Pakistani-American physicians express solidarity with the people of India

Urge South Asian governments to learn from India’s colossal tragedy and increase healthcare budgets, take urgent action to prevent similar crises in other countries

Screenshot from APPNE’s online campaign.
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Sharing grief and solidarity: South Asia regionalism

Even while grieving the loss of her father to Covid-19 the previous day, journalist Barkha Dutt was able to put aside her own pain to send out a powerful message to the world: “Don’t treat this as our problem alone,” she said in an interview to ITV.

Her father was one of over 2,500 Indians who reportedly succumbed to the coronavirus on Tuesday – the real numbers are suspected to be far higher as many dying at home are not counted as Covid victims. If the Covid-19 crisis “erupts” in India, it will “hit the world.” Countries understandably want to shut borders as a “necessary” short term response and put their citizens first but “we live in a world where we cannot be separated indefinitely,” she added.

A number of us had made a similar plea underscoring the connected nature of today’s world and the regionalism of South Asia, at an online discussion originally aimed to focus on Khelne Do (play for peace) on Sunday under the series title – Imagine! Neighbours in Peace’. We changed the focus at the last minute to share grief and solidarity as the situation in India spiraled out of control.

See press release below.

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Imagine! Neighbours in peace – #KhelneDo! Play for peace

Sharing below the press release of an event we’re organising this weekend. Free and open to the public. Registration required. Scroll below for details.

Sunday April 25, online event

An international squash player, a former test cricketer, an eminent South Asian political commentator, a cricket star and well-known sports journalists will come together this weekend to bat for peace at the online event ‘Khelne Do – Imagine! Neighbours in Peace’. 

Event poster courtesy Vishal Sharma / @southasiapeace
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Understanding life

Samina Saad, October 1961 – February 2021

My cousin Asif Saad wrote this moving and insightful piece about our dearest Mina Baji who left us recently, posted to his website Open Minds Consulting. Shared here with permission.

Some treasures from my sister’s brave soul

Self-help literature places a lot of emphasis on ‘finding your purpose’. The coronavirus pandemic recently snatched away my elder sister who was very dear and close to me. The tragedy leaves me looking at life through a very different lens.

As I re-visit what Samina Saad stood for, I realise that ‘finding your purpose’ is not about finding some great ultimate purpose but making the best of what life throws at you – the lemons and lemonade stuff. Baji, as we fondly called her, taught me about being bold and brave and living life as you yourself imagine it.

It’s not that a sense of purpose is not important. The point is that arriving at your purpose is about starting somewhere and following the process. Whatever feels meaningful to you can be your purpose and it may be different at different times.

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India-Pakistan dialogue must continue, say peace activists at virtual brainstorming session

Wonderful discussions at a brainstorming meeting some of us got together for. Thanks to Mandira Nayar – granddaughter of the late, great Kuldip Nayar for putting this statement together.

Press statement, March 28, 2021:

India and Pakistan peace activists across time zones came together for a virtual brainstorming session on March 28, inspired by the work of giants like Dr Mubashir Hasan, Asma Jahangir, Kuldip Nayar and Nikhil Chakravartty and others. On the agenda was the way forward for the movement, how to invigorate it by involving more allies, younger people and expatriates.

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Citizens’ appeal for Myanmar’s people against military repression

In the wake of Myanmar’s deadliest day so far, over 100 killed by security forces on Saturday, including children, some at protests, others in their own homes, friends in Kathmandu speak for many around the world with their statement of support for the people of Myanmar and appeal to their government to act.

“You messed with the wrong generation”… Feb 12, 2021 protest. Reuters photo

Citizens’ Appeal for of Myanmar’s People against Repression by the Military

and Demand for Government of Nepal to Act

Kathmandu, 28 March 2021

We undersigned citizens of Nepal are proud of the Myanmar people’s valorous stand for democracy, appalled by the murderous suppression by the Tatmadaw military, and distressed by the lack of adequate response from the governments of South Asia and globally.

