Boston bombings: A Pakistani perspective and a Cambridge cabbie

Khalid Lottfi: "We will not let them hijack our religion"

Khalid Lottfi: “We will not let them hijack our religion”

“You know, I think the Chinese student who was killed, I took her there,” said the cab driver. It was a few days after the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, and after the police had chased the perpetrators, killing one and capturing the other. Everyone was still talking about the unfortunate events that claimed three lives and injured over 260 more.

It turned out that the brothers Tsarnaev lived on our street, on the next block. Here’s a link to the piece I wrote about it for weekly The News on Sunday in Pakistan – and a shorter comment for Global Post – Boston bombings: A Pakistani perspective. Continue reading

‘We are sorry,” say Pakistanis; clean up for peace, fundraise for burnt church

This blog post is not about the violence and mayhem let loose in Pakistan to protest the anti-Islam film made by some fanatics. The destruction caused by the protestors in the name of love for the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) last Friday was televised for the world to see. This post is about what some people, mostly youth, are doing to counter such madness.

Horrified at the destruction and violence, some youngsters decided to actually DO something beyond sitting around and complaining about the protestors and their criminal activities: “The idea is simple, just get out on the streets and roads, use whatever resources you can to clean up the mess created by these riots. This is a national thing, and it would be great if people in every city of Pakistan join in!” The appeal got hundreds if not thousands in various cities working to clean up the debris, paint walls and sidewalks, and pick up shattered glass. Here’s the facebook page they created afterwards to take their work further, called Project Clean up for Peace: the original facebook event is at this link Project Clean Up For Peace – check it out for some heartwarming comments). And do take two minutes to watch this little video from Islamabad, put together by  Lolz Studios –  showing some #MuslimLove instead of #MuslimRage. Thanks Faran Rafi for the inspiration.


Another group has started a facebook page called Winds of Change to compile information on fundraising to re-build the Sarhadi Lutheran church in Mardan that the looters burnt down along with its adjoining school. (twitter hashtag #RebuildMardanChurch).

“Many will be ready to take the credit for the rebuilding of the church,” wrote the doctor and blogger Ilmana Fasih in a facebook message shared with several people working to organise funds to re-build the church. “The question is how many would be willing to tender an apology to the Christian community, for the desecration of the Holy Books , and for what the whole community went through needlessly in case of Rimsha Masih. Such traumas don’t heal easily.”

Her well-received comment led to several people collaborating to draft this public apology, Support Pakistani citizens targeted for their faith apologizing to Christian and other Pakistani citizens who have been targeted and hurt for their faith   – please read it, sign and share if you agree.

Bishop Peter Majeed who heads the Sarhadi Lutheran Church provides the following information for local donors to send contributions to:

Account name – Nothern Diocese Mardan
Account no: 01-100-3204-9
Bank code: ABL 0610
Allied Bank Mardan

Those who would like to contribute from outside Pakistan, please send donations to the following account, which is in the name of Jimmy Matthew of the Northern Diocese.

Account Name: Jimmy Matthew
Account No: 0041757001
Bank Name: Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan Limited
Branch Name: Peshawar Cantt, Pakistan

A note from the development consultant Tariq Banuri, who shared Bishop Peter Majeed’s appeal

This appeal by Bishop Peter Majeed is addressed to all Christians in the world. I would like to echo the appeal to all Pakistanis, whether they are Muslims, Christians, or Hindus. Some people have argued that the attackers are only a minuscule minority in the country. This may be so, but the damage they have caused to the victims is no less violent. No less is the damage they have done to the rest of us, their compatriots, by showing us to be a breed of beasts rather than humans. One’s commitment to religion and country (the idea of “Tabligh”) is best expressed through a demonstration of one’s character, generosity, and dignity, and most certainly not in the display of beastly behavior. The “minuscule minority” has had its say. Now it is time for the majority to come forward — to show our solidarity with the victims, to respond to the Bishop’s appeal, if possible to heal the wounds, but at least to redress the property damage by our contributions.”

