The outpouring of grief over Sabeen Mahmud’s murder in Pakistan, has been overwhelming and humbling. Many have shared stories of Sabeen’s impacted on their lives. I only briefly encountered Sabeen at T2F, but she was, and will continue to be, a permanent part of Karachi. And making that kind of an impact in a city filled with apathy, hopelessness and everyday Pakistani nonsense is a big deal. Sabeen’s death has meant many things for many people, but for me, it’s shaken me out of my apathy. It’s time to think about what’s next.
Like many others, my first reaction was hate for Pakistan – the country that’s killed Sabeen, Parveen Rehman, and countless other activists and fighters – “All the better, Pakistan doesn't deserve people like this.” For me personally, it wasn't Salman Taseer or Malala’s story that threw me over to the dark side. It was long before that, following the 2010 gruesome public lynching of two teenage students, alleged robbers, Mughees and Muneeb, by a mob in Sialkot, Pakistan. I gave up on Pakistan.
I adopted the familiar role of reading and pontificating from a distance – “All Pakistanis do is go to dharnas ”, “These activists think putting up a play is going to change the country… Idiots" – what I hereby refer to as the “Jackass Pakistani.”
If there’s anything Sabeen’s death can do, it’s to force us to cut the bullshit. The pessimism, the morbid perspective, and the hopelessness is abundant in Pakistan. We – the collective Jackass Pakistanis – are not saying anything regular Pakistanis don’t already know, and we’re obviously not providing any solutions to the problem. We know that one protest, one talk, one play, and several dead bodies are not going to fix a 65-year old problem. But there are believers out there who choose hope, and are willing to keep trying.
What have you done to change the world today?
So in honor of Sabeen, I've decided to stop being the Jackass Pakistani. No, I’m probably NOT going to participate in Imran Khan’s 400th dharna, I’m probably still going to get pissed off at hate-inciting mullahs starting their own clothes lines, and I’m still going to state for the record that Karachi is WAY cooler than Lahore (#factoflife). But I’m also going to learn more, become more informed on my own, and stop being the person who thinks, “Yea, well fortunately only 10 people died in the blast instead of 100.”
Here are some things I've done/am doing that might be helpful to you if you want to stop being the Jackass Pakistani:
- Understand what’s going on – Don’t just read FB posts (like I was doing), don’t make your friends’ opinions yours… read real content, opinions from the horse’s mouth and make up your own mind. Learn more about Balochistan, understand the missing people issues, and find out the real story behind China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement. I've started by retweeting/reposting articles that I found to be unbiased. I’m also following some cool pages on Facebook (FB) that post information to help form your own opinion. I’m not sure if they’re the best or most unbiased, but it’s a start, and if I don’t like it, it’s easy to unfollow and look for more. If others have other thoughts, please share: (It’s not a long listed, I’m still learning and don’t want to be overwhelmed)
- Influencers: Beena Sarwar; Muhammad Jibran Nasir
- Facebook Community: International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons; Massachusetts Peace Action, local university students’ associations(you can find a local one)
- Do your part in dispelling the myths about Sabeen’s murder – There’s a campaign to blame everything from terrorists, to random thugs on the streets, to personal vendetta. Let’s be realistic and connect the dots. Sabeen was murdered after she held a talk on Baluchistan, on an issue that the Pakistan army doesn't want to address. Her murder follows a trend of assassinations targeting voices of dissent. Question what you’re being fed, and spread the truth. Retweet, post on FB, write an editorial in your school newspaper, or blog about what you've learned about these trends.
- Talk about things – I’m not saying organize a mass protest, but invite 3-4 friends over for chai and talk about what’s happening in Pakistan. And yes, if it is a conversation about the new lawn exhibition, that’s fine, as long as you also acknowledge how alleged mullahs are spreading hate-speech, and your buying lawn from them is really condoning that, so stop being a dumbo and get your lawn from Gulf. See if there are some students’ associations or peace groups nearby that you can participate in. They don’t need to be South Asian – who knows what you might learn from other movements.
- Stop acting like Pakistan is the worst place in the world – Ferguson.
- Stop putting down the idealists– You think this is all just another idealist set for failure and “Pakistan ka toh koi future hi nai hai”… Fine. Keep it to yourself. It’s not easy being hopeful about Pakistan, so give us a break. Just roll your eyes and move on.
This is where I'm choosing to be an Optimistic Pakistani. I will likely get it wrong many times and I’ll get pulled into the Jackassness again, but I've decided to make a conscious effort to try. And I’ll need support, so let’s be there for each other.
To you, Sabeen.