Who is behind Sabeen’s murder?
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) condemned the killing of rights activist Sabeen Mahmud, who was brutally gunned down in Karachi a day earlier. Director General ISPR, Asim Bajwa took to Twitter to post a short statement on Saturday condemning the murder as “tragic and unfortunate”, adding that intelligence agencies have been tasked to assist in the investigation of the killing. They should strive every nerve to uncover those involved in her assassination and put them in the dock to put the speculation to rest. Anyhow, Balochistan is in rivaling eyes because of its rich resources. Secondly development of Gwadar port and Pak China Economic Corridor could adversely impact other regional ports. Thirdly, India is frustrated over Chinese investment in Pakistan and Pak China Economic Corridor, which is said to be a game-changer, India or other international agencies could be involved.
Sabeen Mahmud was a prominent Pakistani social and human rights activist, who was shot dead by unidentified gunmen shortly after hosting a discussion called “Un-silencing Balochistan Take 2”. Baloch rights activists Mama Qadeer, Farzana Majeed and Muhammad Ali Talpur were the main speakers in the discussion on Balochistan’s disappeared persons. She was the director of T2F, a café and arts space that has been a mainstay of Karachi’s activists since it was established in 2007. She was shot four times at close range, with bullets going through her shoulder, chest and abdomen. She was pronounced dead after she was brought to the National Medical Centre hospital. Her mother was also shot twice, but was undergoing treatment in hospital and was out of immediate danger, hospital officials said. The question is who could have killed Sabina Mahmud?
In social media fingers of accusation were raised towards intelligence agencies. On 9th April 2015, a similar talk with the same speakers at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) was cancelled at the last minute, according to LUMS statement, “on orders from the government.” There were headlines in electronic and print media and editorials were written that the ISI had pressurised the faculty of LUMS - world’s renowned educational institution – not to hold seminar on disappeared persons of Balochistan. Human rights activists are insinuating that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, which was instrumental in getting the event at LUMs cancelled, could be behind her murder. Such accusations abound in social media whereby impression is created that intelligence agencies were angry. In fact, whenever there is any killing of a journalist, media associations and human rights organisations accuse the ISI before any investigation.
The question is who benefited from her murder? Not the intelligence agencies; but those who wished to destabilize Pakistan. Mama Qadeer and others have been a lot more vocal and active on the issue of missing persons, but nobody caused any harm to them. Then why Sabin Mahmood was assassinated who was not as aggressive an activist as others. But there are other factors that need to be kept in mind. In December 2014, First Information Report (FIR) was registered against Lal Masjid’s chief cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz at Aabpara Police Station upon unremitting pressure exerted by protesting civil society. The candlelight vigil and protest was organised in response to a statement by Maulana Abdul Aziz in which he refused to condemn the massacre of students and teachers in a terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar.
Sabeen Mahmud had been participating in demonstrations and dharna against Maulana Abdul Aziz. She had also taken position against those who organised anti-Valentine day demonstrations. Religious elements and extremists were not happy with her activities. However, India stands to gain most from turmoil in Pakistan, and especially unrest in Balochistan. Whosoever was behind her assassination had taken advantage of situation whereby more than one groups or sections were against Sabeen Mehmud. In the past, when a journalist wrote against intelligence agencies and also against the terrorist organizations, the latter could have taken advantage of the situation, knowing that the ISI and other intelligence agencies will be blamed. A few journalists had become victim in a similar situation, as some of them were in touch with intelligence agencies as well as militant organisations at the same time. Reporters say that it is part of their responsibilities to dig out the news.
In 2011 Saleem shahzad, Pakistan correspondent for a news service based in Hong Kong, disappeared on his way to a television interview in Islamabad, and later his body was found on a canal bank in Mandi Bahauddin, 80 miles south-east of the capital. “This killing bears all the hallmarks of previous killings perpetrated by Pakistani intelligence agencies,” said a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in south Asia, Ali Dayan Hasan. He called for a “transparent investigation and court proceedings.” Other journalists reacted angrily, directly accusing ISI of responsibility on television and social media. A senior ISI official told the Associated Press that allegations of the agency’s involvement were absurd. Shahzad, who worked for the online service Asia Times Online and the Italian news agency Adnkronos, had vanished two days after publishing a story alleging Pakistan military officials had been in secret negotiations with Al Qaeda.
But there is lot more to that. In his article published on 10th December 2010, he referred to the differences between Al Qaeda leaders. He stated: “Egyptian Saif-al Adel, a military planner, abu Hafs al Mauritani, once the chief of religious committee and Suleman Abu al Gaith who was former Al Qaeda’s Chief spokesperson had opposed the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US”. In another article carried by Asia Times Online in December 2010 captioned ‘Al Qaeda backs massive push in Swat’, he wrote: “Al Qaeda leaders have allocated Rs. 2 billion and a new training programme for 400 militants in Khyber Agency to start a full-blown insurgency in the Swat area of Khayber-Pakhtunkhwa. On 2nd December 2011, he wrote: “Commander Ilyas Kashmiri is the mastermind behind recruiting, training and their launching operation.” One would not know who provided him the above details, but terrorist organisations would not be happy over his disclosures