Pakistan’s ‘enlightenment’ martyrs

Investigative journalist Saleem Shehzad

Below is the original, unabridged version of the article published in The News, Jun 9, 2011, with the somewhat misleading heading Pakistan’s secular martyrs (not all those killed for defending the values discussed in the article were ‘secular’).

'Waja': Prof. Saba Dashtiary, Balochistan University

Pakistan’s ‘enlightenment’ martyrs

Beena Sarwar

The murder of professor Saba Dashtiyari in Quetta last week, coming on the heels the killing of investigative journalist Saleem Shehzad, is yet another sign of an ongoing ‘genocide’ of progressive Pakistani intellectuals and activists. ‘Genocide’ generally means the deliberate destruction of an ethnic group or tribe. In this context, it applies to the tribe of Pakistanis who have publicly proclaimed or implicitly practiced the enlightenment agenda of freedom of conscience. They may have very different, even opposing, political views but they are people who are engaged knowingly or unknowingly with spreading ‘enlightenment’ values. Continue reading

Campaign against the genocide of progressive Pakistanis

Prof. Nazima Talib of Balochistan University

Prof Saba Dashtiyara 'Waja' of Balochistan University

Prof. Saba Dashtiary of Balochistan University

Modified from a post just sent to my yahoogroup: We need a campaign against the genocide of progressive Pakistani intellectuals and activists at the hands of those who have been distorting religion for political purposes, criminal and ethnic mafias. One or other of these elements is responsible for the murders of Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, Naeem Sabir (HRCP coordinator in Khuzdar, Balochistan), former senator Habib Jalib of Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal),  Saleem Shehzad and Prof. Dashtiyari. Baloch journalists killed include: Rehmatullah Shaeen, Ejaz Raisani, Lala Hameed Hayatan, Ilyas Nazar, Mohammad Khan Sasoil and Siddiq Eido and Abdus Rind. Also the fisherfolk leaders Haji Ghani and Abu Bakar spearheading a movement against the land mafia; Nisar Baloch who was fighting against the land mafia in Karachi; Latifullah Khan, the Communist Party member from Dir, and Nazima Talib, the professor of Balochistan University shot dead a year ago, and so many others. Continue reading

RIP Prof. Saba Dashtiyari… Tujh ko kitnon ka lahu chahi’ay ay arz-e-watan

Prof. Saba Dashtiyari giving an interview. Photo courtesy Homayoon Mobaraki

The situation in Balochistan continues to be volatile. The latest victim of the violence and anarchy in Pakistan’s largest province is the well known Baloch rights activist and professor, Saba Dashtiyary, gunned down in Quetta on June 1, 2011.  Words are not enough to express outrage and grief at this continued genocide of Pakistan’s liberal, secular, progressive citizens.

“As young kids, we had heard charming stories about a Baloch professor who was an atheist but, ironically, taught theology and Islamic studies at the University of Balochistan. Another thing that fascinated us about him was the narrative that he spent most of his salary on the promotion of Balochi language academies and preparation of Balochi text books,’ writes Malik Siraj Akbar in his moving obituary for the slain professor in Baloch Hal.

Video of Prof. Dashtiyari speaking at Karachi Press Club at a seminar last year on missing persons  – at the start a woman ‘journalist’ tries to interrupt him but he rightly insists on having his say and presents a strong argument about the situation in Balochistan, giving a historical and political perspective   Continue reading

The real Pakistan: report on CFD’s inspiring signature campaign

CFD volunteers engaged with the public and got a great response. Photo: Shuja Qureshi

Posted to the Citizens for Democracy blog:

“Without exaggeration, the exercise was a phenomenal success. Not only because a total of 15,000 signatures were collected… but also because it showed that ordinary people… overwhelmingly agreed with the cause…”

The real Pakistan | By Farieha Aziz Continue reading

Reference for Shahbaz Bhatti, Mar 20, 5.00 pm, Karachi


Citizens for Democracy

Reference for Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti
Date: 20th March, 2011
Time: 5:00 PM
Venue: Karachi Press Club

Shahbaz Bhatti was a man who ascribed to the vision of Jinnah, and was a strong believer of pluralism, freedom of religion and rule of law. With a few other citizens and government leaders, he founded the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), and was unanimously elected to lead this nationwide coalition of minority representatives and NGOs. Continue reading

Mass letter signing campaign TODAY, Sat. March 12, 2011, 11am-7pm

Say No to Violence & to a Denial of our Civil Rights

Join CFD’s mass letter-writing campaign, for which people are gathering to add their signatures on letters addressed to the President of Pakistan, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Chief Ministers of all four provinces. “We are demanding from those in positions of power to take appropriate actions to reverse the erosion of our civil and human rights and to uphold the rule of law without fear or favour. Please join us in a mass letter campaign – we are your peaceful fellow citizens, struggling to survive with dignity, and yet trying to preserve our inalienable democratic rights. The purpose of this campaign is to allow all citizens to speak out in support of inter-faith harmony and to resist a growing climate of religious intolerance in Pakistan,” says a press release.

