Monday, October 25, 2010

Disability activist in Pakistan shot and killed in front of his house

From The Express Tribune:

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Two-year-old Shahzaib was playing with his father’s hands in the moonlight on Friday when a bullet fired at 9 pm brought the father-son interaction to an end.

Sindh Disabled Mobility Forum’s (SDMF) leading member, Jaffar Shah, was shot in the skull when he was sitting outside his house in Nazimabad with his son during a power outage in the area.

“He was harmless. How can a person sitting on a wheelchair threaten anyone?” Shah’s brother, Najam, told The Express Tribune.

“Nobody picked up his body. Somebody just shot him dead in the darkness without thinking for a moment that he was with a two-year-old child. His body fell on the child and it stayed that way for 15 minutes. When one of Shah’s neighbours tried to lift him, the child wouldn’t let go of his father. For a while it seemed as if the child was bleeding,” he added. According to Najam, his two-year-old nephew has become so emotionally disturbed that he starts to cry if anyone touches him.

Representatives of the SDMF gathered at the Karachi Press Club on Saturday, where 200 people in wheelchairs demanded that the government arrest Shah’s killers within 48 hours. They vowed that they would not bury Shah until the perpetrators were jailed.

Members of the SDMF later tried to gather outside Governor House to stage a protest, but were stopped by the police. “The SDMF people have taken a stand for Shah. They will take his body to Governor House if his killers are not arrested. And as Shah’s brother, I am supporting this stand,” said Najam.

Jawed Rais, a member of the SDMF who worked with Shah for more than eight years, started the campaign along with 10 other NGOs working for the disabled across Sindh. He said that they want to take a stand against the government as it has failed to provide security to innocent people.

Through this protest, we want to prove that being in a wheelchair is a sign of perseverance instead of weakness, said Rais.

Shah was the kind of activist who left no stone unturned in making sure that the voice of the disabled community could be heard. He wanted to spread awareness about his cause so that the disabled people could be granted the minimum two per cent quota for jobs provided by the government, said Rais. “We fail to understand why Shah was targeted? He worked for the rights of those people from the middle class and lower middle class who had lost their ability to walk. I think it’s high time the government opened its eyes.”

Shah lost his legs in a car accident 20 years ago. While working for the city district government as the executive district officer for the last 10 years, Shah had also been running Apna Sahara, an NGO for the disabled, for nearly a decade. This was the platform through which Shah helped the disabled people in getting jobs and organised activities that helped them become a part of mainstream society.