India, Pakistan #SayNoToWar: Global StandOut for Peace in South Asia

Salima-Abhi-27Feb

Lahore, 28 Feb: Salima Hashmi holds up a placard demanding that Pakistan return the captured Indian Air Force pilot – a step that Pakistan announced that day.

As tensions between India and Pakistan continue to keep the region hostage people everywhere are stepping up to urge the governments to resolve all issues through dialogue. They include:

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Asma Jahangir: A meaningful life, an inspiring legacy

I wrote this piece for a web dossier produced by Heinrich Boell Foundation for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights‘ 70th anniversary 2018 – Asma Jahangir – ein bedeutungsvolles Leben, ein inspirierendes Erbe. Sharing now, a year after Asma Jahangir has passed on. This piece doesn’t include her role for peace in the region and in the UN system that I’ve written about earlier and also detailed in a longer essay to be printed in an anthology titled Voices of Freedom from Asia and the Middle East, co-edited by Mark Dennis and Rima Abunasser, TCU, is under publication by SUNY Press. Above: Asma Jahangir at her office; still from my documentary Mukhtiar Mai: The struggle for justice (2006)

By Beena Sarwar

The field on the outskirts of Lahore was full of workers waiting to hear the woman from the city speak. They squatted on their haunches with dull hopeless eyes, the drab greys and browns of their clothes at one with the earth they fashioned into bricks to bake in bhattas — kilns that dot the rural landscape of Punjab and upper Sindh. For their back-breaking labour they were paid in kind, leading to generations of indebtedness as the traditional informal economy transitioned into a cash-based system.

Brick kiln-Shehryar Warraich:News Lens-2015

Brick kiln workers, Pakistan. Photo: Shehryar Warraich/News Lens, 2015

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Celebrating Fahmida Riaz in Delhi

Fahmida Riaz-Delhi prog

Post updated to add the programme just received from Delhi; gratified that it includes the poem I posted here earlier, “Palwashe Muskurao”.

Great to know that friends in Delhi are organising this wonderful event to commemorate the great poet Fahmida Riaz – Fahmida Khala to me, she called my father Sarwar Bhai. I love the poem of hope and inspiration she recited, Palwashe Muskurao (Palwasha, smile), at the commemoration we organised for him and the student movement he led. Here’s information about the upcoming event in Delhi, fittingly, on Valentine’s Day, that I put together for the Aman Ki Asha website.

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Happenings Fahmida Riaz-Delhi-Feb 2019

What: ‘Transcending Boundaries, Defying Taboos:
The Poetry of Fahmida Riaz’

When: Thursday, 14 February 2019, 6.30 pm
Where: India Habitat Centre, Delhi
Who: Open and free to the public
Co-hosted by the PIPFPD and India Habitat Centre.

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Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle
Ab tak kahan chhupey they bhai!

(You have turned out to be just like us
Where were you hiding till now, brothers!)

Fahmida Riaz wrote her prescient poem in 1996 when the BJP first emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha. When she recited it nearly twenty years later before an Indian audience in April 201, “it carried a weight equal to the history of South Asia itself” say members of the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace & Democracy. Continue reading

Shutting down online #fakenews factories

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Got this email and image from Avaaz, subject line, “We’ve been hijacked”, that feels too important not to share.  Here’s my biggest takeaway from it:

During Brazil’s election, Avaaz ran an experiment — just six people were given basic training to investigate the propaganda networks, and they shut down online fake news factories that reached *16 million* people. Imagine what ten times as many could do!

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A space of one’s own

“Your walks are such a contrast to the events in Gujranwala in response to the women’s marathon,” wrote Saneeya Hussain in response to my Personal Political column published in The News on Sunday on 3 April 2005. “I keep thinking Pakistan shd change its name to Absurdistan or some such thing”. (Remember the women’s marathon?)

Since the article is not available on the web anymore I thought I’d post it here. The photo is more recent but since I wrote this piece in 2005, what has changed and what remains the same? 

Seaview beach, early morning. Photo: Beena Sarwar, 2016

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Modern day slavery: Janitorial workers in Pakistan

Email from Naeem Sadiq in Karachi, with this note: Modern-day- slavery (You may like to write to CM Sindh on this issue)

January 11, 2019

Mr. Imran Khan, 

Prime Minister of Pakistan

Abolish the cruelest form of modern-day- slavery, child labour and exploitation being practiced at Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC), Karachi.

1.     I would like to bring to your notice some specific details of the cruelty, slavery, child-labour and inhuman exploitation. Continue reading

“It is the values and the teachers that make TCF what it is”

Education isn’t just about bricks and mortar… I hadn’t planned to write this report but the story I heard was so inspirational, and the overall event so well done, that I just had to. Shoutout to TCF Boston, The Citizens Foundation and all the wonderful volunteers.  My report in The News on Sunday, Dec. 9 2018 on TCF Boston’s fundraising gala last weekend that will contribute towards more schools in Pakistan. This may be just a drop in the ocean, but each drop contributes to the ocean. 

Noman-parents

Both Noman’s parents died when he was little. The school saved him. Photo: Beena Sarwar

For Muhammad Noman, growing up in poverty with invalid parents in a low-income locality in Karachi, being forced by gentrification to relocate to another locality with no gas, electricity or running water, was the easy part.

It was in 2010, just after family moved to Khuda Ki Basti, the sprawling housing society on the outskirts of the city, that tragedy struck. Noman’s mother died of kidney failure. In 2011, his father, who had severe asthma, passed away.

“When you are poor in Pakistan, you don’t have access to the best medical care,” as Noman understatedly put it. Continue reading

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