The nightmare must end – my op-ed in Dawn, 2009

Zahoor: Taliban and the media, The Frontier Post, June 2008

Zahoor: Taliban and the media, in The Frontier Post, June 2008

Those who justify the Taliban uprising in Pakistan as an anti-imperialist movement forget that since the Taliban first swept into Afghanistan in 1996 (with the blessings of the Pakistani establishment), they have been a threat to women, pluralism and democracy in the region. Their oppressive order in Afghanistan pre-dates the American invasion of Iraq, bombing of Afghanistan, and drone attacks in Pakistan -- from an article I wrote in Dawn, 2009. Came across it again while searching for something else. Read it, and tell me, what has changed? 

By Beena Sarwar, Feb 7, 2009

OF the many challenges Pakistan’s elected government faces perhaps the most menacing and deep-rooted is Talibanisation — a phenomenon identified earlier on (as Talibanism) by the then exiled Afghan government’s acting foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept 21, 2000. Continue reading

To Taliban: “I want education for you, for your children” – Malala on the Daily Show

Malala on Daily ShowMalala Yousufzai’s conviction and sincerity shines as she speaks, even as the after-effects of the attack on her are still evident in the slight disfigurement of her facial muscles. And the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize nominee recently speechless even the satirical TV host Jon Stewart when she talked about her thoughts about the Taliban. Asked when she first learnt she was a target of the Taliban, she says it was through a visitor who told her to put her name in Google search.

“I just could not believe it, I said no, it’s not true,” she said. “We thought the Taliban were not that much cruel that they would kill a child – I was 14 at the time.” She was initially more afraid for her father but when she began thinking about it, she thought that if  attacked she would hit the Talib with her shoe – a comment that raised a laugh. Continue reading

Parveen Rehman. Keep the Torch Alight

Parveen: A 'selfie' she took in Stockholm, 2008. Photo: courtesy Arif Pervaiz.

Parveen Rehman: A ‘selfie’ in Stockholm, 2008. Photo: courtesy Arif Pervaiz.

The cold-blooded murder of Parveen Rehman on March 13 this year came as no great surprise –  in the lawless concrete jungle that is Karachi, one always expects the worst. That doesn’t mitigate the shock and  immense grief at the gunning down of the gentlest of human beings, someone who had devoted her life to helping the poor, empowering the under-privileged. Below, my article on Parveen in Economic and Political Weekly, India, written on March 19, 2013. Also see the these beatuiful tributes by K. B. Abro (with audio), Zameen Kha Gayi Asmaan Kaise Kaise; Zubeida Mustafa, Rest in peace little sister; and Masuma Hasan, Parween Rahman: the legend lives on Continue reading

Malala Yousufzai – Some updates

Demo for Malala in Mumbai earlier this week

Adapted from the post I sent to my Yahoogroup a little while ago:

No point repeating what happened a week ago in Swat, when Taliban shot Malala Yusufzai, the 14-year old school girl who has been speaking out courageously for the right of girls to be educated, supported by her equally brave father, Ziauddin Yusufzai, principal of the school she was studying at.

Malala was already a hero to many. Now she has become a worldwide symbol of the right of girls to education, as well as of resistance to the Taliban. In this, she represents millions of Pakistanis – and world citizens. Her friend Kainat who was also injured, told CNN from her hospital bed that she hoped to continue her education and that Malala would come back and join her schoolmates soon. “I want to tell all the girls to continue their mission to get an education,” she said. Continue reading

Karachi launches campaign against TTP

KARACHI – An awareness campaign against atrocities by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has begun in Karachi, denouncing its inhumane and un-Islamic acts and declaring the militant group “fitna” (a sower of chaos and sedition). Posters and handbills denouncing suicide attacks and the slaughter of civilians by TTP miscreants have been plastered onto walls throughout the city – by Zia Ur Rehman in Karachi launches campaign against TTP

A Karachi resident reads a poster March 20 denouncing the acts of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as inhumane and un-Islamic. An awareness campaign has been launched by the Karachi-based Anjuman-e-Muhibban Pakistan against TTP violence in Karachi. [Zia Ur Rehman]

RIP Mukarram Khan Atif, another journalist killed in Pakistan

Anguish and anger. Yet another journalist in Pakistan, Mukarram Khan Atif of Mohmand Agency, shot dead in cold-blood. The Taliban have claimed responsibility. They are out to eliminate our best, our brightest and our bravest. They will not succeed.

Read Tazeen on how Atif helped her look “beyond the stereotype of a stern and unyielding tribesman with his intelligence, valour, grace, and self effacing sense of humour. He humanized the area and its people for me, a city dweller who only conjured up images of Hakimullah Mehsud and the likes in reference with the tribesmen from FATA” (A Reluctant Mind: Another foul murder). Also read Daud Khattak’s article highlighting the threats journalists in Pakistan face: Continue reading

Protest against murder of Zarteef Khan Afridi: “He followed his truth till the end! Respect and Salam”

Protest rally, Hyderabad, Dec 9, 12 noon, Old Campus to Press Club.

