The real cost of conflict in South Asia

My article on the symposium I attended last week at University of Texas, Dallas, published in Aman ki Asha

The real cost of conflict in South Asia

Peacetalks symposium: Raza Rumi, Pritpal Singh, Amitabh Pal, Nyla Ali Khan. Photo by Beena Sarwar

By Beena Sarwar

Born in the Rawalpindi area in 1943, Suresh Bakshi was about four years old when his family left their ancestral home after Partition in 1947. But he still remembers and has strong feelings for the place where he was born.

These feelings created a powerful conflict when, as an Indian Army soldier, he fought in the 1965 war against Pakistan. Continue reading

‘A Bangladesh tragedy with universal resonance’

Zara Hayes introducing "Clothes to Die For", with Jennifer Leaning and Ruth Barron.

Zara Hayes introducing “Clothes to Die For”, with Jennifer Leaning and Ruth Barron.

I wrote this piece recently for the Harvard South Asia Institute after attending the screening of a documentary film on the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, “Clothes to Die For”. The screening was followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Zara Hayes whom I’d assumed was Bangladeshi but turned out to be British – “I get that all the time,” she told me.  Continue reading

Remembering Tahira Mazhar Ali

A fighter at the barricadesI was sad to learn about the indomitable Tahira Mazhar Ali passing away. She was and will remain an inspiration for many. Below, my tribute to her published in Indian Express – Torchbearer for a progressive politics. Also see A fighter at the barricades in TNS, I.A. Rehman’s informative obituary for his old friend and comrade and Omar Warraich’s piece in The Independent, Tahira Mazhar Ali: Women’s rights campaigner who was the mother of Tariq Ali and acted as mentor to Benazir Bhutto. RIP Tahira Mazhar Ali (1925-2015) – my tribute in Indian ExpressContinue reading

On Dec 16, 2011, remembering Anthony Mascarenhas

Thank you Mark Dummett, for the report in BBC today paying tribute to Anthony Mascarenhas, the brilliant and courageous Pakistani journalist who had to flee abroad in order to be able to tell the truth – Bangladesh war: The article that changed history.


“Eight journalists, including Mascarenhas, were given a 10-day tour of the province (East Pakistan). When they returned home, seven of them duly wrote what they were told to,” writes Dummett.

“But one of them refused.”

That was Mascarenhas, who died in 1986 in London.

His wife Yvonne Mascarenhas told Dummett that she remembers him coming back distraught: “I’d never seen my husband looking in such a state. Continue reading

Pakistan army should butt out of politics: Asma Jahangir says it like it is

Clip from Crossfire in which Asma Jahangir, the indomitable Chairperson Emeritus of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, says it like it about the Pakistan armed forces, in a talk show with the  ever sensationalist Meher Bokhari, on Dunya TV on May 26, 2011. View the full programme at the PkPolitics website. The clip posted here starts Continue reading


Young riksha drivers in Dhaka. Photos: Beena Sarwar

My column Personal Political, written July 25, 2010, published in The News on Sunday and Hardnews. Subsequently the Bangladesh Supreme Court upheld a ruling that upheld a ban on using religion in politics. It won’t resolve all issues of course, but it’s a step forward and I hope we see that day in Pakistan in the not too distant future. I like Advocate G. M. Lakho’s stand: Say no to the state religion

Shonar Bangla

Beena Sarwar

Acha, yahan bhi constitutional amendments chal rahe hain,” observed a friend, scanning headlines in The Daily Star as we waited at Dhaka International Airport for a much-delayed flight to Karachi. Her comment about “constitutional amendments going on here also” highlighted something that’s always struck me as curious: the bizarre parallels of Bangladeshi politics with Pakistan, since Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan in 1971. >

CONVERSATIONS 14: Joint narratives, common ground

Published in The News on Sunday Political Economy section, Aman ki Asha page, June 13, 2010

June 10 2010

Dear Beena,

I can live with “Indian Administered Kashmir” and “Pakistan Administered Kashmir”. I’ll have to think about “militant” for “terrorist”, partly because then that might let off the hook homegrown Indians responsible for terrorism. And I will likely have to disagree about India’s interference in 1971 being nothing but a hostile act. I mean, it was hostile, necessarily so. But I believe it had to happen. I think peoples have aspirations, naturally so, and (West) Pakistan was actively and brutally suppressing the East’s aspirations in 1971. Continue reading


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