Muhammad Afzaal Hussain would often take his family up to Navajo Lake to try their luck catching salmon during their snagging period, which begins on Oct. 1.  Muhammad Afzaal’s brother, Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, said his brother had more than a passion, but rather an obsession for fishing.

Muhammad Afzaal passed away on Aug. 1 after being shot near his apartment in Albuquerque where he lived with his older brother's family. He cared deeply for his family and community alike, holding leadership positions in the Graduate and Professional Student Association at the University of New Mexico and Rep. Melanie Stansbury's campaign team as well as working as the Planning and Land Use Department director in Española at the time of his death.

“He was a very outgoing and very outspoken person. He said that he have courage to speak when others remain silent. He has courage to utter words when others suffer and be quiet,” Muhammad Imtiaz said.



Muhammad Afzaal moved to New Mexico from Pakistan to study in the regional planning department at UNM. He decided to run for GPSA president and won an astounding 72% of the vote. During his time as president, he served as the chair of the student fee review board and advocated for more transparency and equal allocation of funds.

Along with being a strong advocate for education on how GPSA works, he saw his role in student government as a key part of his education and identity and would often encourage everyone he knew to be involved, according to Muhammad Imtiaz.

“He was an inspiring leader and a really special Lobo who touched so many lives. It was my privilege to know and work with him,” UNM President Garnett Stokes wrote in a public statement.

Winning the GPSA election had given him confidence in his future in New Mexico. It also helped him see New Mexico as a place that wasn’t discriminatory, but instead welcoming of everyone.

“He said that it gave him a lot of courage, that this is a land of opportunities …. I have acceptance here. (He told me) ‘Look, they do not discriminate here if you're Muslim. They do not discriminate here if your English is not as good, or your color is brown. People appreciate your talent and your voice’,” Muhammad Imtiaz said.

He had wanted to focus on his career before settling into marriage, as he didn’t want to jump into anything too soon. When he began working for the city of Española, he had a 90-minute commute both ways. Just before he died, he was given property by the city of Española to live in and lessen the commute.

“Every day he go from here — early morning, leaving at six. It was tough for him to driving every day. But good thing happened: City of Española bought a property, 100-acre ranch on Rio Grande. A beautiful house on one side … He was so happy, and on Aug. 1, Monday night, he got shot,” Muhammad Imtiaz said.

Muhammad Afzaal also became his family's barber during the COVID-19 pandemic, gaining expertise and skill in the craft. Even after shops reopened, Muhammad Imtiaz said he continued cutting hair and had people ask him to open his own shop. During an interview with the Daily Lobo, Muhammad Imtiaz showed off his current haircut that was done by his brother before he died.

Muhammad Afzaal was also an athlete and played cricket on a local team in Albuquerque; he was the runner-up in the 2022 International ABQ Tapeball Competition. Muhammad Imtiaz rasied his brother when he was younger after Muhammad Afzaal moved in with him while attending school in Pakistan. Muhammad Afzaal then had a big role in his brothers’ kids lives, with Muhammad Imtiaz going so far as to call him another guardian.

“He was very active person. He was big a support for my kids. I got busy all the time, but he took my kids for camping …. He played cricket with them. He took them for swimming,” Muhammad Imtiaz said.

The community and people who knew Muhammad Afzaal have shown outspoken support for the family with a memorial held in Española, as well as an interfaith gathering to honor all of the recent Muslim lives lost.

“So wherever he went to, he made a lot of friends and he received a lot of appreciation everywhere. He has touched many hearts,” Muhammad Imtiaz said.

Those who wish to donate to the family to help cover funeral costs and to recover from the loss of their sole financial provider can do so at their GoFundMe page.

Madeline Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite

Alizay Chavez contributed reporting to this article