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You’ve saved lives, Saqiba

Azra walked into her office on a fine Friday morning, greeted the receptionist and walked through the main door towards the courtyard with steps that led to her department. The simple, single-story structure of the building was such that the comforting rays of the winter sun sheltered only selected flowers in the lawn from the piercing cold. Still recovering from the drowsiness that the anti-depressants she took last night caused, she stood there for a moment, looked up and stared at the roof. Pigeons had made the edges their humble abode, fluttering all day long, but they barely flew away despite knowing other vaster and liberating places exist.

Azra walked into her office on a fine Friday morning, greeted the receptionist and walked through the main door towards the courtyard with steps that led to her department. The simple, single-story structure of the building was such that the comforting rays of the winter sun sheltered only selected flowers in the lawn from the piercing cold. Still recovering from the drowsiness that the anti-depressants she took last night caused, she stood there for a moment, looked up and stared at the roof. Pigeons had made the edges their humble abode, fluttering all day long, but they barely flew away despite knowing other vaster and liberating places exist.

Azra always wondered why, but it was the roof that caught her attention the most. She found it a very appealing place to jump off from. The last few moments of her life would gift her with the freshest breath of pure air, and the sound of pigeons fluttering their wings would invade her ears eventually travelling to the most mysterious part of her brain, erasing all that crushes her will to wake up each day. She closed her eyes, shook her head and walked ahead to her department, to her routine. “I’ve still got some business to take care of in this world,” she thought.

One night, with dreary eyes and little incentive to get out of her room, Azra walked towards the kitchen to get a glass of water. “17-year old Saqiba Kakar from Quetta committed suicide for being denied the opportunity to appear in intermediate examinations by her principle” said the news reporter on an Urdu news channel. Azra put the jug down and walked to the living room and stood in front of the television.

“No.” thought Azra. She stood there in a static position, staring at the screen. The passport-sized photo of a young girl with a headscarf appeared. Sparking eyes and sealed lips desperate to unleash dreams locked away, only holding back to avoid resentment. The news channel also displayed her suicide note written in Urdu in her handwriting that was, to Azra’s surprise, much similar to her own. A weak Urdu reader, the only words Azra could read were, “You should be happy now, I’ll never appear in your exams again…”

Azra started to feel her body heat up, anxiety flowing through her veins, raising her body temperature and making her face sweat. For a moment, she imagined herself wearing a shalwar kameez, with a dupatta wrapped around her head and her favourite round metal signature John Lennon Ray Ban covering her eyes, running across a barren, rocky land as fast as she could; faster than she did at an intervarsity track and field competition back in 2005; faster than she does when she runs on the track of her university, dodging all the demons of her past trying to chase her. Running alongside a train leading to Quetta’s Killa Saifullah District, a place she imagined as mountainous, brown and dry. Running fast to get to Saqiba. “This is your fundamental right, Saqiba. I’m holding the Constitution, Article 25-A guarantees it. I will fight with you” she’d explain while trying to catch her breath. “I’m a lawyer as well as a person who solely wishes to live for the purpose of saving the lives of others, even if it’s just one life. I will make sure you are educated; I take it upon myself. I will pay for it. I will guide you. Allah is great; He has given us this life and verily, He is the only power entitled to take it from us”.

Saqiba is gone. On Thursday, February 12, Saqiba swallowed poisonous pills, inevitably killing herself. Saqiba had protested against classes being suspended allegedly due to the shortage of female teachers at the school. The institution’s principal refused to send her examination form to the intermediate examination board. Hopeless, and faced by a blurred vision of the dreadful days that were to follow, Saqiba decided to let go.

While standing in front of the large LCD in her living room watching the news headlines move towards more pressing issues such as disputes between cricketers playing at the Pakistan Super League, Azra suddenly found herself elsewhere: the roof of her office building. What if she jumped? She certainly would not be smiling as she stretched out her arms, like in the movies we watch. But the pigeons would finally fly away, squeaking, mourning and panicking. Flying away to never return. And, of course, the office would never be the same. It was at that moment that Azra understood what it meant by the ‘sanctity of life’. It means an opportunity to live for even the remotest possibility of saving another.

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