NEW YORK—The murder of Sabeen Mahmud, director of bookstore and community space The Second Floor (T2F), today in Karachi showcases the heinous fear tactics used to quash dissent in Pakistan, PEN American Center said in a statement. Mahmud was leaving the T2F space with her mother on Friday evening when unidentified gunmen shot at both women. Mahmud died on the way to the hospital of several gunshot wounds. Her mother remains in critical condition.

A staunch advocate of free of expression, the liberal arts, and open dialogue, Mahmud founded T2F in the coffeehouse tradition of sparking discussion and discourse about a multitude of topics among individuals with varied viewpoints and perspectives. Earlier today, T2F hosted an event on the sensitive topic of Balochistan, featuring a conversation between several activists.  Balochistan province, in southwestern Pakistan, is an area embroiled in a conflict between the Pakistani authorities and Balochi nationalist groups, who desire more autonomy and, in some instances, full independence. The worsening conflict has led to a broad range of human rights violations, including disappearances and extrajudicial executions by Pakistani authorities, restrictions on freedoms of assembly and association, and censorship of media and other forms of expression.

“Sabeen’s murder is a despicable act of intimidation intended to frighten others into not discussing Balochistan or other issues the Pakistani military would rather sweep under the rug,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Center. “Her killing is the latest chilling example of the ongoing silencing of voices promoting tolerance, human rights, and free expression. We urge the Pakistani authorities to thoroughly investigate her murder and end the culture of impunity in Pakistan.”


Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,000 U.S writers working to break down barriers to free expression worldwide. Its distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and the advancement of human rights of such past members as Langston Hughes, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck.

Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression Programs: [email protected], +1 646-779-4822
Sarah Edkins, Communications Manager: [email protected], +1 646-779-4830