Dr Raza Mehdi Jafri was a young and dynamic ENT surgeon. He had graduated from a medical college in Karachi and completed his post graduate qualifications from the United Kingdom. He then returned to Karachi to continue his work. He was the son of renowned ENT surgeon Professor IH Jafri and had decided to follow in the footsteps of his father.
As a young medical student in the late 90’s, to me he represented what a doctor should be – smart, professional, ethical and innovative. When most of us thought the internet was the name of a road in the West, he had mastered using the web and his laptop to teach us. I remember learning about the anatomy of the head and neck on a rotatable image of the skull and for the first time grasping the pathways of different nerves weaving their way round it. He had also set up a website with his clinical notes and lectures on it.
He taught fearlessly in his clinics, on the patients’ bedside, and in the operating theatre. His emphasis was always to improve clinical skills coupled with empathy and impeccable bedside manners. He paid attention to all his students equally and would only be swayed and impressed by hard work and intelligence. My classmates would eagerly wait for their rotation in ENT, as they would get to spend more time with this dynamic consultant. I completed my medical school and commenced my house job in the same hospital. I do not remember him being rude or unkind to any of his patients. He had a fan base which extended from patients, students, and colleagues to other staff at the hospital.
Then something happened – something which we thought could never happen to a person like him. On 30th of May 2001, he was shot dead – murdered in front of his clinic in Gulshan-e-Iqbal locality of Karachi. The news came as a shock to everyone who knew him. We gathered at his home that night, and saw many other friends and acquaintances grieving outside. But no one knew why he was killed – shot point blank. Or rather, no one wanted to say.
We decided to go to his soyem, and that was the first time I stepped into an Imambargah. It was also the first time I found out his religious affiliation. He never wore his faith on his sleeve, and did not bring it up in any discussion. “Shia doctor killed in Karachi,” said the headlines in the newspapers. It didn’t make sense. Wasn’t he just a citizen who worked for the betterment of his people and was using his skills to improve the future of his country? What does his religious affiliation have to do with anything?
A couple of weeks later, a leaflet from a mosque I pray in caught my attention. Questioning rival schools of thought in Islam, it justified the killing of people like Dr Raza Jafri. The penny suddenly dropped. Call me naive, stupid or ignorant, but I had been unaware and could not smell the stench of extremism around me.
To those who argue that extremism in our society is a reaction to the American invasion of Afghanistan, the murder of people like Dr Raza Jafri is proof that we had plunged in to the abyss of extremism years before 9/11.
Our narrative is becoming more and more delusional each day. There are those who blame the West for all the ills in our country and there are those who blame our neighbors for all our problems. And finally, there are those who don’t give a toss and consider these discussions a waste of time because in their opinion nothing will ever change. No one is ready to accept a collective responsibility for this mess. A remedy is not possible until we accept there is something wrong. We are so busy measuring each other’s beliefs and arguing over religious rituals that we have forgotten to live.
[quote]To remain silent almost equates to being complicit[/quote]
The majority in a society always has the responsibility role to protect and guard the minority from oppression and subjugation. As a person who belongs to the religious majority in Pakistan, I am ashamed to say that we have failed miserably in doing that. The least we could do is call a murder a murder, rather than finding ways of justifying this madness. There should be no ifs, ands or buts. To remain silent almost equates to being complicit.
How I wish we could have protected Dr Raza Jafri and so many others like him, who are brought to their untimely demise due to our inaction and criminal naivety, stupidity and/or ignorance. It’s not too late.
Those who serve humanity have always been under threat from vested interest.Any one following his approach,irrespective of cast, creed,faith or sect will be persecuted by such followers of Iblees..
Will someone on this paper kindly explain to the non-Muslim readers why Muslims are so obsessed with religion? They are not the most honest people on this planet.
Someone from the silent majority finally speaks up from the heart and acknowledges what has been left unsaid for so long. Thank you. Much appreciated. So many among us have been killed for our faith. It feels like I have received a personal condolence.
Dr Yasir Abbasi;s voice is amongst the first of the silent majority who must speak up. I know most feel the wrong that has been done and continues with unabated intensity to the minorities , especially Shia killlings.Its only the majority who can protect them and thus ensure the very existence of the basic rules of living in a just and safe country. The benefit will encompass all of us who live here and have lived as brothers all along.
We used to call him Shazi bhai. He was my first cousin.
Not was he one of the most brilliant professional, he was a guy who everyone in family loved and respected. I remember exactly where I was and I what I was doing when that happened.
over past 8 years more than 200 Shia doctors in Karachi alone has been targeted.
I have no clue why most of the middle class sunni majority keeps their mouth shut.
They are observing the ‘we dont care casue its not us’ attitude, that will destroy us all
Hi Jaf, just read your comment here. It is so good to hear from someone in his family. After his sad demise, I collected the thoughts of many students in a book and passed it on to his family. Please my regards to his family.