I was in a packed food court in a posh mall on the outskirts of Lahore last Chaand Raatwhen I found out that Shujaat Bukhari — the prominent Kashmiri journalist and Editor of Sri Nagar based newspaper Rising Kashmir — had been shot and killed alongside his two security guards. I found out about the tragedy through a WhatsApp group made up of Pakistani and Indian journalists. Somebody sent pictures of a car and its bloodied occupants. Soon others started sending messages expressing their grief about Shujaat’s passing. Nothing could have ever prepared me for Shujaat’s death. He and I shared a bond of mutual admiration and respect. We read and shared each other’s work. He often shared his writings with me on WhatsApp, early in the morning. Despite being a renowned senior journalist, Shujaat was always kind, humble and exceptionally helpful to his subordinates. Whenever I needed a last-minute quote or analysis of the situation in Kashmir, Shujaat would immediately respond. In the rare cases when he couldn’t, he always fixed a time and sent his response later. It was always a professionally created video or a well-crafted quote that one could use right away. Sometimes he laughed at my requests because he knew someone else had ditched me at the last minute and I needed him to rescue my piece. Shujaat was a breath of fresh air in a field that I have seen thrives on aggression and narcissism. That he passed away in such a brutal manner makes his death all the more tragic. There was not an iota of aggression in him. He strongly believed in democracy, freedom, human rights and dialogue. He also remained active on WhatsApp, and just hours before his passing he shared one of his pieces. This past International Mother Language Day (February 21), I asked friends and colleagues to send a two-minute video on why their mother tongue was important to them. Shujaat — who greatly cherished his Kashmiri heritage — was the first to come forward. In his video, he was sitting in his Delhi office, dressed formally and speaking Kashmiri. He wanted children to speak their mother tongues, lest they go extinct. Though it seems he did sense that something was wrong. He had been asking that the government assign him additional security and had expressed concern about his well-being to some of his friends in the fraternity. He often mentioned his children, and was concerned about their safety as well. Since his death, I have become acquainted with his son Tamheed Shujaat Bukhari, who has inherited his father’s flair for writing. Shujaat’s killers robbed our conflict riddled world of one of the few South Asian journalists actively struggling for Indo-Pak peace He visited Islamabad last year, but I couldn’t make it to see him because my father was ill. I feared this would irk him, since he had come to Pakistan after going through such a stringent Visa process. However, he was understanding and empathetic as always. The next day he even inquired about my father’s health. This is how I missed my last chance to meet my good friend. I had naively believed then that we would have many more opportunities to meet in the future. When he was leaving Pakistan, I asked him when he would visit again. He replied, “Never know”. It is now that I realise what those words meant. I will always regret missing that opportunity to see him one last time. Although his life has been tragically cut short, he has still left his mark. Kashmir and journalism were his life. He wrote and spoke about Kashmir every day. He was very active on social media, but never forgot his training as a reporter. Thus he was never disconnected from the ground realities. I cannot imagine him letting a day go by without thinking about the Valley. He, like everyone else in Kashmir, lived in the middle of the bloodied, unfair and violent reality of the brutalised state. Following his murder, many journalists commented that voices for peace and reconciliation in Kashmir are often gunned down. This was when I realised Shujaat was always in danger. Shujaat’s untimely passing left the community of journalists desolated. Many of us did not celebrate the last Eid. Our festivities were stolen. Even if his murderers are caught today — there can be no justice, as we have still been robbed of Shujaat forever. Not only did his killers rob my co-workers and me of a dear colleague and his children of a beloved father, they also robbed our conflict riddled world of one of the few South Asian journalists actively struggling for an Indo-Pak peace brought about through dialogue. He had ties in Delhi and Islamabad, and was on a mission to give a voice to different stakeholders and share multiple perspectives. Those pictures I mentioned earlier were shared online repeatedly. Quite a few people will only remember Shujaat by those gory images. However, what he should be remembered for are his efforts for peace in South Asia. The writer is based in Lahore and tweets as @ammarawrites. Her work is available on www.ammaraahmad.com Published in Daily Times, August 27th 2018.