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April 26, 2015

A brave voice ‘silenced’ forever


April 26, 2015

The woman who had introduced a space for free creative expression in Karachi, Sabeen Mahmud, was shot and killed on Friday when she left the premises of her famous brainchild, the T2F.
She had been with her mother who was also injured in the attack.
Being the pioneer of a space dedicated to culture, among many other endeavors, Mahmud had been a familiar face in the world of culture, literature, art, history and social activism.
Though Mahmud’s chief identity in Karachi was that of a social activist, by profession she had been a technology entrepreneur.
Hailing from a middle class family, Mahmud, completed her O-level from the Karachi Grammar School before moving to Lahore and doing her bachelors from Kinniard College where she studied literature, philosophy and journalism.
After her graduation, she moved back to Karachi and joined the IT industry where she earned 20 years of experience in graphic design, new media and technology.
She had co-found “b.i.t.s” — boutique interactive media and technology consulting firm — before she established PeaceNiche and T2F. She also remained the president of the Indus Entrepreneurs in Karachi and was also the first Pakistani to hold a Hackathon.
In 2006, she launched the The Second Floor café, the first of its kind place in Pakistan where expression was not only free but also demanded of its visitors. It served as a meeting place for poets, writers, artists, musicians, students and activists.
An eminent journalist, Wusutullah Khan, who had also been present at T2F earlier in the evening as a speaker at a seminar on Balochistan, described Mahmud as a rebel. “She believed that the space for dialogue was shrinking and wanted to create a place where people could speak, so she set up T2F,” he said. “But her murder has proved that those who think they can say whatever they want, can be responsible for the consequences. This is a clear announcement. A boundary has been drawn. If

one exceeds a certain limit, there will be dire consequences.”
Mahmud was also a founding member of various cultural initiatives, such as All Pakistan Music Conference Karachi, Citizens’ Archive of Pakistan and was an active member of Citizens for Democracy Forum.
Columnist Fasi Zaka said, “The people who are doing the most for the country and raising a voice for the voiceless, are being gunned down. Whoever doubts her patriotism must know that she was a nationalist but did not believe in making noise to prove it to others.”
He said Mahmud’s brainchild, the T2F had been a place open for everyone. “If it is closed, it will be a major loss for Karachi,” he said. “She inspired a generation and helped a cornered section raise their voices on a civic platform.”
An intellectual, Akhtar Baloch, remarked that the traditionalist mindset had killed a person who had established a platform for genuine change.
Eminent social commentator, Nadeem F Paracha, said Mahmud’s loss was not only tragic, but was also terribly embarrassing for Pakistan.
“It is a great loss to a progressive Pakistan, a democratic Pakistan to an egalitarian Pakistan. It is an irreparable and irreplaceable loss. My band, Laal’s first show was held in T2F. Attack on her is tantamount to killing cultural and intellectual vibrancy in Pakistan,” said Taimur Rahman of Laal band.

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