Sunday, July 21, 2019

It has been almost seven months since the last Christmas, the day when two gunmen riding on a motorbike callously gunned down 46-year-old Ali Raza Abidi right outside his house in Karachi.

Abidi, an elected member of Pakistan’s National Assembly until May 2018, was a hugely popular social media activist in Pakistan. Like Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Abidi was also a Shia Muslim. More importantly, Abidi was a Mohajir, a descendant of those who had migrated to Pakistan after 1947 when the British decided to carve the Indian subcontinent into two independent states, India and Pakistan. Both Shias and Mohajirs are now facing ever-growing persecution in Pakistan.

Even by Pakistan’s standard, where suicide bombings, target killings, military operations, kidnappings, and enforced disappearances are not so uncommon, Abidi’s cold-blooded assassination was a great shock. Abidi was a fierce critic of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his ruling party, the PTI. He spared no opportunity to tease Imran Khan and his army of abusive social media trolls with a sharp-witted tweet. He routinely called Imran Khan the “Taliban Khan” because of Khan’s relentless defense of the Taliban and his opposition to the U.S.-led drone attacks at their terrorist training sites.

Abidi’s social media posts, however, were never abusive or defamatory. Nor did he ever resort to personal attacks. He was a known critic of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment’s overt and covert support for religious extremism.

Having a graduate degree in business studies from a U.S. university, Abidi was a brave individual, as he repeatedly defied shut-up calls from both the authorities and religious extremists. He continued to show his defiance when a high-ranking security official reportedly summoned him to his office three months before his assassination and “ordered” him to shut down his Twitter account.

Abidi lived in one of the most expensive, and well-guarded, residential areas of Karachi, the Defense Housing Authority. Consulate offices of several foreign missions are located around his house, yet the killers were able to chase him, kill him at will and get away without facing any resistance at all.

Given the history of persecution of ethnic Mohajirs in Pakistan since 1947, many already predicted that it would be hoping against hope to expect that Abidi’s killers would ever be apprehended. After all, Pakistani authorities failed to apprehend even those who masterminded and executed the assassination of Pakistan’s first-ever Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, a Mohajir, in 1951. Since 1947, armed terrorists have attacked at least a dozen Mohajir-majority towns in Sindh Province, leaving tens of thousands of Mohajirs dead and injured — while authorities have yet to bring to justice even a single culprit.

Unfortunately, the year 2018 did not just end with the murder of a high-profile Mohajir leader; it also started with the murder of another high-profile Mohajir academic, Professor Hasan-Zafar Arif.

A Harvard-educated Ph.D. scholar, Professor Arif was kidnapped by plainclothes personnel, tortured to death and left on the outskirts of Karachi in January 2018.

It was the tragic killing of Professor Arif that spurred the launching of the Voice of Karachi and the Free Karachi campaign on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day in the United States.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is in the U.S. on an official visit amid claims to introduce a meaningful change in the country’s past oppressive policies.

History judges great leaders based on their actions, not their rhetoric. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s words have to match his actions, and of many good things his administration could do, one would be to find the real killers of Ali Raza Abidi and Professor Dr. Hasan-Zafar Arif. The Voice of Karachi vows to continue to pursue this issue until their assassins are brought to justice.

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