Unsilencing Pakistan and the 5th Global Vigil #NeverForget

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Daily vigil for Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi, 8-9 pm at Do Talwar

Protestors holding daily public protest vigils in Karachi demanding justice for Sabeen Mahmud hold placards calling to #unsilencePakistan and end the culture of impunity. Today’s vigil, marking give months of the Peshawar Army School massacre, also incorporates the carnage at Safoora Chowk in Karachi where armed men in police uniforms killed 45 of the 60 Ismailis on a bus.

“It has been 17 days since I have been present here daily from 8pm to 9pm,” poignantly writes Ibad Sheikh who initiated this event and brings along his drums to pound on. “I come to celebrate Sabeen, to grieve her death, to find comfort in fellow protesters and to tell the world that I have not forgotten her.” (From APS victims to Sabeen Mahmud: Honouring all who have been taken away from us, May 15, 2015)

Protestors at the Fifth Global Vigil this weekend in various cities are demanding an end to impunity and against terrorism in Pakistan.

  • Karachi – 16th May – assemble at Danish Gah, Punjab Chowrangi at 5:30pm and march to Do Talwar.
  • Islamabad – 16th May – 5.30 pm at Press Club
  • Boston – 16th May – 4 pm – Boston Common (near the fountain by the Part St. T)
  • Toronto/Mississauga – 6 pm, 7880 Keele Street, Unit #14, Vaughan, ON L4K 4G7
  • London – 17th May – 3-5 pm in front of Pakistan High Commission

Below, an extract from something I wrote recently about the Unsilencing Balochistan events in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi: 

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The KU administration locked the door of the Arts Auditorium to prevent the seminar from taking place…

The signs of hope I saw in 2011 included the unprecedented number of people speaking out. These voices have increased in number, demanding accountability for the violence and urging the government to address Balochistan’s long-standing grievances about economic and political disenfranchisement, and human rights abuses.

…It is not so easy to silence people any more. On 11 April, three days after the Balochistan seminar was cancelled at LUMS, it was held at Kuch Khaas, a popular gallery-café in Islamabad, featuring only one of the original speakers, Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur, a columnist and Baloch rights activist. Talpur also addressed students at LUMS a few days later, on 15 April (audio, in English, here). Both these well attended events were followed by another one in Karachi, on 24 April, hosted by Sabeen Mahmud at T2F (partial transcript of the event here). Shot dead that night, Sabeen joins the ongoing, and lengthy list of Pakistan’s enlightenment martyrs

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…but the students and faculty went ahead with the event, crowding the lobby in front of the locked door. May 6, 2015.

But less than two weeks after Sabeen’s murder, a larger event on the issue was held on 6 May, organised by Karachi University Teachers Against War and Oppression. The event had been announced weeks earlier and the organisers went ahead with it despite threats and intimidation, even after the university management, apparently on its own accord – perhaps following the lead of the private university LUMS that had backed down, and frightened by Sabeen Mahmud’s murder — revoked permission for the event. The administration blocked outsiders from entering university premises and locked the auditorium of the Arts Lobby where the seminar was to be held.

Students and faculty defiantly crowded the hallway and held the seminar anyway, outside the locked auditorium. They sneaked in members of the public in their own transport. The presenters who had been refused permission at LUMS, and who had spoken at Sabeen’s T2F, addressed this gathering (Audio of the proceedings here).

Related posts, some of my recent commentary: 

When Your Backyard Snakes Turn Around to Bite You, The Wire

‘You refused to cower in silence’: A letter to fallen Pakistani comrade Sabeen Mahmud’, in Scroll.in

In Pakistan, This Activist Was Martyred for Her Moderation, with Asra Nomani in The Daily Beast

On Point with Tom Ashbrook

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