Soft power, woman power: Forging a new security paradigm

My article on the Amn-o-Nisa delegation’s visit to the USA, for Global Post, published  May 7, 2012: Soft power, woman power: Forging a new security paradigm in Pakistan

Women work to combat extremism by closing rift between Americans and Pakistanis.

Beena Sarwar

Peshawar, Dec 2011: Madrassah students and US embassy staff pose with one of the cards made by the students. Photo courtesy: PEAD

It was a unique Christmas party. Eight madrassah students in Peshawar, Pakistan took giant homemade cards, cake and flowers over to the US Consulate last year. The students and diplomats sat and talked for four hours, facilitated by teachers who provide English language and computer skills to the Islamic schools.

“This is the first time that these boys are connecting to and being exposed to a world outside the madrassah,” said Sameena Imtiaz, executive director of Peace Education and Development (PEAD), a non-profit foundation in Pakistan that has been working with madrassahs since 2005. “It wasn’t easy to build this relationship. It has taken a long time for them to trust us.” 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

Pakistan flood victims export tomatoes, not terrorism

Must read. Pakistan flood victims ‘have no concept of terrorism’Mohammed Hanif on Pakistan’s 20 million flood victims – our “invisible slave army” that exports tomatoes, not terrorism, in BBC’s ‘From our own correspondent’. Includes link to listen to or download podcast.

Conversations 11: “There is more than truth”

I forgot to upload the last three Conversations published in The News on Sunday, Aman ki Asha page in Political Economy. The entire archives are also up at the Aman ki Asha website

“There is more than truth”

May 13, 2010

Dear Beena,

In your last letter, you said that “many Indians feel there’s no point talking to the Pakistan government, given the strength of the ‘establishment’ here.” I should tell you that there are plenty of Indians who feel there’s no point talking to the Indian government, for various reasons. At an extreme we have the Maoist insurgents, who long ago decided that talking to the Government is futile, and have taken to arms. Perhaps at another extreme, we have plenty of ordinary middle-class folks who will not exercise their most basic dialogue with the government — their vote. And somewhere in between are the rest of us, cynical about government’s every move. Continue reading

Conversations 10: The trust deficit

May 6 2010

Dear Beena,

I am heartened too by our PMs meeting in Thimphu. But let me say that I also have hope from such events as your Aman ki Asha seminar, where there’s discussion between folks from both sides who have less political pressures on them than ministers.

Still, while I don’t mean to second-guess what happened at the seminar, I wonder about the urge to build a “consensus” in discussions like these. Is that always necessary or useful, what do you think? I wonder if we end up watering down our own emotions and concerns in the search for consensus, and thus leave them essentially un-addressed. If that’s at all true, it’s not a good prescription for peace. Continue reading

Conversations 9: Perceptions, perceptions

Published in The News on Sunday, Political Economy section, Aman ki Asha page, May 2, 2010

April 22 2010
Dear Beena,

I know your Berlin adventure was stymied by, of all things, a volcano in Iceland. Who’d have thought it? Somebody more eloquent than I could probably find some kind of metaphor, for the prospects for peace between us, in those spewing ashes. Another time.

To get to your last missive. Yes, perhaps we are going round in circles to a degree; and yet I think we are indeed getting somewhere. For surely it’s when we come to grips with things we disagree on, whatever they are, that we will find what making peace really entails.

And there are things I disagree with in your last missive. Continue reading

Aman ki Asha Press release: Dialogue on ‘A Common Destiny’

LAHORE, Apr 22: Prominent academics, writers and analysts from India and Pakistan met today at a closed-door seminar titled “A Common Destiny”, the first of Aman ki Asha’s series of discussions on issues of strategic importance.

Delegates at the first of Aman ki Asha’s series of discussions on issues of strategic importance to India and Pakistan, titled “A Common Destiny”, agreed on the need for peace between the two countries, and the importance of a sustained dialogue to resolve bilateral issues including Jammu & Kashmir, terrorism, water-sharing, trade and investment. Continue reading

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