The stars appear at night to lead us when all else is dark. Sabeen Mahmud was one such star for Pakistan – nay, humanity. With every obstacle that threatened to take her out, Sabeen’s light grew stronger. A few days before she scheduled the much talked about discussion on the Baloch conflict, she was dissuaded by ‘unknown people’ and earlier in 2013 even received a bullet in her mail.

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When a U.S. news agency asked her if all this made her afraid, she said, ‘fear is just a line in your head. You can choose which side of the line you want to be on’. Needless to say, Sabeen remained fearless and steadfast to her last breath. And although she is no longer amongst us, the light she brought into our lives will never go out.

Uzma Aslam Khan, a Pakistani writer, who had the privilege of meeting Sabeen and hosting a book reading at The Second Floor (Sabeen’s café/community space) described Sabeen’s spirit – in Colum McCann’s words – ‘as wide as love’. The Second Floor, a space where everyone was welcome, regardless of class, sexuality, gender, religion, ethnicity, or any other divisive social classification, was an overt representation of the tolerance and equity Sabeen stood for.

Sanam Maher, who writes for Express Tribune, also had the opportunity to collaborate with Sabeen. Among other things, Sanam mentioned how amazed she was with Sabeen’s indomitable will, ‘I wondered how her spirit did not flag – even as she lived in a place that did not always respond kindly to her attempts to fix what was broken and change what was flawed’.

Sanam also mentioned a rare occasion when Sabeen’s critics got under her skin and when her Facebook update read, ‘Like fools we have been coming out on the streets for so many years. For years, people have mocked us and laughed at us for our small numbers. You doubted our motives. You questioned our agendas... If you had joined us, we wouldn’t have been so pitiable. We would have had a movement by now.’

Undoubtedly, Sabeen’s voice against the misuse of authority, discrimination, fundamentalism or tyranny of any kind was loud and clear and unconditional. And so, just as Sabeen was seen as a true libertarian, a champion of human rights by her supporters, her detractors were threatened by her very existence.

But Sabeen was not naïve enough to not know the game she played. The world has never been kind to people like her; people who set out to change the status quo; people who pursued a purpose that was bigger than the narrow confines of their own personal lives; people who discovered the courage to rebel no matter what.

Historically, rebels have been gunned down, burnt and buried alive, crucified and banished for opposing a single point of authority, and here, in Karachi, we had Sabeen fighting battles on every possible front. And thus, when every institution or ideological group she could possibly threaten refused to lay any claim to her murder, something was surely amiss.

In any case, it is more than clear Sabeen’s detractors do not know their history, let alone the many lessons it provides, otherwise they would not have killed her.

Firstly, a day after she was brutally murdered, on April 25 2015, hundreds and thousands of people united in prayers for Sabeen. Those who knew her and agreed with her, found greater resolve to remain true to their ideological goals and missions. Many who had never heard of The Second Floor (T2F) or Sabeen Mahmud, joined the fold. Essentially, Pakistan’s hardened have-nots have lost far too many loved ones to ‘unknown authority’ to let Sabeen’s demise go in vain. In fact, I would be surprised if the vacuum Sabeen has left behind still remains.

Over half a millennium ago, the German monk Martin Luther nailed a paper to the door of his church, challenging the established practices of the Catholic establishment. Had Luther not won the support of some of the German princes and the people at large, who were increasingly frustrated at the growing abuses of the Vatican elite, Luther would have been burnt alive, but he managed to survive in hiding. Meanwhile, Luther’s ideas sparked the Reformation – a long and bloody road to the acceptance of freedom in religious thought in Europe. In the end, the truth won out.

The shades of European history shine in contemporary Pakistan. Many will be drawn towards suggesting parallels between what has transpired and what is likely to transpire in the days ahead. They will say that Sabeen’s willingness to speak out, and the shedding of her blood, is the sacrifice Pakistan needs to be jolted into sanity. One can only hope this is true.

In the end, Sabeen was an essential voice of sanity amidst the chaos that is Pakistan. And even if she could not live to see the change she wanted to see in Pakistan, she was able to galvanise many towards an ideal she held dear- a country where reasonable people could sit down and bridge their differences without hatred or violence. It remains to be seen if her country was worthy of her sacrifice.