahmed, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University
  31. Shayan Afzal Khan, social entrepreneur and writer
  32. Rahimullah Yusufzai, Resident Editor, The News International, Peshawar
  33. Imrana Khwaja, journalist, Express Tribune
  34. Zia Mian, Princeton University
  35. Kamran Shafi, columnist, Dawn
  36. Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, Founder & Chair, Pakistan Youth Alliance
  37. Jamal J. Elias, Univeristy of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  38. Shahzad Bashir, Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University
  39. Zakia Sarwar, teacher and teacher trainer
  40. Nusrat Javeed, Director Current Affairs, Aaj TV
  41. Dr. Taimur Rahman, Assistant Professor, Political Science, Lahore University of Management Sciences
  42. Dr Abbas Hamdani, Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  43. Salman Ahmad, MD, musician, author, teacher, co-founder of Junoon and SSGWI (www.ssgwi.org)
  44. Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar, Associate Professor of History, Brown University
  45. Abbas Nasir, journalist
  46. Umer Draz Nangiana, journalist, The Express Tribune
  47. Fasih Ahmed, Editor-in-chief, Newsweek Pakistan
  48. Ayesha Alam Khan, Director, The Knowledge Factory
  49. Mekaal Hasan, musician & record producer, The Mekaal Hasan Band
  50. Iftikhar Dadi, Cornell University
  51. Pervez Hoodbhoy, physicist
  52. Nadeem F. Paracha, journalist, columnist & cultural Critic, Dawn newspaper and Dawn.Com
  53. Sabeen Mahmud, PeaceNiche
  54. Naveen Naqvi, Founder and Editor-in-chief, Gawaahi.com
  55. Kamran Rehmat, Editor, Islamabad Dateline
  56. Jehan Ara, President, Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES (P@SHA)
  57. Adnan Rehmat, InterMedia Pakistan
  58. Khurram Husain, Business, Express
  59. Hassan Bashir, Ph.D.  Assistant Professor of Political Science, Liberal Arts Program, Texas A&M University at Qata
  60. Zain Alavi, Hamza Alavi Foundation
  61. Dr Ghazala Kazi, physician
Sabeen's advice to people organising solidarity vigils, Dec 18, 2014 (in the wake of the Peshawar APS massacre)

Sabeen’s advice to people organising solidarity vigils, Dec 18, 2014 (in the wake of the Peshawar APS massacre)

8 Responses



  2. Red Salute To Comrade Sabeen Mehmud, Stood For Truth and Humanity , Balochistan Always Remember You!!!


  3. […] of us had drafted a statement endorsed by several progressive voices—well-known journalists, lawyers, singers, musicians, doctors, entrepreneurs and […]


  4. Let the voices reach every corner of the world and let us make every ear ready to hear it !! Kudos for your bravery!!


  5. What the forces who are trying to unsilence Pakistan? What about Indian agencies/military human rights violations in Kashmir. Should Pakistan also endeavour to unsilence the Kashmir issue and voice of Kashmiri people.


  6. Reblogged this on My BlogSocialDynamos.WordPress.com and commented:
    My BlogSocialDynamos, does not endorse this post, especially UW-Milwaukee, mid east historian ,Abbas Hamdani’s endorsement!


  7. […] Source: “Unsilencing Pakistan” and the ongoing “intellecticide” […]


    • This is part of the Progressive liberal, western oriented, tolerant styled, politics of the state’s framework as the ultimate set up for free speech! In other words, the Professor Abbas Hamdani, added his name to this critique of intellecticide! But Dr. Hamdani does not ever connect the dots of his rosy scenarios of his ideal Arabist empire, with that reason for Arabist empire existence! Dr, Hamdani just skips over the questions of the legitimacy of the Arabist empire colonial projecting of power, over African & S. W. Asiatic, mid east nations! Dr.Abbas Hamdani’s claims that the Palestine Liberation Organization, the PLO, is the sole legit. representative for the PalestineArab people! But the PLO defines the PalestineArab people, as integral constituent parts, inside the central root & base of the Arab nation! So at some point ,never quite explained by Dr. Hamdani,the PLO embodied the reason for existence of Arabist empire colonialism! Arabist empire colonial occupation over Kurdistan, Darfur, AramaicAssyria, SyriacAramaean Lebanon, EgyptiCoptic & Nubia, are not ever explained, by Dr. Hamdani! So his endorsing of this critique of intellecticide, would require a closer examining of Dr. Hamdani’s own actions!


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