Pakistani, Indian citizens appeal: “Let’s talk peace”

Over 400 artists, writers, activists, academics, lawyers, businesspeople, journalists and students from Pakistan and India appeal to their governments, fellow citizens, politicians and media to strive for peaceful relations between the two countries

Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik’s piece for Raksha Bandhan at Puri beach, Odisha, with a message urging India and Pakistan to “Stop Bullets, Be Friends”

Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik’s piece for Raksha Bandhan at Puri beach, Odisha, with a message urging India and Pakistan to “Stop Bullets, Be Friends”

It started out as an admin note to members of the Aman ki Asha Facebook group, by volunteer moderator Samir Gupta on August 30, 2015. The pinned post he put up on the AKA group wall read:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 3.23.14 PM“Peace or war?
———————–
As our governments and militaries lose their minds and continue to escalate this dangerous game of military conflict, it is the duty of all members of this group to stand together and demand peace in all fora available. We expect members to be responsible for peace and refrain from making provocative posts and comments. We expect you to be bipartisan”

Several group members commented there, expressing their support for the idea. Continue reading

Something to celebrate

Celebrating Indian and Pakistani Independence Days with Karachi Truck Artist Haider Ali and friends at Dover Rug (L-R): Ken Shulman, Hardeep Mann, Haider Ali, Mahmud Jafari, Jaspal Singh. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Celebrating Indian and Pakistani Independence Days with Karachi Truck Artist Haider Ali and friends at Dover Rug (L-R): Ken Shulman of Away Games, Hardeep Mann, Haider Ali, Mahmud Jafari, Jaspal Singh. Photo: Beena Sarwar

A friend points out that my last few posts have been about death and loss. Then with Pakistan and India’s Independence Days coming up (Aug 14 and 15 respectively) someone asked, ‘What’s there to celebrate?’ My response: Yes, there is much to mourn, and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be that much to celebrate. As Jimmy Engineer says, the fight between good and evil is an eternal one. Doesn’t mean we stop living. When Indians and Pakistanis jointly Celebrate India, Pakistan Independence Days for Peace, Aug 14-15, 2015, it symbolises the desire to own an occasion that has been appropriated by hyper-nationalist, jingoistic war-mongers. Through this joint commemoration and greeting and wishing each other, we defy our government and security establishments’ efforts to create a negative narrative about ‘the other’. That, surely, is something to celebrate. Continue reading

PAKISTAN: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: It’s not just about Shafqat

My oped in The News, Pakistan below. Also see my earlier piece on the issue in in Scroll – Clamour to hang Shafqat Hussain reflects vengeful mood in Pakistan after Peshawar attacks

Shafqat Hussain - more than 10 years ago, before he left his village in AJK

Shafqat Hussain – more than 10 years ago, before he left his village in AJK

PAKISTAN: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
It’s not just about Shafqat

by  Beena Sarwar

Shafqat Hussain is due to be hanged — for the seventh (not fifth, as I wrote earlier) time — at 4.30 am on August 4, 2015. His ‘black warrant’ was issued on July 27, despite a comprehensive 12-page report by the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on July 16 that urges the Sindh government to move to stay the execution, and approach the Supreme Court of Pakistan to “consider the evidence which could not be produced at the trial by defence”.

The SHRC’s recommendations cannot be taken lightly. This is a government-appointed statutory body set up in 2013 under the Human Rights Act of 2011 passed by the Sindh government. A respected retired judge of the Supreme Court heads it. At stake is a human life.

Continue reading

Rest well, Praful Bidwai — humanist, peacemaker, activist

My personal tribute to a true secularist, humanist and peacenik not just of India, but of South Asia and the world, published in The News on Sunday and Aman ki Asha; unabridged version below

Praful Bidwai (Journalist, Aktivist, Indien); Foto: Stephan Röhl

Praful Bidwai. Photo: Stephan Röhl

“The funeral for Praful Bidwai is scheduled for the 27th June 2015”. The bald announcement on June 25, 2015 emailed from the South Asian Citizens Web newsletter run by our mutual friend Harsh Kapoor came as a shock. Continue reading

R.I.P Ruqaiya Hasan: A life well lived

Ruqaiya Hasan, Hong Kong, Feb 2015. Photo by Lexie Don

Ruqaiya Hasan, Hong Kong, Feb 2015. Photo by Lexie Don

Ruqaiya Hasan: Born -1931, Pratapgarh, India; studied at Allahabad University (1953); Government College Lahore (1958); Edinburgh University (PhD in Linguistics, 1964). Retired as Emeritus Professor Macquarie University. Passed on: June 24, 2015, Sydney, Australia.

She seemed to be getting progressively better since the life-threatening respiratory infection she’d contracted after receiving radiotherapy for her advanced stage lung cancer (she survived rectal cancer in the 1980s). I had rushed over to Sydney to be with her, not knowing whether she’d still be there when I landed. If she’s still around, I’ll get to see her, if not, I’d be there for my cousin Neil and Uncle Michael, I reasoned. We knew, as did she, that it was a terminal disease but the rate she was improving led the doctors to add a chart to her hospital room stating her expected date of discharge as: “(?) 07/07/2015. Destination: Home”. We knew she wouldn’t be with us long, but at least some months seemed assured.

Continue reading

An Ozzie update, and thanks

Sydney, Feb 17 2015: Christian Matthiessen, Ruqaiya Hasan and Michael Halliday at a symposium in honour of Michael in his 90th year. Photo by Lexie Don, courtesy Frances Christie.

Sydney, Feb 17 2015: Chris Mathieson, Ruqaiya Hasan and Michael Halliday at a symposium in honour of Michael in his 90th year. Photo by Lexie Don, courtesy Frances Christie.

A quick update from Oz: my aunt Ruqaiya Hasan is improving, slowly but steadily. She was discharged from hospital and is now in another to receive palliative rehabilitation care until she is strong enough to return home, which the doctors hope will be in a couple of weeks. This really is nothing short of a miracle given the condition she was in last week. The other good news is that my mother Zakia Sarwar in Karachi has just got the visa and should be arriving on Sunday. Many people worked to make that happen in days rather than the month it usually takes. A multi-effort led to Ammi’s pre-visa medical exam being moved from July 4 to June 17. A heartfelt thanks to the friends in Islamabad who kept calling the Australian embassy, the linguists who appealed to the Australian government, and those who used their contacts in the Australian foreign office to expedite the visa.

An unplanned visit to Oz and my mother’s appeal

M.A.K. Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan, at a conference in Sun Yat Sen University, 2012

M.A.K. Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan, at a conference in Sun Yat Sen University, 2012

Sydney, Australia, June 13, 2015.

I’ve been promising for years I’ll visit them in Sydney but as things happen, one ends up keeping a promise only when disaster strikes. A couple of weeks ago, doctors said that that Khala Ammi’s discomfort was due not to reflux (a digestive disorder) as diagnosed earlier but advanced stage lung cancer.

“I’m 84,” she said. “Everyone has to go, but I had always hoped that when my time came it would be quick.” That’s not something cancer is known for but we don’t always get to make these choices. Continue reading

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