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Talking to the Indian diaspora on India-Pakistan: Youth, Media, Aspirations, Common Issues

A couple of weekends ago I was invited to share my thoughts with Indian Diaspora Washington DC Metro on a topic close to my heart: India-Pakistan: Youth, Media, Aspirations, Common Issues. I posted the information to social media and was amazed at the response – the most I’ve had for any post in a long time. An indication of the passions and aspirations associated with this issue. Sharing a recording of the video below.

Coincidentally, this event took place barely a week after the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan’s agreement that came into effect at midnight Feb. 24/25, to implement the 2003 Ceasefire that couldn’t have happened without high level approval. Then a couple of days ago, the Pakistan Army chief in a speech reached out to India, saying it’s time to bury the past, move forward – read my friend Nirumpama Subramaniam’s analysis in The Indian Express here.

Here’s the talk I gave. They edited out the worst of the abuses. but you can still see some of the trolling that took place. Just a glimpse of what we are up against when we stand for peace, countering the military-industrial complex:

(ends)

So much human suffering – and for what?

Sharing here a piece I wrote published in The Wire and later in Aman Ki Asha about a poor man from a tiny village on the India-Pakistan border who went missing in 2008. For nine years his family didn’t know where he was. But his government knew for four years before the family learnt from another released prisoner that their loved one was in a prison across the border.

Under-trial for three years, he then served a five-year conviction – but remained imprisoned for three more years while the government dawdled over verifying his nationality.

When they finally repatriated him at the end of January this year following court orders, he was made to travel 1000 km upcountry, then wait for three more days at a border town until police from his home state went to bring him back, another 1000 km downcountry. Here’s a map I made about his enforced travels:

Ismail Sama’s short journey across the border (small arrow) – and his long journey home. Fisherfolk caught violating the maritime border also have to endure this when imprisoned on the other side.

Read the full story at The Wire: India-Pakistan Relations: What the Kafkaesque Case of a Repatriated Cattle-Herder Tells Us, or at the Aman Ki Asha (hope for peace) website that I edit.

Here’s a follow up story by Gopal B. Kateshiya, ‘Coming back is second birth for me’: Kutch man returns home after 13 years in Pakistan jail, The Indian Express. Extract: “A scorpion stung me and I felt giddy. I lost my direction. Next morning, around 10.30 am, Pakistan rangers caught me, telling me I had intruded into their country. They took me to hospital and after my condition improved, they handed me over to Inter Services Intelligence (ISI),” said Ismail, son of a farmer.

Ismail Sama with his family: Reunited and it feels so good. Photo: Courtesy Indian Express.

Thirteen years is a long time. The story would be remarkable if it was a one-off but sadly, such incidents are not rare.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Here's a report published some years ago which outlines some of the main problems (PDF). Here’s a report published some years ago which outlines some of the main problems (PDF).

As journalists around the world face growing threats, President Biden must lead by example

An oped that my fellow professor of journalism James McManus at Emerson College and I co-wrote recently, published in The Wire:

As the newly-sworn in United States President Joseph Biden begins his tenure, he has a lot of salvaging to do from the wreckage left by his predecessor.

Representational image. Illustration: Wikimedia Commons

One of the more disturbing messages arising out of the attack by violent pro-Trump insurrectionists at the US Capitol on January 6 involved frightening threats to a free press. Scrawled on a door at the building were the words: “Murder the Media.”

That pithy, vile phrase represented the raw culmination of five years of rhetorical attacks by Donald Trump and his political allies against critical media coverage.

Read the rest of the oped here: Why Restoring Press Freedom Globally Should Take Precedence on Biden’s Priority List

Stop Hazara killings #BostonWithHazara

#BostonWithHazara: Silent vigil at Copley Square in below freezing temperature. My mother Zakia Sarwar in the middle with her pink pom pom hat.

PERSONAL POLITICAL

Even as media attention focused on the goings on at America’s capital where protestors shocked the world by storming the Capitol Building (nothing shocking for Pakistanis used to such attempts to subvert democracy) another drama — tragedy rather — unfolded in Quetta, Pakistan.

This too is not new. The target killings. The silent, and the not-so-silent protests. Standing in front of the Boston Public Library at Copley Square in the freezing cold, in solidarity with the Hazara protestors who are also out there in below freezing temperatures of Quetta.

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