The nightmare must end – my op-ed in Dawn, 2009

Zahoor: Taliban and the media, The Frontier Post, June 2008

Zahoor: Taliban and the media, in The Frontier Post, June 2008

Those who justify the Taliban uprising in Pakistan as an anti-imperialist movement forget that since the Taliban first swept into Afghanistan in 1996 (with the blessings of the Pakistani establishment), they have been a threat to women, pluralism and democracy in the region. Their oppressive order in Afghanistan pre-dates the American invasion of Iraq, bombing of Afghanistan, and drone attacks in Pakistan -- from an article I wrote in Dawn, 2009. Came across it again while searching for something else. Read it, and tell me, what has changed? 

By Beena Sarwar, Feb 7, 2009

OF the many challenges Pakistan’s elected government faces perhaps the most menacing and deep-rooted is Talibanisation — a phenomenon identified earlier on (as Talibanism) by the then exiled Afghan government’s acting foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept 21, 2000. Continue reading

Musharraf’s trial and Pakistan

Musharraf and the famous fist. Photo T. Mughal/EPA

Musharraf and the famous fist. Photo T. Mughal/EPA

Below, my (un-populist) take on the Musharraf treason trial, in an opinion piece published in International Business Times, London, Jan 23, 2014. N.B. The recent attack on the bus in Mastung, Balochistan, that killed some 30  Hazara Shia Muslims, including women and children returning from pilgrimage in Iran is an example of the result of Musharraf’s policies of letting the home-grown ‘jihadis’ function. Plus I forgot to mention his role in the murder of Akbar Bugti… Continue reading

Martyrs and Fasadis. Rest in peace, brave Aitzaz Hasan and Ch. Aslam Khan

Screen shot 2014-01-09 at 2.33.58 PMScreen shot 2014-01-09 at 2.37.05 PM TTP: We did it.
JI/PTI: No.
TTP: Yes.
JI/PTI: No. Look, drone!
TTP: Where?
JI/PTI: Who cares? It made you do it.
TTP: It did? Hmmm.
- tweet by @NadeemfParacha

Rest in peace, brave Aitzaz Hasan, schoolboy who sacrificed his life saving his schoolmates from a suicide bomber. Rest in peace, SSP Ch. Aslam Khan, targeted and killed by the coward Fasadis (please let’s not call them ‘jihadis’ or ‘mujahideen’, holy warriors which confers a degree of legitimacy on them). Rest in peace all those innocent souls murdered in cold blood by coward Taliban Fasadis and their ilk. Shame on Jamat-e-Islami and all those who term these criminal Fasadis as ‘mujahideen’ and ‘shaheed’. They’ve made it very clear which side of the fence they’re on.

Samina Quraeshi : Bridging worlds

Samina Quraeshi: always dazzling. Photo by Andreas Burgess

Samina Quraeshi: always dazzling. Photo by Andreas Burgess

My article in The News on Sunday today about Samina Quraeshi (October 12, 1944-September 25, 2013), who will be treasured as a movie maker, photographer, designer, architect, writer, city planner, storyteller, and on and on…  See her introduction to

By Beena Sarwar

While in Pakistan nearly a year ago, filming for her documentary, ‘The Other Half of Tomorrow’ on the complexities and empowering aspects of the lives of Pakistani women, Samina Quraeshi suffered a stroke that doctors feared she would not recover from. Miraculously, she did. Her own indomitable spirit, the best medical care, and undoubtedly the love and prayers of countless friends and well-wishers pulled the vivacious, versatile writer, artist, and designer back from the brink.

Her right side was left paralysed, but she carried on with her characteristic zest for life, even though, as she said sadly, “I can’t even hold my granddaughter.” Continue reading

A Dutch journalist’s impressions of a Karachi dream turned reality

Babette-Cambridge-April-06I am proud of my old friend Ahsan Jamil for the work he is doing in Karachi, and delighted to have introduced him to another old friend Babette Niemel, who was inspired to write the following article about Aman Foundation, published in The News on Sunday, on March 10, 2013.

A Dutch journalist records her impressions of how Aman Foundation is changing the lives of Karachi’s underserved people

I have met Ahsan Jamil several times during my frequent visits to Karachi over the years. A modest, lively, kind man and a close childhood friend of my friend Beena Sarwar; when I met him once again a little over a year ago, he was positively beaming.

Engaged and committed: Aman Foundation CEO Ahsan Jamil and Manager Command and Control Center in discussion.

Engaged and committed: Aman Foundation CEO Ahsan Jamil and Manager Command and Control Center in discussion.

