Sabeen Mahmud, the only daughter, who always behaved like a tomboy was the Founder and Director of Peace Niche, a not-for-profit organization based in Karachi, Pakistan, that promoted democratic discourse and conflict resolution through intellectual and cultural engagement within and beyond the premises of its multipurpose space, called The Second Floor (T2F). T2F is a meeting place and playground for poets, writers, artists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, students, and activists.
Located in Phase two, down the road from Defence Library in Karachi, T2F is a two-storey space inside a red brick building, donated to the organisation by a devoted fan. Upstairs is a wooden-floor café, minimalistic but bright with a modern interior. Sabeen runs the café and gets additional revenue from tabla, guitar and other classes held at T2F. She worked nights to pay her bills and it is a struggle. However, she had faith in supporters of T2F.
T2F has provided the people of Karachi a place to express their opinions and fears, a space to grow and learn and, most importantly, a venue to meet like-minded individuals – it has exciting events planned every week. Sabeen’s recent, most memorable event was a talk by Shajia Haroon on philosopher Peter Singer’s views in light of the devastating floods, followed by a discussion that lasted well after closing time. Given the response to it, T2F will now host philosophical discussions on various topics.
A social entrepreneur committed to the intersection of the liberal arts, technology, and activism, Sabeen has created a hub for creative expression in the chaotic, troubled port city of Karachi. She has 20 years of experience in graphic design, new media, and technology, and is a co-founder of, a boutique interactive media and technology (BIT) consulting firm. She was also a blogger, civil liberties activist, a founding member of the All Pakistan Music Conference, the Citizens’ Archive of Pakistan, Aman Ittehad, and former President of the Karachi Chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE).
She was the Secretary of the Pakistan chapter of the South Asia Foundation and a member of Citizens for Democracy, a people’s movement that aims to mobilize public opinion against the dangerously rising tide of religious intolerance in Pakistan. Sabeen was also a Fellow of the Asia Society’s India-Pakistan Regional Young Leaders Initiative, a forum designed to broaden the dialogue on India-Pakistan relations through a focus on next generation leaders.
Sabeen credited her spirit and drive to her mother Mahenaz Mahmud. Sabeen’s childhood was littered with memories of her father. She was brought up in an environment where things were not handed out to her on a silver platter, and she and her parents had to struggle hard. She remembered her mother going to the doctor for a check-up every week. But one week, she called up the doctor and said, I am fine and I will not be coming in for my weekly check-up. She saved 50 rupees that week and bought a cot for me. Clearly there wasn’t much money, but when there was, books would be bought.
Apart from T2F, Sabeen’s determination and drive are reflected in the other projects that she has co-founded and participated. A founding member of the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, along with renowned documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Sabeen was also the president of The Indus Entrepreneurs (THE). TIE’s mission is to foster entrepreneurship and mentor people and create networks for young entrepreneurs.
On 24 April 2015, Sabeen was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on her way home after hosting a seminar at T2F. As of 20 May 2015, authorities have arrested the culprit behind Mahmud's murder.