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May 14, 2013

Another progressive voice silenced in Orangi


May 14, 2013

At Kati Pahari, where government schools have remained closed since the violence of 2011, Abdul Waheed ran a 23-room school under the banner of Bright Education Trust. It was open for all ethnicities, and girls studied alongside boys.
Outside this very school, Waheed was shot dead by unidentified attackers on Monday. The assailants did not even spare his his little daughter and younger brother Naseeb Khan, who were also injured in the attack near Naunehal Academy in Peerabad’s Islamia Colony.
The victims were taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. Waheed had suffered multiple bullets to the upper torso that proved fatal.
Peerabad police confirmed the victim had been working as a social worker in the area for several years. He also ran a small clinic for the locals and had established a small medical store as well.
Waheed’s murder comes exactly two months after another prominent social worker, Parveen Rehman, the long-time director of the renowned Orangi Pilot Project, was gunned down in the Pakthunabad neighbourhood of Karachi on March 13. Rehman was being driven back home when she was killed by armed attackers at the Qasba Morr.

A man against ‘Mullah mindset’
The first time I met Waheed, he showed me around the locality. He took me to government schools deserted by teachers who feared their safety in a locality where ethnic violence had taken a bloody toll.
“[You] don’t believe me? See it for your own self,” he ranted as he drove me around in his blue Daihatsu Coure. He was vociferous in his beliefs, stood against the “Mullah mindset”, and had at one point in life tried his luck at Madressah reform.
At his school, I once met a Deobandi cleric, who influenced by Waheed’s teachings had allowed girls to study at his seminary, hired mostly female teachers and considered English an important tool for development.
He lived in a locality where militant wings of political parties operated with ease, and

Taliban had carried various attacks on liberals like him.
There were threats to his life and he knew it well, yet he worked undeterred. The last time I visited his school, in October 2012, his school had a big banner promoting polio vaccinations. Those days aid workers were being shot and kidnapped — a backlash the campaign faced after the CIA used vaccination programme to hunt Osama Bin Laden.
I entered to meet a young man I had never seen before, armed with a Kalashnikov. “Who do you want to meet? Name?”
“Waheed Sahib, Tell him it’s Sidrah Roghay from The News.”
The men took me through a flight of stairs to the first floor, where an apologetic Waheed met me. “I never wanted all this, but my boys insisted.”
His brother was shot at the day before outside his school. “They missed me I was the target,” he said.
I insisted he should move to a safer location, but this was where he had lived all his life. “This is where my people live.”
That day when he escorted me till the school gate, he was on guard. He bid me goodbye while his eyes wandered all over the locality, eyeing for any suspicious objects or people. I stopped visiting after that, fearing I would be shot at in case the gunmen missed their target.
But we stayed in touch on the phone. On the election day he invited me over at his school. Later in the evening when I called he informed me about a bomb blast just outside his school at Islamia Colony. Three men queuing at the polling station were injured.
“People are too scared to step out and vote. Campaign in some areas was done through the pulpit. This soil is hungry for blood. It is blotched with blood everywhere.”

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