The Center for Biomedical Ethics and Culture at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation took a walk through the life and death of Urdu civil servant and poet Syed Mustafa Zaidi on Saturday night. The forum allowed investigative journalists Saba Imtiaz and Tooba Masood to speak at length about the life and mysterious death of Zaidi.

Using this lens, they provided insight into politics, high society culture, activism and gender dynamics in Pakistan in the 1970s and how news of the murders was mostly elite-centric.

The session, titled “Once Upon a Time in Pakistan: Poetry, Politics and People in the 1970s,” also featured recitals of Zaidi’s poetry. Saba Imtiaz is a freelance journalist, author and researcher. She writes about culture, city life, food and religion. She is the author of the novel “Karachi, you are killing me!” which was adapted into the Indian film ‘Noor’. She has reported on Pakistan, Jordan, Afghanistan and Lebanon. She is currently based in the Netherlands.

Tooba Masood-Khan is a journalist and multimedia reporter. She has worked for two major English dailies in Pakistan. She writes about Karachi’s archives and history, including the city’s cinemas, pre-independence buildings and markets. She was nominated for the Zeenat Haroon Rashid Writing Prize for Women in 2020. She is a graduate of SOAS University London. Saba and Tooba currently co-produce and co-host a “Notes on a Scandal” podcast that has garnered national and international attention. They are also co-authors of a book project called “Society Girl”.

During the forum, Saba explained how Zaidi had suicidal tendencies. She said there was a strong perception that her death was a suicide. In the 1970s, there was no debate or discussion about mental health as such, she added. She believed that Zaidi’s conversation revolved around things that would reflect that he was somehow depressed.

Zaidi was 40 when he was found dead on October 12, 1970 in a hotel room in Karachi. His wife was the subject of his countless poems. She was found unconscious next to him. Saba shared how Zaidi even had rivalries within the poetic community and how he was a different person in the 1950s, but he changed in the 1970s. There are two theories about Zaidi’s death. According to the first, he was poisoned by his wife Gul, who, according to Tooba, was so pretty that people at his university stopped to stare at her. The other theory states that he committed suicide. No one could be charged by the court.

Talking about how news coverage is given to the elites and not the masses, Tooba pointed out that when she was working in one of the English daily newspapers, a crime story related to an ordinary man would get a single column. or a word count of a few. hundred. However, she said, high-profile cases such as the murders of Noor Mukadam and Sara Inam receive full coverage. Even the public wants to know more about such cases and the type of treatment given to Zahir Jaffer in prison, she added.