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

Quenching the thirst for peace

Tracing a peace sign together via a giant web-cam

Tracing a peace sign together via a giant web-cam

Here’s something I wrote about how a soft drink giant creatively connected Indians and Pakistanis with ‘the other side’, with a three-minute video that was easily the most shared link on the Aman ki Asha facebook group last week (not that it’s going to get me to start drinking Coke, or any other soda); published in the Aman ki Asha page in The News, May 22, 2013

Quenching the thirst for peace

An innovative idea connects Indians and Pakistanis with ‘the other side’

“It saddens me that we have neighbours that we can’t even go visit.”

“The perception is that they’re the bad guy. But when you actually meet them you realise they’re just like me.” Continue reading

No, we won’t lay down our weapons…

Aziz Siddiqui_2When Nawaz Sharif was trying to impose his so-called Sharia Law in Pakistan during his last stint as Prime Minister in the late 1990s, I voiced my despair at this dangerous move to the respected journalist Aziz Siddiqui, who was co-director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Siddiqui sahib heard me out. He paused and removed the pipe from his mouth, then replied in his gentle way, with a half smile, “Phir kya karein, hathyar Dal deiN?” (So what shall we do, shall we lay down our weapons?). Continue reading

Join the Global vigil for India Pakistan Peace, Jan 27, 2013

Jinnah_GandhiInitiated by Samir Gupta, an Aman ki Asha supporter in New Delhi, this global event on Sunday, Jan. 27 is taking place in different cities at different times around the world. It invites Indians and Pakistanis and those who want peace between the two countries, to come together in their respective cities. The purpose of the vigils is to urge the governments to continue the dialogue, and not give in to the war hype being created by some sections of sections of society. The vigil statement is online at this link (text below)

Confirmed venues and times so far: Continue reading

Khudai Khidmatgars: India launch Jan 20, 2012

Faisal Khan (in cap) with Tara Gandhi, giving Khudai Khidmatgar membership to Tanzila. Photo: courtesy TCN

The Khudai Khidmatgar (Red Shirts) movement will be launched in India on Jan 20, 2012, marking the 24th death anniversary of the ‘Sarhadi Gandhi’ Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, with a membership drive, and addresses by distinguished peace activists, writers and poets
Date: January 20, 2012
Time: 3.30-5.30 pm,
Place: 5 Tees January Marg New Delhi
Contact: +91-9911292235 and +91-999050543

Speakers include Continue reading

The ‘Bulbul-e-Kashmir’ sings for Indo-Pak peace

This personal blog post is dedicated to an inspiring couple in Mumbai and to the editor who introduced us: May our tribe increase.

Enduring ties: Seema Sehgal at PIPFPD, Karachi, 2003, with me and my daughter Maha. Photo by Ved Bhasin.

I met Seema Sehgal in Karachi, in December 2003 at the 6th Joint Convention of the Pakistan India Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD). Ved Bhasin, the respected Editor of The Kashmir Times, Jammu, introduced us. “Seema,” he said, “is known as the Bulbul-e-Kashmir (Nightingale of Kashmir).”

Ved Bhasin: Shukriya

The petite and unassuming Mumbai-based ghazal singer from Jammu has none of the airs one might expect from a performer of her calibre. She is not only an amazing artist, but she also has a deep and abiding interest in Urdu poetry and in Indo-Pak peace. When relations plummeted between the two countries following the nuclear tests of May 1998, Seema dedicated her new album ‘Sarhad’ to peace between the India and Pakistan. Continue reading

People for peace: 8th PIPFPD Joint Convention, Allahabad

PIPFPD 7th Joint Convention, New Delhi 2005: Pakistani ghazal queen Farida Khanum with then Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran at a reception at Hyderabad House. Photo: Beena Sarwar

My curtain raiser on the Eighth Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) Joint Convention being held in Allahabad, India, Dec 29, 2011-Jan 1, 2012 (slightly shorter version published as an op-ed in The News). When the name was being decided, the Indians insisted that Pakistan should Continue reading

Indian pilot’s daughter writes a deeply touching reply to Pakistani pilot who shot her father’s plane down

Qais Hussain with his damaged aircraft during the 1965 war.

Thanks to Naveed Riaz in Lahore for the email that formed the basis of my report on Qais Hussain’s condolence note to Farida Singh, daughter of the Indian pilot whose plane he shot down during the 1965 war. Here’s another note Mr Riaz just sent to his email list: 

This profoundly humane episode continues to move ahead with Indian and Pakistani news channels and media bringing it increasingly to the fore today after Beena Sarwar in Karachi broke the story in Pakistan’s leading daily The News (Aman ki Asha).

Mrs Farida Singh, daughter of the deceased pilot of the Indian plane Jahangir “Jangoo” Engineer replied today to Qais’s letter of condolence four days earlier – see below (NDTV’s coverage this evening at this link). Beena’s article and Qais’s condolence letter here) Continue reading

Pakistani pilot writes after 46 years to daughter of Indian pilot he shot down

Better late than never: Ex-PAF pilot Qais Hussain in Lahore, 2011. Photo by Naveed Riaz

Below: the report I did based on an email that Naveed Riaz in Lahore forwarded me, published in The News this morning with the Aman ki Asha logo. There has been a phenomenal response to this report, with most people lauding Qais Hussain’s courage in speaking out after all these years and writing what must have been a difficult letter.

Pakistani pilot writes after 46 years to daughter of Indian pilot he shot down

By Beena Sarwar

Nearly half a century after shooting down an Indian civil aircraft under orders during the 1965 war with India, a Pakistan Air Force pilot has sent a condolence message to the daughter of the pilot of the aircraft he downed.

Qais Hussain, a rookie Flying Officer during the 1965 war, made this moving and humane gesture via email, expressing his condolences and providing details of the circumstances under which he shot down the Indian aircraft. The email is addressed to Farida Singh, daughter of the Indian Air Force pilot Jahangir “Jangoo” Engineer, one of the three famous Engineer brothers in the Indian Air Force. Continue reading

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