Monday June 17, 2024

Khurram Zaki – the relentless activist who could not be silenced even by bullets

By Fatima Zaidi
May 09, 2016

In his will, the fearless rights activist seeks action against ASWJ’s Aurangzeb Farooqi and Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz


There were wails everywhere. Of ambulances, of police vans, but the loudest were of the hundreds gathered outside the emergency ward of the Aga Khan University Hospital mourning the cold-blooded murder of another unarmed humanitarian, Khurram Zaki.

Neither the night nor the sights were unknown to the mourners, for most of them knew how excruciating the wait was of being handed over the body of a loved-one lost to a hail of bullets for being born in and associating with the Shia sect. The activists were all too familiar with the feeling of lowering people in their graves, one fellow struggler at a time.

Survived by two wives and four children, three sons and a daughter, Zaki, 40, had earned himself the reputation of a fearless agitator, willing to go to any lengths to get the authorities to take notice of the mindless killings of Shias.

Appalled at the impunity with which the terrorist groups attacked and outraged over the immunity the killers enjoyed, he spoke, argued vehemently, and even screamed when he felt he was not being heard.

Whether it was the sit-in outside the Chief Minister’s House just last year against the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) or the protest he had led with his family outside the residence of Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz in Islamabad, Zaki ensured the authorities heard him loud and clear.

It was indeed the ferocity with which he spoke against them that he had been receiving death threats for at least the past one year.

Jazaib Marshall, who was accompanying Zaki at the time of the attack and suffered injuries, said ASWJ activists had staged rallies against him at Nagan Chowrangi.

“I have heard their hate speeches with my own ears,” he added. “But the authorities probably did not get to know of the threats he lived with every day.”

Recalling Saturday night’s events, he said around 10pm they were about to leave from the tea stall in North Karachi when a motorcycle pulled up across the pavement they were sitting on.

“The firing was not indiscriminate. They took around three seconds to identify Khurram Bhai because another man was dressed up similar to him. Then they opened fire on both of them. It was when Khurram Bhai turned around that they saw him clearly. He had fallen over another friend of ours in the middle of the road. The attackers changed the gun’s magazine and emptied the second one on Khurram Bhai.”

Khalid Rao was wounded when he ran towards Zaki. “His life could have been saved as he had suffered most bullet wounds to his lower body but nobody was willing to take him to a hospital,” Marshall added.

“When the driver of a pickup van agreed, we took him to the Abbasi Shaheed but their ECG machine wasn’t working. By the time we got him to the Aga Khan Hospital, he had no heartbeat, and had lost too much blood.”

  His legacy

Remembering his decade-long association with Zaki, Ghazi, one of his friends, was sure that his mentor’s legacy would live on. “I don’t consider him dead. There are many of us who would continue to live by Khurram Bhai’s politics, his humanitarian agenda. He is not dead. He will live on in us,” he added.

Leftist political activist Khurram Ali said Zaki’s murder had left an indelible question mark on the National Action Plan, the failure of which is evident from the fact that news bulletins reported arrests of political activists in Sindh and Balochistan, but the likes of ASWJ leader Aurangzeb Farooqi and Maulana Abdul Aziz roamed around freely with protocol.

“The federal government and law enforcement agencies don’t seem to take any action against them,” he added.

Speaking of his association with Zaki, Ali said he was a brave man, unfortunately born in an undemocratic culture but knew how to stand his ground, and he stood it with grace, regardless of the countless threats to his life.

“The hundreds of youth inspired by Zaki’s relentless struggle were his contribution to an undemocratic society, for which he would never be forgotten,” Ali asserted.

“I don’t know how many more Khurram Zakis and Sabeen Mahmuds do we have to lose in this fight against terrorism, perpetrated by both the state and non-state actors.”

Zaki had also hosted a TV show, Sirat-e-Mustaqeem, and actively used social media to voice his protest against extremism and terrorism. He stepped up his struggle after scores of Shias were killed in a wave of sectarian killings in recent times.

Zaki’s family and friends have demanded that as per his will, ASWJ’s Aurangzeb Farooqi and Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz be booked for instigating sectarian violence.

Bilawal condemns

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday condemned the brutal murder of civil society activist Khurram Zaki in North Karachi and urged the authorities to arrest the culprits and bring them to book at the earliest.

He paid tribute to slain civil society activists who he said always stood against injustices and atrocities against the injustices of the country.

The PPP chairman expressed his sympathy with Zaki’s family and assured to catch his killers under all circumstances.



Raza Ahmad Rumi @Razarumi

#RIP Khurram Zaki. A relentless activist and a good soul. Shot a little while ago in #Karachi #Pakistan - no words!


beena sarwar @beenasarwar

Sincere condolences to family and friends of Khurram Zaki. Stepping out of line gets you a death sentence #Pakistan #shiagenocide

Jibran Nasir @MJibranNasir

A few weeks ago it was Sabeen's death anniversay. Yesterday it was Rashid Rahman's & today khurram martyred. All unarmed peaceful activists

Murtaza Ali Shah @MurtazaGeoNews

Killing of #KhurramZaki is the clear failure of national action plan. Sectarian terrorists remain intact n powerful

Faisal Subzwari @faisalsubzwari

worked&argued with @intaffairs, had diff of opinion But mutual respect. He didn't mince his words&paid the "price" Brave he was,Martyr he is

Sharmila faruqi @sharmilafaruqi

Another brave, sane voice fighting for an egalitarian Pakistan silenced.. #khurramzaki death won't silence your struggle

Imran Khan @ImranKhanPTI

Strongly condemn the murder of rights activist Khurram Zaki in Karachi. Shameful reflection of the state of law and order & writ of the govt

Marvi Sirmed @marvisirmed

Go on my friend @intaffairs. You played your innings really well. Didn't retreat. Got bullets in the chest. See you in the next life. Salute

Ali Salman Alvi @alisalmanalvi

Thoughts and prayers with #KhurramZaki's wife who is mother to two bright kids. On this #MothersDay she'll be mourning her martyred husband.

SkinnyCanWrite @TwoTwoAlys

remember discussing how futile activism seemed sometimes in Pakistan & Khurram Bhai was always so positive,always telling me to stay focused