I lost my friend on Saturday night. He was sipping tea at a Chaikhana (tea shop) with two colleagues when four men on bikes showed up and showered them with bullets. He received five bullets in his upper body and was shifted to a hospital in critical condition before he was finally moved to the Agha Khan hospital for treatment. Khurram Zaki – the activist, the blogger, the progressive ideologue, the wall of perseverance against the rising tide of sectarian violence, a devoted father and a good friend – was martyred before the clock struck 12 am.
One never really has a clue to how they would react to the death of a friend. Tears are a normal reaction, followed by disbelief and then, haunting emptiness. I hadn’t had more than four hours of sleep a night for the past week but I still couldn’t sleep after hearing the news. I couldn’t stop remembering him and his memory brought along a lot more soul-searching than I could bear. However, at the end of it, the only thing I didn’t feel was anger.
Who should I be angry at?
The killers, who were probably, paid 10k a kill.
The government, which already heard consistent earfuls from Khurram talking against groups the government didn’t want to take action against.
The banned organisations, which were always at the receiving end of Khurram’s protests and had issued numerous death threats to him over the years.
How can I be angry at them, when it was not they, but people like myself who were more responsible for his death.
As a citizen of Pakistan, I am to blame for the death of Khurram Zaki.
His movement, his protests and his speeches were not for himself. He never made a speech in the morning only to detract from it in the evening. He never made tall claims or promises to the people, only to look the other way when he got what he wanted. He always spoke for the sake of the people and against the enemies of its citizens.
National security vs National’s security
A question that arises here is: who are these enemies of Pakistani nationals? Is it just the Taliban and some identified foreign governments who back them? Are not the agents of chaos in our country, who wilfully and openly kill Pakistani nationals our enemies? Why is it that whenever someone talks openly against men like Lal Masjid’s Abdul Aziz (he is not a Maulana, especially if you know the definition of Maulana) and his ilk, they are the ones who land in jail? Why isn’t Abdul Aziz in jail?
How could a man condone the murder of innocent children at the Army Public School, Peshawar and still not be behind bars? Are there different laws (or rather none) for people who possess armed zealots at their beck and call? Why is there no Zarb-e-Azb in our cities where it is most needed?
Is it because these organisations are backed by countries, we are politically and financially indebted to? Why does PEMRA cogently urge TV channels to stop spewing truth against ‘friendly’ countries in the name of national security? Are Pakistani ‘nationals’ not a major (or rather the only) consideration of our ‘national’ security policy? When will the interests of Pakistanis be more paramount to the State than the interests of the Arabs, the Persians, the Americans and the rest of the North, South, East and West?
This is a question that the ‘state’ needs to answer. What interests will be left if the nation doesn’t survive.
On whose hands should I find my blood?
Millions of Pakistanis lost a friend along with me. We buried him yesterday with his 12-year-old crying by his side and his four-year-old playing with the dirt around his grave oblivious of what people have done to him. Khurram was sincere to us in his quest to unearth and identify our enemies but we were not sincere to him. Scenes that were witnessed yesterday could easily make an apathetic person weep uncontrollably.
Khurram was forgotten even before we buried him. His will to his colleagues after being shot was to have the Namaz-e-Janaza at the Chief Minister’s (CM) House and not leave the premises until the killers were apprehended. Mischief mongers (whom I am not going to name) announced after his ghusl at Incholi Imambargah that since the FIR had been lodged against banned organisations’ leaders, it was no longer necessary to go the CM House. They coerced people to pray the Namaz-e-Janaza at Incholi and proceed with burial. When this failed they attempted the same tactics when the protesters were outside the CM House, lying to the people that Khurrum’s widow was asking the people to pack up and move ahead towards burial.
How could we be so insincere to someone the moment their eyes are closed is just appalling. Let’s all look at our hands and like Macbeth, see the blood of all those who stood for us on it.
In truth, we do not deserve people like Parween Rehman, Sabeen Mahmud and Khurram Zaki – no matter how much we need them. They showed us how we could help people, be progressive and be religious without killing anyone for it. They stood for what was right and paid the price for it in full. They paid this price because we didn’t support them when they needed it, didn’t stand with them when they were standing for us and we didn’t join them when they spoke against injustice. Their blood is on our hands and we can only wash it if we add ours to it.
Support their cause, rise against injustice and speak the truth. We all have to die. Let us all die with dignity like they did.