It was a cool summer evening in Karachi and we were out on the porch at Beena’s house. Ahsan was inviting her to come and checkout the new work he was doing. He could give us a tour of the facility, he said, extending the invitation to me as well. Continue reading

“Karachi Battles” – Haris Gazdar in EPW, 2011

Karachi. Photo: Muhammad Arshad/IPS

Karachi. Photo: Muhammad Arshad/IPS


As Karachi once again reels under uncertainty, fear and economic shut-down, it may be worthwhile to re-visit this 2011 article by Haris Gazdar in EPW, “Karachi Battles”… Excerpt:
“The big picture still favours an accord between the PPP (and ANP) and the MQM. The PPP cannot allow the military to use Karachi to undermine its rule not just in Sindh but nationally. The MQM should know that a “neutral” army operation means a crackdown on the MQM, sooner rather than later. The ANP might also be aware that its hard-won position in its home region would collapse if the jihadists regain initiative with the break-up of the secular coalition. All three should know that the most powerful militant wing belongs to the military itself, which must not be tempted into seeing an opportunity where none exists.” Read the full article here: Karachi battles – Haris Gazdar in EPW Sept 2011

BOSTON, March 8, 6.30 pm: Vigil for peace, in solidarity with Shi’ite Muslims of Pakistan

Photos I printed out recently, thinking of those whom these Takfiri militants have attacked, include two teenage girls who survived murderous attacks: Malala Yusufzai (top right), attacked by the same forces, for speaking out rather than for her faith, and Mehzar Zahra (below, left), whose father was killed.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. The vigil is going ahead.

Friday, March 8
6.30 pm
Copley Square, Boston

Students and community organizations of the Boston area are organizing a vigil on Friday March 8, 2013 to show solidarity, commemorate, and protest the target-killing of Shia Muslims in Pakistan. The attackers are armed militants from Al Qaeda- and Taliban- linked organizations acting with impunity in the name of religion with the aim of destablizing the state and capturing political power.

Just a few recent incidents this year alone illustrate this trend:

  • March 3: a bomb explosion ripped through two apartment blocks in Abbas Town, a residential area populated largely by Shi’ite Muslims, in Pakistan’s business capital Karachi killed 45 people, including 20 children. Hundreds more were injured and made homeless.

Continue reading

‘My years with WAF’ – Zohra Yusuf on the Pakistani women’s movement

Below, an article by Zohra Yusuf, my first editor, with whom I worked at The Star Weekend in 1981-82, outlining the birth of the women’s movement in Pakistan

Lahore, Feb 12, 1983: Police brutality on the women's demonstration against the 'Law of Evidence' catapulted the nascent women's movement into the limelight. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

Lahore, Feb 12, 1983: Police brutality on the women’s demonstration against the ‘Law of Evidence’ catapulted the nascent women’s movement into the limelight. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

“My years with WAF” 

By Zohra Yusuf | Article written for a souvenir on WAF’s 25th anniversary, Oct 2006

Certain memories are etched on the mind. The birth of Women’s Action Forum is, for me, surely among them. It was on an afternoon in September 1981 that Aban Marker (Shirkatgah) called. She told me about the distressed call she had just received from Najma Sadeque (another SG founding member) regarding the case of Fehmida-Allah Bux. Pakistan’s first sentence of death by stoning and public whipping handed down to a couple under the Zina Ordinance of 1979. We had all read about the sentence and in our individual capacities felt deeply disturbed. After a bit of discussion, we decided to call a meeting of all women’s organizations at Aban’s place. The rest, as they say, is history. Continue reading

Petition for Peace and De-weaponisation of Karachi sent to CJP

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Just received this via email today – the text of a petition for Peace and  De-weaponisation of Karachi that has been sent to the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Naeem Sadiq who sent the email says that anyone who agrees with its contents and wants to be a co-petitioner, is welcome to copy/amend the petition text (minus the petitioners) and add their own name and signature (there can be more than one signatory), designation or profession, postal address and phone number (NIC optional), and  mail the petition directly to the SC at the address provided. Interestingly, the MQM last year introduced a bill seeking this aim as well. See Dilawar Asghar’s article critiquing the move at this link, pointing out that the long term solution lies in ensuring the “supremacy of the law. If the law is implemented, without any distinction and applicable to everyone, regardless of their status or affiliation that would be the first step.” Here’s the citizen’s petition: Continue reading

Pakistan artists – challenging dictators and contemporary thought

Largest exhibition of Pakistani contemporary art on display Sept. 24 at National Art Gallery, Islamabad at 5 p.m. to celebrate 30 years of Rohtas Gallery. Sixty five artists will exhibit more than 165 works in a testimony to Pakistan’s contemporary artists and an amazing journey through their growth and contribution to art over three decades. Rohtas Gallery opened in 1981 when a repressive military dictator ruled Pakistan. Rohtas Gallery defied constraints and offered space and inspiration to Pakistan’s artists who wanted to challenge contemporary thought and encourage others to do the same through their work. This exhibition on Sept. 24 celebrates Rohtas Gallery and Pakistan’s artists and their amazing journey together.
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