A prominent Pakistani rights activist was shot and killed by unknown gunmen here as she was returning home hours after hosting a seminar on human rights abuses in Balochistan province, police said today.
Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead by the motorcycle-borne gunmen while on her way home with her mother last evening.
Police said 40-year-old Mahmud, who had just hosted a discussion on the situation in Balochistan, was shot five times as she drove her car while her mother who was seated next to her also sustained bullet wounds and is in hospital.
“Sabeen died on her way to the hospital. Doctors said they retrieved five bullets from her body,” police official Munir Sheikh said.
He said police were investigating the incident from all angles but initial investigations indicated the killing could be the result of personal enmity.
Mahmud ran an open forum called The Second Floor (T2F) for discussions on human rights abuses in Balochistan and other civil rights issues.
She had organised a talk featuring Mama Qadeer, another prominent activist who has also been campaigning for missing people in Balochistan. Qadeer was recently stopped from delivering a lecture on the subject at a Lahore university.
“I am shocked at this tragic happening because Sabeen was a strong voice for the oppressed and didn’t mean any harm to anyone,” Qadeer said.
“Everybody knows who killed her and why,” he told The Nation newspaper, without elaborating.
Thousands of people have disappeared in impoverished southwestern Balochistan which has been wracked by an armed insurgency waged by Baloch nationalists who accuse the government of exploiting the province’s natural resources.
Rights groups also blame the government for the disappearances and its brutal crackdown.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also condemned Mehmud’s killing and ordered an investigation into the attack.
“We condemn the tragic and unfortunate killing of Sabeen Mehmud. Intelligence agencies being tasked to render all possible assistance to investigating agencies for apprehension of perpetrators and bring them to justice,” military spokesman Asim Bajwa said in a tweet.
A senior police official also said the case would be investigated under the new anti-terrorism law.