Sharing the grief of friends who have suffered this great loss. I first heard of Zarteef Khan Afridi in 1995, when he wrote to Asma Jahangir offering to come to Lahore with a tribal lashkar to protect her when she was under threat during the Salamat Masih case. I met him later at an HRCP meeting in Peshawar. He hosted us in Khyber, showed us the little library he had opened for local children. He told us wanted his daughter to marry of her own choice and not wear a burqa, but his wife told him she would leave him if he encouraged such behaviour. “Our dear dear friend, renowned leftist and human rights activist Comrade Zarteef Khan Afridi, from Jamrud, Khyber Agency was killed this morning in Saparee area of Khyber Agency while on his way to school where he has been teaching for more than two decades. He had been receiving threats from local religious militants for his revolutionary ideology, work on peace and rights in FATA. He was a brave revolutionary and refused to bow down to the pressure. He followed his truth till the end! Respect and Salam,” writes Ismat Shahjehan. His struggle shall not be in vain.

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

Moving out of the downward spiral

@salmaantaseer: I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I'm the last man standing

I wrote this on Jan 5, 2010 for Tehelka (published today as ‘Salmaan Taseer’s death is liberal Pakistan’s loss‘), the day after Salmaan Taseer was gunned down in cold blood by his own bodyguard whose cowardly action of firing at the Governor’s back has deprived us of a man of courage and conviction, wit and wisdom. ST, you are not “the last man standing”.

Moving out of the downward spiral

Beena Sarwar

“There are no less than 24 groups as of now supporting Qadri on FB and 1 against what he did, that says it all. #salmaantaseer”.

So went a tweet from a fellow Pakistani early morning on Jan 5, the day after the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab who took a courageous stand against religious extremists in Pakistan.

The facebook pages cropping up don’t quite say it all. Facebook is usually quite slow to take action against pages that users consider abusive (unless they have to do with Israel). In this case, many of those pages (mostly started by young men who like western shows like Sex and the City, support Pervez Musharraf and say they follow Islam – any contradictions here?) were taken down within 24 hours – which means that enough people reported them as abusive.

When it comes to religion, there is confusion in people’s minds in Pakistan. This confusion has been building up over the years, particularly since America, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and their allies took up cudgels against the Communist threat in Afghanistan and injected religion into the Afghans’ war of liberation against the Soviet invasion. Calling it a ‘jihad’ or a holy war enabled them to draw in Muslim fighters from around the world. The late Eqbal Ahmad warned against this long before the horrific events of 9/11 and US President Bush’s immature response sent the world into a downward spiral of violence, especially Pakistan, the frontline state in America’s war first against the Communists and then against extremist Islam.

The questions arising from Taseer’s assassination indicate that some forces in Pakistan are continuing along the old trajectory.  The assassin, 26-year old Malik Hussain Qadri, was assigned to the elite force guarding the Punjab Governor. It now emerges that he had been removed from the Special Branch because he was perceived as a security threat – so how did he end up on the security detail of a Governor who was already receiving death threats?

According to the post-mortem, he fired 41 bullets into Taseer’s back while the Governor was getting into his car. He then threw down his weapon and raised his arms in surrender.

Standard operating procedures in VIP guard duty require the other guards to immediately open fire even if the assailant is one of them, explains my military analyst friend Ejaz Haider. So why did the other guards not follow the SOP?

Chillingly, Qadri has revealed that he had told his colleagues what he was going to do and asked them not to open fire, as he would surrender. Which means that he was confident of getting away with it.

“Now the judicial process will take over,” predicts Haider. “The judge/prosecutors will be threatened, and the murderer will be declared a hero.”

This is of course already happening, as the facebook pages show. Some of them have referred to him as a ‘ghazi’ (conqueror) and are justifying and glorifying his murderous act – including several religious organisations. In fact, some have gone so far as to say that because he was ‘guilty’ of ‘blasphemy’, no Muslim should lead or attend his funeral prayers.

Qadri’s smiling face was flashed on television channels, along with his comments that “Salmaan Taseer is a blasphemer and this is the punishment for a blasphemer”. He is reported to have told interrogators that the Governor had called the blasphemy laws ‘black’ and had defended Aasia Noreen, the Christian woman sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’.

Taseer’s role in highlighting the Aasia Bibi case, as it came to be known, was significant although some have criticised his high-profile visit to her jail cell and his promise to obtain a presidential pardon for her, which circumvented due process. According to due process, the President’s pardon would have been sought after the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence following the High Court’s confirmation of it.

The Pakistani state has not executed any blasphemy convicts because so far, the High Courts or the Supreme Court have acquitted those accused under this law (295-C, imposed by Gen. Ziaul Haq to add to 295-A that existed since British times). Yet the mere allegation of ‘blasphemy’ has been enough to incite the murder of over 30 people so far. Taseer’s is the most high profile such murder.

Given the current climate, it is unlikely to be the last. For things to significantly change, ‘deep state’ will have to change its policies of support for ‘jihadis’ and jihadi mind-sets.

Meanwhile, those who have been opposing the blasphemy laws and other injustices perpetuated in the name of religion will continue to protest, as they have been doing for decades.

(ends)

Communist Party member Latifullah Khan murdered

PRESS RELEASE

Communist Party of Pakistan strongly condemns the audacious targeted killing of Comrade Latifullah Khan, member CPP in village Gandigar, District Dir, Pukhtoonkhwa province.

Since the start of Taliban and fanatics insurgency in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa (ex. NWFP) province, a planned holocaust of the enlightened and educated people is underway. The sheer oblivion of the state intentionally keeps this area backward in education and development of infrastructure, which has contributed to the rise in Islamic fanaticism and jingoism (once sponsored by the state of Pakistan through its international donors from Saudi Arabia and USA and allied countries).

The insurgency of Taliban in the region since last year has destroyed over 1,100 schools and educational institutions in the area; school teachers and school going children are mercilessly targeted and killed in a large number on a daily basis. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 458 other followers

%d bloggers like this: