05/09/2016, 19.35
PAKISTAN
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Karachi: Taliban kill Shia activist "friend of Christians"

by Kamran Chaudhry

Khurram Zaki, 40, edited the news website ‘Let us build Pakistan’. He was shot to death on Saturday. A Taliban group, Hakeemullah, has claimed responsibility for the murder. Zaki had criticised the preacher of Islamabad’s Red Mosque. “One by one, they are killing us,” says an activist. “Now we can count the number of activists in single digits.”

Karachi (AsiaNews) – We lost "a great voice who fought for the rights of marginalised people,” said a sad Cecil Chaudry, director of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace Pakistan, about the murder of Khurram Zaki, a Shia journalist and activist.

Zaki, 40, edited the website Let us build Pakistan. Last Saturday, he was dining in a restaurant in Karachi’s 11-G sector when, around midnight, suspects opened fire. Two people who were with the murdered journalist were wounded.

A Taliban group, Hakeemullah, claimed responsibility for the murder, justifying it as retaliation for Zaki’s position against Maulana Abdul Aziz, a Khateeb (preacher) at the Red Mosque in Islamabad.

The journalist had organised protests against the Islamist leader who had refused to condemn the massacre of the military school in Peshawar on 17 December 2014, in which 134 children and nine adults were killed.

Khurram Zaki was known for his battles in favour of all of Pakistan’s persecuted minorities, including Christians. He had repeatedly condemned attacks against Catholic and Protestant communities in the Archdiocese of Karachi.

“He was known for holding a cross during demonstrations and always stood next to clergymen, especially Archbishop Joseph Coutts (pictured), head of the Catholic Church”, Cecil Chaudhry told AsiaNews.

Zaki’s murder is not unprecedented. Last year, activist Sabeen Mahmud was killed in Karachi as she drove her car. She too had criticised the Red Mosque preacher. In May 2014, human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman Khan was gunned down by unidentified men.

“We have lost many friends,” said Irfan Mufti, director of an NGO, South Asia Partnership-Pakistan. “Human rights defenders are being threatened while journalists have been attacked for many years. The state has failed in protecting us; perhaps it has become a victim of complacency.”

Ultimately, “Zaki is a very big loss for the country,” Mufti noted. “We hear bogus claims about the national action plan and counter terror measures but see no action”.

Saeeda Deep, founder of the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies, wants justice for such violence. “One by one, they are killing us,” she said. “Now we can count the number of activists in single digits. Many are leaving the country. We are an easy target”, she added.

Worst still, “It is longer possible to have discussion based on logic. People are being silenced and general apathy prevails.”

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