Bishop Peter Majeed’s appeal for help:

I, Bishop Peter Majeed of Northern Diocese Mardan Church of Pakistan, am writing this to appeal for help in rebuilding the church, bishop house, diocesan center, priest’s houses, principal house, library and school that were damaged in the attack carried out by a mob two days ago. This was the third time in two years that the church and my house have been attacked. First two times the mob were not able to damage the above mentioned places, but this time the mob comprised thousands of people who were protesting against the blasphemous movie and the damage they managed to do was much more severe. The mob managed to get into the church compound, after which they first burnt down the church building, and then stole the cash and other expensive items. A car, three motor bikes and all belongings were stolen from the priest houses. We thank God that our families managed to escape safely.
The crowd also grabbed a 20 year old boy named Zeshean Chan, son of Rev. Chan Masih and tried to throw him in the burning church, but he was saved with the help of some people and police.

The Sarhadi Lutheran church was built by the Norwegian and Danish missionaries in 1937. The Bishop house, office, priest’s houses, library and school are all located in the same compound, which the mob burnt and now only the ashes are left behind. The fire severely damaged the buildings, which are in danger of collapsing any time. This property is under the administration of Bishop Peter Majeed, Northern Diocese Mardan Church of Pakistan. We are appealing to all Christians in the world to stand with us in prayers and help us to rebuild the house of God and the houses of His servants, who have been rendered homeless and are living with their friends and relatives.

Contact us at – or
Northern Diocese Mardan, Pakistan
GS. Jimmy Matthew. Bishop Peter Majeed

Postscript: As for the criminal looters, arsonists and vandals, their main agenda was clearly to create trouble and derail the democratic process, as elections loom ahead. They know they have no chance of coming into power through the polls, so their desperation is growing. Hence the Dirty Tricks Brigade is getting even more active. The Rangers stood by (draw your own conclusions as to where the military stands) and off-duty policemen were reported to be involved in the rioting (doesn’t the DTB always use them too?). The violence was well coordinated mostly by the so-called ‘jihadi’ outfits and the DTB, no doubt, aiming to provoke a gunfight near US diplomatic premises in Peshawar, Karachi and Islamabad – not Lahore, though (surprise?). It is these outfits who regularly target-kill those they deem ‘non-Muslim’. Jamaat-e-Islami, Imran Khan’s party and others joined it and failed to condemn or isolate the criminals operating in the name of religion – in fact they willingly provided cover. A lot of the cannon fodder came from various madrassas. For all its incompetence, the administration foiled the aim of sparking gunfights at US compounds. Their madness cost some 22 lives around the country. May those poor souls rest in peace and their families find strength to carry on.

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.

Why should peace be excluded from St Patrick’s Day?

Using “Veterans” and “Peace” together makes sense: who better than a soldier knows the horrors of war. Veterans For Peace has over 120 chapters across the USA.

This is a slightly modified version of my article published in the Global Post commentary section on March 20, 2012. Link to my photos.

Excluding peace from St Pat’s – War veterans waging peace vow not to give up

Continue reading

Pakistan2020 report; Aman Ki Asha wins int’l awards; Dorothy freed

Global recognition for Aman ki Asha: Times of India CEO Ravi Dhariwal (right) and Shahrukh Hasan, Group Managing Director Jang Group, with outgoing INMA President Michael Phelps, CEO of the Washington Examiner

Posted to my yahoogroup earlier today:

My NY trip was very brief and hectic, but rewarding. Great to catch up with some friends and apologies to those I couldn’t contact or meet. I attended two very interesting events: the launch of Hassan Abbas‘ report ‘A Vision for Building a Better Future, and the INMA awards ceremony where Aman ki Asha won two awards, including the top award of the evening. My report in The News.

DOROTHY PARVAZ: It was great to hear that Iran has released Dorothy Parvaz and she is safe, and free – but rightly concerned about the people she was held in detention with, many of whom were badly beaten, as she told Al Jazeera in Doha.

PAKISTAN 2020 report - a much needed ‘broader’ look at Pakistan beyond the security prism, Continue reading

Can a handkerchief bring peace? Indo-Pak school children’s campaign

HANKIES PEACE CHAIN initiative by Aman ki Asha, underway in India where thousands of schoolchildren have already signed & drawn peace messages for Pakistan. Launched yesterday in Pakistan. Below: text of the ad pubished in Pakistan on Apr 28, 2010 in The News and Jang


Perhaps not. But there’s one small thing it could do. It could clean up a small space in the minds of our children. A little square piece where peace can bloom again. Just have your child write or draw a peace message on a handkerchief to children across the border and join in forming a chain that will stretch all the way from Lahore to Amritsar.

