Arif Shafi was in high spirits last weekend. After years as a freelancer, the young journalist had landed a job with a news agency in Kabul. He would be leaving Pakistan on Tuesday to start work as an editor with Pajhwok Afghan News on May 1.
Monday morning, on the way to an assignment, he stopped to buy a newspaper near Hayatabad, Peshawar. As he stood at the newsstand, a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden motorbike into a nearby police van, killing 10 people and injuring more than 60.
Shafi, 37, was among the dead.
Shafi was known as a promising and hardworking journalist among colleagues and friends, including the team at UPI Next Pakistan, where he was a contributing reporter. He leaves behind a widow and three children: son Khizar, 7, and daughters Maleeha, 6 and Yusra, 4.
Adnan Rasheed, a fellow reporter at UPI Next, says, “Arif was very enthusiastic to join his new office on May 1. Friends and colleagues had arranged a farewell dinner in his honor on Monday night. But we could not say goodbye to him.”
Kashif Shafi, Arif’s brother, said the family is native to Regi, a village about 25 minutes’ drive from Peshawar. Arif was visiting in-laws with his wife and children before leaving for Kabul.
A Peshawar-based senior journalist, Mushtaq Yousufzai, said, “Arif worked with me at the daily The News, as a trainee reporter. He was a brilliant professional and a good human being.”
Shafi regularly contributed to several news outlets as a reporter and editor, include Pajhwok, Afghanistan Today, PACT Radio and Youth View Magazine. A collection of his recent articles can be viewed at his blog and at Google Plus.
UPI Next Pakistan selected Shafi as an online reporter for its election coverage project. He contributed to the PakPolWiki and had worked with a UPI mentor on two stories. His story on youth voters was submitted for publication on UPI just days before he died.
He earned a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Peshawar.
Shafi had worked in the English service at Pajhwok Afghan News in Kabul in 2011-12. There he worked with American journalist Kathy Gilsinan, whom he considered a good friend, and met Lisa Schnellinger, who manages the UPI Next Pakistan project.
Gilsinan said she admired Shafi’s talent and quiet competence on the job as well as his loving spirit. “Arif went out of his way to give hope and encouragement to others. His life was his friends and family and he'll live on through all of us. I know he'll serve as an inspiration to others to carry his dreams forward.”
Schnellinger said she is “heartsick” about Shafi’s death. “Arif was one of the most diligent reporters contributing to UPI Next’s political Wiki creation and story mentoring process.
“Some journalists take the lazy route; not Arif. This is a terrible loss for Pakistan at a time when the country so desperately needs honest and hard-working people like him.”
UPI Next staff have set up a fundraising page for Shafi's family at Indiegogo: Arif Shafi Memorial Fund