Pakistan, India and Aman ki Asha: The year that was, and looking ahead

Indo Pak Global Peace Vigil, London. Photo by Ali Mehdi Zaidi

Indo Pak Global Peace Vigil, London. Photo by Ali Mehdi Zaidi

Something I wrote last week for The News year-end special supplement, published Jan 1, 2014. I later remembered many special moments I left out, like the Mumbai and Karachi Press Clubs exchanges, the border security guards allowing violators to return instead of throwing them in prison, the Indian heart patient allowed to disembark without a visa in Pakistan, to name some. There are many others…

For millions of Indians and Pakistanis, Aman ki Asha is just that – a shared ‘hope for peace’ between our two countries. Despite falsehoods circulated by detractors targeting this peace initiative in all kinds of underhand ways since its launch on January 1, 2010, it has stayed the course, and continued to urge both governments to do so. In the process, Aman ki Asha has provided a platform and a way forward for aspirations of peace between India and Pakistan.

India Pakistan Global Peace Vigil

The year 2013 started out with a powerful expression of these aspirations countering rising tensions due to firing and the loss of lives at the Line of Control in Kashmir. In the midst of the cacophony of allegations and counter-allegations arose voices of sanity, coming together for a global vigil for peace between India and Pakistan. Continue reading

Jan 1 rallies across Pakistan in solidarity with victims of extremism; demanding a coherent Foreign Policy, empowered Local Government

Aman Ittehad rally, Hyderabad, Jan 1, 2013

Aman Ittehad , a coalition of non-government organisations and individuals around Pakistan has been commemorating Jan 1 every year with rallies around the country, in solidarity with victims of terrorism and to demand better governance, democracy and economic policies. Here’s the press statement for this year’s rallies, being held in dozens of cities including Lahore, Karachi, Sialkot, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Abbottabad, Quetta, Mithi, Mardan, Loralai, Gilgit and other places.

PRESS STATEMENT  Continue reading

Play for peace: Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Milne Do’

Mahesh Bhatt-Imran Zahid play

Mahesh Bhatt’s forthcoming play is creating a media buzz

My article in the Aman ki Asha page of The News, Dec 4, and in the TOI blog

Play for peace: Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Milne Do’

A behind-the-scenes look at what is driving a veteran film producer and peace activist’s fourth stage production, coming up

By Beena Sarwar

It was Google’s “Reunion” ad released on the web that pushed Delhi-based actor Imran Zahid to move on an idea that he has been thinking about for some time, creating waves in the media.

Last week Imran messaged me, asking for story ideas for a stage play “to promote Aman ki asha and the concept of ‘Milne do’ (let them meet) to be staged in various cities of India and Pakistan in association with Mahesh Bhatt Saab”. Continue reading

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

‘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.

Inspiring musical video tribute to Ahmed Faraz from his son Sarmad

The late great poet Ahmed Faraz’s son Sarmad Faraz pays tribute to his father, by releasing a music video titled “Shayar”, which features the poet reciting his verses in his inimitable manner.

Sarmad is a musician and is best-known for being in the band Corduroy. He chose this particular poem of his late father because it espouses resilience, individuality and change.

The poem “Shayar” is part of Ahmed Faraz’s first-ever published book Tanha Tanha (1954). (Read more below).

Continue reading

Photos from Karachi protest in support of Rimsha Masih

People of all ages and from all faiths came out in Karachi in support of Rimsha Masih, the young girl accused of blasphemy. For more photos see the Christians in Pakistan facebook page. Photo Copyright © Sunny Gill Photography.

Demo in Karachi, Aug 25, 3.30 pm, in support of ‘blasphemy’ accused Rimsha Masih


Demonstration in Karachi in support of Rimsha Masih, the girl (aged between 11 and 16 years who is reported to have Downs Syndrome) who has been accused of blasphemy in a blatant misuse of religion as a political tool, at Press Club TOMORROW, August 25, at 3.30 pm. This peaceful protest has been organised by All Pakistan Christian League, Action Committee for Human Rights, Peace and Development Organization, The Saviour’s Trust, Minority Rights Forum and Mass International, supported by various human rights organisations. Do join with friends if you are in town. Cross-posted from the blog Citizens for Democracy, Pakistan.

NOTE: I’ve removed the visual originally used with this post after learning that the photo that was used is fake and misleading on several counts.

MEDIA/Pakistan: Protect whistleblowers, act against corrupt anchors

To All TV Channels of Pakistan: Protect whistleblowers, act against corrupt anchors
 Sign the online petition:

The behind-the-scenes footage leaked from Dunya TV’s ‘interview’ of Malik Riaz conducted by Meher Bokhari and Mubashir Lucman on June 13, 2012 has exposed the corruption of these so-called journalists. Their clear connivance with the interviewee in order to make themselves look blameless is a disgrace to the profession. We commend the whistleblower who leaked this footage and exposed their reality, which is all the more shocking given their self-righteous public stands.We demand: Continue reading


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