Sabika’s tragedy leaves us devastated

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Emotional scenes were witnessed at the funeral prayers for Sabika Sheikh, the Pakistani exchange student who was killed in Texas high school shooting on Friday, at Hakeem Saeed Ground yesterday. Everyone looked somber and devastated. The people were not only talking of Sabika but also recalled the tragedy of all those victims who fall prey to the gun-shots in a Texas School last Friday. 

Sabika’s body was brought to the ground earlier yesterday, accompanied by her family and friends. Sindh chief minister Murad Ali Shah, Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair, PSP chief Mustafa Kamal, PPP leader Saeed Ghani and other political dignitaries were in attendance for the funeral prayers.

Sabika was buried in Azeempura Graveyard in the metropolis’ Shah Faisal Colony.

The body was flown to Karachi from Houston, Texas through a private airline- TK-708- that was received by family members and officials of US Consulate at the airport.

The family members present at the scene were crying every moment. Her mother was in total denial state. It’s a shock, not only for the family but for the nation.

The entire is shocked and upset due to tragic killing of Pakistani girl Sabika Sheikh, who was among the ten people killed in the latest incident of gun violence in an American school. 

Sabika Sheikh, a 17-year-old Pakistani foreign exchange student from Karachi. She was due to return home in just under three weeks in time for Eidul Fitr; having spent an entire academic year on scholarship in the US as part of the YES (Youth Exchange and Study) programme funded by the State Department. Students are required to live with host families as they immerse themselves in scholastic and cultural programmes.

Indeed, it was the chance of a lifetime that ended far too soon. It is the 22nd time this year that there has been such an event and fatalities in such incidents now exceed fatalities in the armed forces as of this date.

Terrible as all these incidents are there is a particular relevance to Pakistan in this instance. Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student due to return home on June 9th, is among the dead. She was studying in the US via an exchange programme set up by the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study – the YES programme.

This recent bloodshed is, according to American media, the third of its kind in eight days. It is therefore hoped that the US will finally come to accept that it has a gun problem.

Pagourtzis is said to have used two guns to open-fire on his schoolmates. Both of which belonged to his father, who kept them lawfully. This necessarily raises grave concerns over weapon security on private property.

Cross-partisan consensus must be reached on the question of liability when the latter fall into under-age hands; as well as anyone to whom a gun is not licensed. Because, quite simply, enough is enough. In addition, mandatory searches of all those entering school premises must now become non-negotiable.

Meanwhile, experts say that the knock-on effect in Pakistan will be felt for a long time to come. Since 2003, some 1,100 high school students from this country have participated in the YES programme.

This may not seem like a large number but this is just one exchange scheme. There are others, such as the Seeds of Peace; which brings together young people from conflict areas to engage in peace-building and leadership development. The State Department is a funding partner.

Such initiatives are especially important for Pakistani and American youth. Given the levels of deep mistrust at the highest echelons of the bilateral relationship at the governmental level – such cultural exchanges offer lifelines in terms of collective optimism and understanding. Given what happened in Sante Fe, families over here will likely think twice or thrice or more before even contemplating sending their children over to the US; especially when it comes to daughters.

Yet that aside, the US owes it to its own adolescents to get tough on gun control. For no more can they be allowed to be caught up in the crossfire between two competing ideologies regarding what keeps America safe. No more can they be written off as collateral damage. They deserve better.

It may be recalled here that the sad news was quickly on social media along with a picture of a confident smiling young girl posing against a granite block incised with the word ‘Texas’.

As a matter of fact, there are families of thousands of young Pakistanis who are studying today in America who will have seen the report and wondered at the safety of their children, of their siblings – and they are right to wonder.

Some will have sent their children to the US in the belief that it is a safer place than Pakistan, that the education is of a better quality and they will return home the better for their experience.

Time has come America should have a strict policy of gun-control for the sake of its own people, and those from abroad.

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