“They might kill me, but they will never

be able to kill my work”

–Zarteef Afridi, 2009

 

Born in Jamrud, Zarteef Afridi was an educationist, human rights activist who became a school teacher in 1983 when Afghan Jihad was on the rise in the areas of FATA. Presciently sensing the threat, Afridi advocated for a much more secular education as opposed to pure Madrassah training. None of his students, he proudly claimed later, joined wars and “mujahedeen” in Afghanistan and went on to join such professional fields as education and medicine instead. Afridi continued working for the education of his people, especially women of FATA, throughout his life. He founded FATA Education and Welfare Society in 1996 for launching campaigns about the importance of modern, secular education. Besides education, Afridi was also a human rights activist who joined Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 1989 and helped in the release of many locals who had been unjustly jailed under the cruel FCR rules. In 1995, when Asma Jhangir was threatened for fighting the case of Salamat Masih, Zarteef wrote a letter to her telling how he will come to Lahore to save her. Afridi also publicly condemned such cruel traditions of his area as buying of bride, “vulvur.” As a result of his activism, he received death threats, but the fear could not budge him. He was shot in 2011.

Before Zarteef Afridi, two members of HRCP had also been killed in Baluchistan in 2011. The killers have never been caught. If the state is as serious as it claims to be in resolving the discontentment of people of marginalized areas and in curbing religious extremism, it not only needs to recognize, support the efforts of people like Zarteef Afridi but also ensure their safety. Merely circulating the pictures of development projects (roads, schools) of FATA on social media wont suffice.