“Unsilencing Pakistan” and the ongoing “intellecticide”

Vigil for Sabeen in Harvard Yard, April 28, 2015. Poster designed by Erum Sattar shows a painting by Frida Kahlo whom Sabeen loved. Photo: Ken Shulman

Vigil for Sabeen in Harvard Yard, April 28, 2015. Poster designed by Erum Sattar shows a painting by Frida Kahlo whom Sabeen loved, with a word play on “mARTyr” she would have enjoyed. Photo: Ken Shulman

In the summer of 2011, young academic Nosheen Ali, and journalists Sahar Habib Ghazi and Malik Siraj Akbar approached me to work on a new initiative they called “Unsilencing Pakistan” that aimed to make an online record of all the journalists, activists, and thinkers in Pakistan who have been harassed, tortured, and/or executed. I had written at the time about those killed as ‘enlightenment martyrs’, part of an ongoing intellecticide. The “Unsilencing Pakistan” idea included a statement that we got several progressive voices to endorse  — Sabeen Mahmud among them (see below). We weren’t able to take the idea forward then but the concept remains critically important as Sabeen’s murder a week ago reminds us. I was also reminded by my friend Huma’s Facebook post today about the vigil for Sabeen uses the term #unsilencePakistan; and by the seminar titled Unsilencing Balochistan that was canceled at LUMS but held at T2F after which Sabeen was killed.  Continue reading

#Rise4Sabeen: Keep the dialogue going

Protest4Sabeen-28April2015

Below, some of the widespread condemnation and protest vigils against the cowardly murder of human rights activist and upholder of free speech Sabeen Mahmud, shot dead in Karachi on the night of April 24, 2015 after she hosted a conversation on human rights violations in Balochistan. Just published: Tanqeed’s partial transcript of the discussion. No, Sabeen was not a separatist, nor did she condone violence by anyone, whether in the name of nationalism, ethnicity, religion, or honour. She was a firm believer in open, civil dialogue. The best tribute we can pay to her is to keep her legacy alive by continuing to speak up and keep the dialogue going.

Statement by Malala Yousafzai on the killing of Sabeen Mahmud, April 25, 2015

LUMS STATEMENT on Sabeen Mahmud’s murder, April 25, 2015

HRCP shocked at T2F director’s murder, demands justice, April 25, 2015

Target Killing of Sabeen Mahmud: WAF Statement, 25 April 2015

SAHR Statement of Concern on the killing of Sabeen Mahmud, South Asians for Human Rights, April 27, 2015

Karachi citizens press release, April 28, 2015

Report from Lahore rally for Sabeen, April 28, 2015  Continue reading

Pakistan #Intellecticide: Vigils for Sabeen – who was she and why was she killed?

Sabeen-Hero-Karachi-Mohsin Sayeed

Sabeen: delighted to find an old Karachi car number plate reading, “Tu Mera Hero” (you’re my hero) at the “Creative Karachi” festival, fund-raiser for T2F, 2014. Photo by Mohsin Sayeed

Vigils and protests for our slain comrade and friend Sabeen Mahmud are taking place in different cities of Pakistan and around the world. Anyone is welcome to submit online responses to the blog Sabeen Mahmud: A Tribute.

In Boston, students have organized a vigil for Sabeen on Tuesday, April 28, 7.30 pm at the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard (Facebook Event). In Pakistan, friends are meeting at Press Clubs in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to register their protest.

Bring an apple. Or a Beatles or Steve Jobs poster. Or Farida Kahlo or Farida Khanum, Faiz, Farid Ayaz… all the things she loved. Black armbands. She loved strong visual statements.

A lot has been written about who she was, what she stood for and why she was targeted. My offerings, with a heavy heart: Onpoint with Tom Ashbrookon NPR; in in Scroll: You refused to cower in silence': A letter to a fallen Pakistani comrade; and In Pakistan, This Activist Was Martyred for Her Moderation in the Daily Beast co-authored with Asra Nomani.

Continue reading

Please, not Sabeen. And no, that won’t shut us up.

SabeenIn shock and grieved beyond words at this horrible news that our dear friend and comrade Sabeen Mahmud has been shot dead, her mother in critical condition in hospital. They were returning from the event Unsilencing Balochistan (Take 2) held at The Second Floor (T2F) [NOTE: the facebook event link posted above mysteriously disappeared then reappeared]. It was tremendously brave of Sabeen to allow the event to be hosted there given that Balochistan is essentially a ‘no go’ area. Even as we grieve our friend we refuse to be silenced.

“She always spoke out. We must honour her legacy of speaking out,” said Mohammad Jibran Nasir when I spoke to him just now. “We will not let Balochistan be a no-go area”.

“They want to make us into a nation of intellectual cripples, no discussion, no dissent, no dialogue,” said Mona Kazim Shah. “How many will they kill?”

This intellecticide cannot continue. Sabeen… all-inclusive humanist, only child of her single mother, cat-lover, a gentle and compassionate soul who did all in her power to create spaces and platforms to give a voice to the less fortunate, the vulnerable, the under-privileged, those whose for whom her heart beat. Rest in peace my friend. I can’t believe you are no more. We will keep speaking out. We will honour your legacy.

Long March for Baloch Missing Persons
Photo Credit: Syed Ali Shah (DAWN)

At an interfaith meeting in Fremont, CA, and beyond

Pakistan’s proposed cybercrime bill threatens civil liberties on the pretext of security

The Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT) on Thursday passed a controversial cybercrime bill that industry leaders and civil society members have been protesting against – see objections in the media release below as well as the warning sounded by Bolo Bhi, a net freedoms organisation. Two earlier news reports summing up the reservations: In Dawn – New cybercrime bill tough on individuals’ rights, soft on crime and in Express Tribune – Legislative bungling: In a bill about cybercrime, MoIT inserts clauses legalising censorship.

BoloBhi Pasha Cybercrime bill update

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Op-ed supporting Pakistan’s ‘NO’ to Saudi war in Yemen taken off newspaper website

This meme that is doing the rounds on social media may be a bit harsh (not sure of original source) but it expresses the feelings of many Pakistanis.

A meme that is doing the rounds on social media (not sure of original source)

Pakistani citizens have for days been agitating against the reported decision to send troops to Yemen as requested (read “demanded”) by Saudi Arabia. It is tremendous news that the Pakistani parliament has taken a stand that supports the mood in the country. But there will be a price to pay. Just got this from an email list I am on, moderated by Shaheryar Azhar who writes: “The value of this op-ed is tremendous. Because it has been removed (from the website).. all its traces have been wiped out even though it had appeared in hard print where I had read it myself (Note: it is still there on the e-paper link). Luckily, I had received a digital copy on my email, which I had saved before the authorities (or whoever) decided to remove its existence. The Prime Minister is set to issue a policy statement on Yemen today in about an hour. If he sticks to his guns and to the unanimous Pakistani parliamentary resolution on Yemen, he will have our continued support. But if he backs off or dilutes our essential position of neutrality, he would be opposed.”

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