Support Citizens for Democracy, 11 am to 7pm  TODAY (Saturday, March 12, 2011) at Jahangir Kothari Parade (opposite Park Towers), Clifton, Karachi. Bring postage stamps and friends


Pakistan: Not quite a ‘deathly silence’

Rally organised by the Movement for Peace and Tolerance (MPT) and Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) in Hyderabad, joined and addressed by a large number of civil society, peace and human rights activists, lawyers, writers and concerned citizens.. Photo: Zulfiqar Shah

Email to Gwynne Dyer, March 10, 2011:

Dear Mr Dyer:

Regarding your article ‘Deathly Silence Prevails in Pakistan’ published in several newspapers and reproduced by NewAgeIslam website  where I saw it – you make some valid comments but to say that there is a deathly silence is untrue and unfair.

Many people in Pakistan have been raising a voice, fighting for their rights and against vigilante violence and unjust laws even before the murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. The murder of Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was a huge blow, but they are still speaking out. Here are some instances: Continue reading

Protest: Shahbaz Bhatti murder, vigilante action, incitements to violence

Open letter to The President, Prime Minister, Interior Minister, Chief Justice, and heads of all political parties, Pakistan

Protest & demand for action regarding Shahbaz Bhatti murder, vigilantism, and incitements to violence in Pakistan – signature campaign initiated by Citizens for Democracy. Deadline for endorsements: Monday March 7, midnight Pakistan time, after which signatures will be compiled and sent to the recipients and to media. Endorsements can be made at the CFD blog, or via email to cfd.pak@gmail.com. Please share with friends. If anyone wants to translate it and circulate, please feel free. Thanks.
Blog: citizensfordemocracy.wordpress.com | Twitter @cfdpk | Text also posted below Continue reading

Murders most foul

Salute to Naeem Sabir and Shahbaz Bhatti: dedicated human rights workers, paid with their lives for speaking out for the truth and for justice.

Yesterday we heard the tragic news about the cold-blooded murder of human rights activist Naeem Sabir, HRCP coordinator in Khuzdar, Balochistan. We had yet to recover from that blow when assassins gunned down Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the only Christian member of the cabinet.

There is outrage and anger at these cowardly acts that have deprived Pakistan of two dedicated human rights activists just when we needed them most. It is heartening that citizens in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad assembled at very short notice to protest, however small in numbers they may have been.

Here’s my response to an email quoting the famous saying “They came for the Socialists and I didn’t speak…”:

People are speaking out. Protests were held today, convened by Citizens for Democracy, in front of Karachi Press Club 5.30 pm, Lahore Press Club 3.00 pm and then on Mall Road, Islamabad opposite Mr Books at 6.30 pm. Another protest in Islamabad is scheduled on March 3 at 5.00 pm at the same venue.

Also tomorrow Mar 3rd, 2011, 11 am – protest at Miran Muhammad Shah Road near Hyderabad Press Club, via Movement for Peace and Tolerance (MPT) and Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC)

But it’s not enough. Also, our fight is not on the streets in competition with the mullahs who can bring thousands of brain washed youth from their captive audience madrassahs and ‘religious parties’. We have to fight through Parliament, rule of law, ideas and public positions eg statements at CFD blog – http://citizensfordemocracy.wordpress.com – pamphlets in local languages etc.

Unfortunately, our ideas don’t get much space in the mainstream television channels, that are in general more interested in talk shows that fan conflict (get more ratings) rather than in propagating responsible ideas that make people think…

I also want to share this note from Kamran Shafi: “You and I and other friends can protest until we are blue in the face, it will make no difference as long as the Deep State goes on supporting these extremist obscurantists. It is time we picketed the Establishment itself if we are to save this country from its nosedive into the shadows of hate and intolerance. We need slogans like: ‘Murderers cannot be this country’s “STRATEGIC ASSETS”‘! WE ARE!’”

Please also see posts at Citizens for Democracy, Gawaahi.com and this excellent post by Kalsoom Lakhani at  Changing Up Pakistan, (CHUP), which includes a video of Shahbaz Bhatti.

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