KARACHI - Sabeen Mahmud, an intellectual, social activist and director of The Second Floor, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Friday soon after she left a session on the Balochistan issue. Her mother, who accompanied her, also sustained critical bullet wounds.

T2F, commonly known by its previous name - The Second Floor, had on Friday organised a talk on missing persons of Balochistan – ‘Unsilencing Balochistan Take 2: In Conversation with Mama Qadeer, Farzana Baloch and Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur.’

Sabeen and her mother left T2F, her café located in Sunset Lane, after 9pm and were on their way home when gunmen riding a motorbike sprayed bullets on their vehicle in Phase-II of Defence Housing Authority (DHA). Sabeen died of her wounds while her mother was in critical condition. A guard-cum-driver accompanying them remained safe in the incident.

SSP South Tariq Dharejo told The Nation that the victims were on their way to home in Defence, Phase-I, when they were attacked. Injured peace activist and her mother were taken to the nearby NMC Hospital where doctors removed five bullets from Sabeen’s body. Her mother had received two shots, according to doctors.

JPMC’s joint executive director Dr Seemin Jamali said that Sabeen was brought dead to JPMC, where her post-mortem was carried. The doctor said Sabeen was shot on her upper torso. Her mother was shifted from JPMC to the National Medical Centre (NMC).

T2F, described as a community space for open dialogue, was Sabeen’s brainchild. In an interview, she had referred to it as “an inclusive space where different kinds of people can be comfortable.” It’s probably Pakistan’s first-ever non-profit hackathon run with a human rights and a peace-focused approach, and Sabeen, its founding director, was the soul of it.

As soon as the news was aired on the TVs, a large number of Sabeen’s well-wishers rushed to the JPMC. Twitter was abuzz with condemnation and demands of justice for Sabeen. It was a damage most people couldn’t take that easily. They were left speechless. Reportedly, renowned journalist Wusatullah Khan had also attended Friday’s event on the sensitive issue of Balochistan alongside many other intellectuals.

Police sources said the fearless activist had been receiving threats on phone but no case was registered in this regard. SSP South told a news organisation that her phone call record will be checked. SHO Kansan Dean said it was a targeted killing and police were investigating it from different angles. They were also trying to obtain CCTV footages, he added.

Mama Qadeer, a prominent voice for the missing persons of Balochistan, strongly condemned the incident. “We are shocked. We remained busy in discussion even after formal ending of the seminar and when she left, she was targeted,” narrated Qadeer. “Everyone knows who killed her and why. It is a continuation of the series of muting the voice for Baloch missing persons,” he added.

Conceived as a bookstore and café patterned after the old coffeehouse culture of Lahore and Karachi, The Second Floor — or T2F, was born out of a desire to enact transformational change in urban Pakistani society. It is actually a space for intellectuals of all kinds, a place where they can share their thoughts with each other. Even the subjects most feared to be discussed in open were discussed by the people of intellect on this forum.

The “about” page on T2F’s website says: Coffeehouse tradition is all about sparking conversations and we are passionate about providing a platform for people to engage with each other. A community space for open dialogue, T2F features a café and bookshop and hosts poetry readings, meetups with writers, talks, debates, theatre performances, film screenings, open mic nights, jam sessions, and standup comedy.

It was called The Second Floor because it was housed on the second floor of a nondescript office building, a PeaceNiche’s flagship initiative. A social entrepreneurship project that blends the best of business practice with the non-profit urge to make meaning, T2F is committed to social change through the liberal arts, creative expression, and open dialogue.

Since its inception in May 2007, T2F has hosted hundreds of events, ranging from poetry readings and film screenings, to vibrant debates on critical issues. With the support and participation of musicians, artists, writers, film makers, scientists, comedians, thought leaders, and engaged audiences, T2F has contributed to revitalising Karachi’s cultural landscape and has provided an alternative, independent, “safe space” for discourse.

In her Instagram bio Sabeen described herself as a “Post Modern Flower Child, Unabashed Mac Snob, Pink Floyd Devotee, Tetris Addict, West Wing Fanatic, [who] Will Die for Hugh Laurie.” Judging from the many snapshots she posted to social media, she loved her mom, her cat, ‘80s music, technology, and peace and justice. To top it all, she was one of us!