Sabeen started out as a graphic designer and multimedia developer in her teens. At age 16, while still in college she provided design and layout services for The Asian Woman. She also became a member of the Human Rights Commission (Lahore), attended meetings regularly and marched on the streets against injustices. She later worked on Pakistan’s first interactive CD-Rom, on Pakistan’s revolutionary, influential Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
In 2000, she co-founded a new media company called b.i.t.s. that offered consulting and new media services to Pakistan-based blue-chip clients.
Sabeen soon got restless and in 2007 followed her true calling and founded Peaceniche, a Karachi-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting democratic discourse and conflict resolution through intellectual and cultural engagement. Some of the projects she established under the PeaceNiche banner:
- Faraar, a visual arts gallery to create visual arts awareness and promote and showcase emerging talent
- Science ka Adda, a platform for debate and discussion about science and how it impacts our lives
- Urdu Preservation Project, an archival project for urdu poetry and prose
- Raahnuma, an online resource for victims of violence and abuse
Her most well known project and the centre piece of her efforts as a social entrepreneur was T2F, what she called ‘a community initiative for open dialogue featuring a café, bookshop and multi-purpose performance space for readings, talks, debates, theatre, film, dance, open mic nights, jam sessions and stand-up comedy.’ Sabeen directed all programming, operations, fundraising, volunteer management, marketing and outreach until her tragic death on April 24, 2015.
An active member and consultant for local and international initiatives, Sabeen was a fellow of the Asia Society’s India-Pakistan Regional Young Leaders Initiative, the former President of the Karachi Chapter of the Indus Entrepreneurs, the Secretary of the South Asia Foundation, a Founder-Member of the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a Founder-Member of the All-Pakistan Music Conference and Co-founder of Pakistan for All. She also produced and managed, pro bono, websites for countless non-profit organisations in the areas of education, art, activism and human rights.
Sabeen was invited to speak at a number of conferences all over the world, including, the Jinnah Institute in Islamabad, the University of Michigan, New York University, the University of California at Berkeley, Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi and the Global Partnership for Effective Development in Mexico City.
She also blogged and wrote for leading print publications on a wide range of subjects, particularly arts and culture, technology and human rights.
Sabeen was so many things to so many people. Depending on when you caught her on her always busy productive day you could have an involved and informed conversation about the latest event at T2F, be privy to her hatred for a particularly unpleasant font, be schooled on qavvaalli, be preached to about the virtues of a particular piece of hardware, be enamored by her love of House M.D., be inspired by her energy and will to do what she thought was right and perhaps most importantly be bitten and infected by her charm and charisma.
Those of us who were lucky enough to have had Sabeen in our lives will always remember her for her generosity of spirit. Sabeen was and remains our dear friend and the love of our lives.
“I want her to be remembered as a human being who cared very deeply for people who were oppressed or people who couldn’t speak up – for freedom of expression. Somebody who was lively, intelligent, fun and very caring. She talked a lot about love. I think Sabeen defies definition.”
Mahenaz Mahmud, BBC Interview