You are free to pray…But please do it at home

Please stay home… Even if the government isn’t requiring you to. Doctors in Pakistan have demanded a “strict lockdown to contain rapid spread of COVID-19” but Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan after ‘conferring’ with the ‘ulema’ has chosen to go with the latter, justifying his decision by saying that he cannot use force in the matter. Here’s my interview on Al Jazeera live about this, April 22.

Imran Khan: Appeasement to what end?
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#PakistanFightsCorona: Lending a helping hand

What to do, who’s doing it, and how to do it

A poetic fundraising resistance to despair

Event invite / Asmer Asrar Safi

The current coronavirus pandemic, and lockdown that is essential to prevent even more destruction, increases urgency in countries like Pakistan to ensure the survival of daily wagers and their families. With lockdown the only way to #stopthespread of COVID-19, many organisations are working on the ground to provide rations to families and PPE to health workers.

One initiative aimed at supporting these efforts is a poetic resistance to despair: An online fundraising effort for COVID-19 relief, Pakistan, Sunday 19 April 2020 at 1 pm ET (10 pm Pakistan time). Join online via this Zoom invite. (www.bit.ly/cvd19apr)

This is the first of a series initiated by the US Pakistan Students Coalition, including students at Harvard, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Swarthmore, Yale and others. The Joy of Urdu is supporting this effort, that I am honoured to collaborate with.

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“The biggest win is to survive without becoming vindictive and not become that which we are fighting”

— Jailed chief editor’s son after accountability court in Pakistan again extends father’s physical remand

Photo leaked from NAB cell after MSR’s arrest March 12.

“Today was disappointing for us all…. But let me tell you why I am still standing. Because our Mir Shakil ur Rahman is”,  wrote Mir Ibrahim Rahman in a note to a WhatsApp group of Geo TV reporters Saturday after an accountability court again extended the physical remand of his father, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Editor-in-Chief Jang/Geo Media Group, for another 10 days.

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Remembering Mashal Khan at a time of despair, hope, and healing

Demonstration in Karachi for Mashal Khan. AFP file photo
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V for virus, V for vendetta… In ongoing case against media boss, calls to #FreeMirShakilurRehman fall on deaf ears

It is outrageous that for nearly a month now, chief editor and owner of the country’s largest media group has been behind bars. Mir Shakilur Rahman was arrested by Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau on March 12, in connection with a 34-year old land case. Leading lawyers agree that the case is baseless. They are among the many voices – journalists, international human rights organisations and media platforms, rival media groups, civil society organisations at home and abroad – outraged by this travesty of justice and urging MSR’s release #FreeMirShakilurRehman.

Leading international organisations have called for MSR’s release

The detention is widely seen as part of an ongoing attack on media freedom in Pakistan. The case, clearly motivated by vendetta, is particularly disturbing at a time when everyone needs to be on the same page in fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic. See my story in Naya Daur, also posted below with updates, about a maverick poet and intellectual with no affiliation to the Jang/Geo media group, on hunger strike since March 29 for MSR’s release.

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Tribute to a nationalistic hawk-turned-peacemonger with a SouthAsian vision

Lahore, 1992: Dr Syeda Hameed with Dr Mubashir Hasan, uncle, comrade and mentor. Photo by Reza Kazim.

With the world in the grip of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to find space for anything else. As horrors unfolded in country after country, exposing the hollowness behind military might, glittering capitalist facades, and exploitation, a gentle soul slipped into the hereafter at his house in Lahore. At 98, he had spent the last half of his life fighting for exactly the kind of egalitarian, people centered system that would have mitigated the ravages of Covid-19. There have been some wonderful tributes to Dr Mubashir Hasan. Two of the best I’ve seen are by his old friend I.A. Rehman and Indian journalist Nirupama Subramaniam in Indian Express, also published in Aman Ki Asha.

Below, my tribute to Dr M. in The News on Sunday last weekend, a follow up to my piece in The Wire earlier. Also below, two previously unpublished pieces I am honoured to present here — a powerful, poignant poem in Dr M’s memory by his niece in Delhi, and a lively little remembrance by a 12-year old based on her memories of the Chaukas collective meetings she attended with her mother, that led to A New Social Contract published by Dr M, 2016. Also linking here this tribute in Mainstream Weekly magazine, Kolkata, founded by Dr Mubashir’s friend Nikhil Chakravartty — “one of the greatest journalists of the subcontinent” as Dr M called him — now edited by his son Sumit Chakravartty.

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A conversation about coronavirus in USA and Pakistan

This afternoon I spoke to my hospitalist friend Dr Cyma Firdous while she was on a break. She told me her hospital in New Hampshire is preparing for a surge of coronavirus cases expected in a couple of weeks. They are feeling unprepared and under-equipped. If things are this bad in wealthy, developed USA, how bad will they get in Pakistan and other such countries? We decided to do a brief video conversation in Urdu and share it on social media to try and get across the urgency of the situation. Sharing here the gist of our discussion.

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