Islamabad:The funeral prayers for Sabika Sheikh, a 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student who was killed in a Texas school shooting last week, were offered at Karach’s Hakeem Saeed Ground at 9am on Wednesday. Sheikh was among the 10 people gunned down at a high school in Santa Fe last Friday when a heavily armed student opened fire on classmates.
Security arrangements were tight at the venue, where a number of government officials and political leaders, including Sindh Chief Minister Murad Shah, Sindh Governer Muhammad Zubair, Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal, Pak Sarzameen Party chief Mustafa Kamal, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Halim Adil Sheikh and others attended her funeral prayers.
About 100 police officers were deployed at the ground, where a bomb disposal squad had conducted a sweep to ensure security for attendees. She was laid to rest at the Azimpura graveyard in Shah Faisal Colony.
“My daughter is a martyr and martyrs don’t die,” Sheikh’s father said after the prayers. Officials participating the ceremony labelled her killing an act of terrorism.
“The whole nation stands by the Pakistani girl who was martyred in a terrorist attack in the US. May God give patience to her parents and family,” governor Mohammad Zubair told reporters after the funeral.
Sabika, a Karachi teenager whose family lives in the Gulshan-i-Iqbal area, was studying at Santa Fe High School in Texas on a US State Department scholarship under the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programme.
Aziz Sheikh (left), father of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, is comforted by a relative at his residence in Karachi. —Reuters/File
She was among 10 students gunned down on Friday inside the school by another teenager with white supremacist tendencies.
According to her father, Sabika — the eldest among three sisters but younger than her brother — was due to return home on June 9. Her family had been counting the days till her return. Her body arrived from the US at 4am today after a Turkish Airlines flight carrying it was delayed due to bad weather. Her body was earlier scheduled to arrive at 9am on Tuesday.
Her father, Aziz Sheikh, received her body at the airport. US Consul General John Warner, and PSP, PTI, PPP, and Muttahida Qaumi Movement leaders were also present at the airport alongside her family members.
Airport Security Officials at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport presented a guard of honour to the slain teenager.
Sabika’s body was transported from the airport to her residence, where relatives, loved ones and neighbours converged to pay their final respects to her.
Sabika was described as a brilliant student by her father. She had completed her matriculation from Karachi Public School and had been an honour roll student at Santa Fe High School.
Even though she was still a teenager, her uncle said earlier, he was often amazed at how mature her thoughts were. “She often spoke about issues such as women’s rights and women empowerment. She would speak to her cousins and friends about these things, too, trying to open up their minds to issues and good causes,” he said.
“She would say herself that she was not interested in studying medicine or engineering. She wanted to fight for people’s rights. We were sure she would grow up to be a social activist,” her maternal uncle said. “Who knew she had such a short life.”
Sabika’s maternal uncle earlier, Col Haider, said that the Muslim-American family she was staying with in Texas were the first to hear about the shooting, and rushed there immediately when they heard about the shooting.
“We were looking forward to seeing her back with us this Eid after she spent almost a year in the US,” he had said.
Her funeral prayers were held in Houston on Sunday and were attended by the city’s mayor, members of the Congress and a large number of citizens.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who visited Sabika’s home on Sunday to offer his condolences, said she had been a brilliant student. “The entire nation is saddened by her death,” he said, adding: “Extremism is not the problem of any single country or region, but the whole world is affected by it.”
Meanwhile Pakistani Nobel laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai on Wednesday spoke to the family of Sabika Sheikh via phone and extended her condolences over Sabika’s death.
The Pakistani Nobel laureate told Sabika’s father, Abdul Aziz Sheikh, that every individual was aggrieved over Sabika’s death, adding that the nation had been deprived of a talented daughter. She asked Sabika’s father and sister to consider her as their own daughter and sister, and that she equally shared their grief.
During the conversation, Aziz told the Nobel laureate that he wanted people to raise their voice against gun violence. Malala assured him that she would fully back him on this issue.