The Aman ki Asha peace chain is a nationwide schools initiative that will join hundreds of thousands of hankies in a chain of friendship that will stretch across generations to come.

Schools wishing to participate, please contact Aman ki Asha at or phone 021-3221-5239; fax 021-3221-5238

Conversations 6: Push for peace parks

Conversations 6 – published in Political Economy Aman ki Asha page, The News on Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mar 25 2010

Dear Beena,

Let’s talk a little bit more this week about the notion of a joint war memorial, before moving on to other wrangles. Continue reading

CONVERSATIONS: Peace is hard work

Published in The News on Sunday, Political Economy section, aman ki asha page, Feb 21, 2010


Peace is hard work

A Pakistani and an Indian begin an email exchange, attempting to share their thoughts honestly, without fear and hostility, exploring what divides our countries, and seeking ways to bridge the divide

By Dilip D’Souza and Beena Sarwar

February 16 2010

Dear Beena,

I started writing this before Pune. When I heard about those 11 more senseless deaths, I decided to rewrite it. I want to start by saying how difficult horrors like this make it to remain committed to the idea of peace, of speaking the language of reason. Here’s the bottom line: most Indians believe that this latest attack, like previous attacks, was conceived in Pakistan. Continue reading

Asimicus, we will miss you

Metropole corridor: Imtiaz Mughal, Noman Ahmed, Arif Hasan and Asim Butt (red shirt)

Just got back from the Tribute to Asim Butt event at T2F, which was packed to capacity with those who knew and loved Asim, others who knew his work and were inspired by him, and some who happened to be at the café and joined in the Tribute. Sabeen introduced the event, and told the story of how Asim painted that wonderful mural on the walls of T2F.01.

Several people spoke movingly about Asim, providing ancedotes, photos and video that helped bring pieces of Asim the person together with pieces of Asim the artist, the intellectual, the activist and the rebel to form a more complete picture. I had to leave early as it’s a school night, but was there for most of it. Speakers included George Fulton who read out a lovely poem;  artist Ahmed Ali sent an email from Lahore that Mazhar Zaidi read out, Khurram talked about the LUMS days and how Asim was a trailblazer in so many ways even there (thanks to him, the BA in Social Studies is called that, and not ‘Universal Education’; the time he took on the mullah who began giving an azan outside the room where they were studying for their final exams). Naiza Khan talked about Asim as a student at the Indus Valley School, and Sabina Ansari talked about the Asim she’s known since childhood, who kept her company at school when the other kids wouldn’t talk to her – and the legacy he has left, evident in all those who filled the room.

Gul Jafri spoke about her relationship with Asim as an ‘aunty’ (and provided insights into his innocence, typified in his indignation and incredulity at having his things filched from public places – ‘but those were my things’…), Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy talked about Asim’s involvement with Citizens’ Archives of Pakistan (CAP) and showed a video clip of him painting for CAP which I hope they’ll put on the FB group wall. In fact I hope everyone puts whatever they said on a blog or website for Asim. Below, something I wrote today, which I referred to in my comments: Continue reading

Asim Butt. Artist. Activist. Rebel. Karachi lover. RIP

Asim Butt [BBC photo

Asim Butt. Artist. Activist. Rebel. Karachi lover. Peace lover. Asimicus. Saw him last two days ago heading home, he was waiting at a bus stop, we exchanged delighted hellos, I offered him a ride. “It’s all great,” he said with a big smile, gave an “all’s well” thumbs up. Funeral today 4 pm. Why?

‘Eject’ (military OUT of politics) – graffiti art by Asim Butt (Photo K.B. Abro)

We may never know the answer to this “why”. Meanwhile we can only hope that he is at peace where ever he is. Life does go on, even after such a shock and bereavement. But Karachi will not be the same without ‘Asimicus’, his generous spirit, creative passion and love for the city, for democratic values and peace. He got into these symbols- the ‘eject’ sign, the ‘circle’ –  with great enthusiasm, even missed an anti-Musharraf Emergency  rally to which he was bringing posters – got so involved making them he lost track of time. But that was Asim. Continue reading


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