What we have lost with the murder of Sabeen Mahmud

South of West


It is four years since I met Sabeen Mahmud. Salman Taseer had been shot dead in Islamabad for his stance on blasphemy and The Sunday Telegraph wanted a piece on Pakistan’s small band of liberal activists. I had heard of a place called The Second Floor (T2F) in Karachi. It sounded like it would fit the bill.

I arranged to meet Sana Saleem, a blogger and activist, there. And she introduced me to the small band of writers and campaigners – on everything from the environment to gay rights – who used the coffeeshop as their second home. (Haven of sense – a post I wrote at the time.)

It felt like it stood in the glorious line of radical coffeehouses extending back to the Enlightenment. The sort of place where a novelist and a comedian used a backroom as a work space. You never knew who you might meet.

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