Blackwater furore and Kerry-Lugar Bill fracas

57042031There’s been a lot of hype over ‘Blackwater in Pakistan’ and the Kerry Lugar Bill. Below, two items providing some facts and perspective on both issues.

1. KERRY LUGAR BILL – background and facts

The government should bring this bill for assent before the Pakistani parliament. This will call the bluff of all those who are thundering for the benefit of the media. Taking the KL Bill to parliament will have a dual affect. First, it will shut these nay-sayers up and second, it will provide the requisite legitimacy to this aid (which, unfortunately, we cannot do without after all these years of skewed financial policies). No political party that hopes to form government in Islamabad will formally vote against it. The government needs to pull itself together and put up a solid defence – ie. all the conditionalities are part of state policy anyway; it is the first time the US has committed itself to democracy and a democratic government in Pakistan. Any party opposing the Bill will send out the message that it does not own the current policies on counter terrorism and non-proliferation.

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Chance encounters of a connected kind

My article published in Dialogue section of The News on Sunday, Sept 26, 2009


By Beena Sarwar

Dr Sarwar, Karachi, Jan 2007. Photo by Anwar Sen Roy

Dr Sarwar, Karachi, Jan 2007. Photo by Anwar Sen Roy

There is something about unexpectedly bumping into unexpected people and making meaningful connections on various levels.

The common thread running through two strings of such encounters I had recently was my late father, Dr M. Sarwar — his being who he was, and his passing on, led to these moments and the associations they evoked.

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Zaheda Hina on Jagannath Azad

Zaheda Hina with Indian journalist Jatin Desai, at a peace seminar in Karachi held to honour Nirmala Deshpande. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Zaheda Hina with Indian journalist Jatin Desai, at a peace seminar in Karachi held to honour Nirmala Deshpande. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Since my article Bring Back Jagannath Azad’s Pakistan Anthem published in The Hindu on Sept 22 (slightly shorter version first published by Dawn on Sept 19) I have learnt that my ignorance on the matter was all the more deplorable given the previously published material that I have since come across. Besides Zaheer Kidvai’s recollections in his blog, that I mentioned in my blog post later, there is Adil Najam’s June 2009 post Prof. Jagan Nath Azad: Creator of Pakistan’s First National Anthem. Najam refers to Zaheer’s post as well as an article by Ashfaque Naqvi in A word about Jagan Nath Azad (Dawn, June 27, 2004), which contains a passing mention of this little known fact about Azad’s authoring of the first national anthem.

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‘No nuclear test, no missile test, just test cricket’

Cricket fanCongratulations Pakistan. Ok, so it wasn’t a test match – but is cricket a surrogate war between India and Pakistan – or a shared love that can help transcend animosities? Just found this article I wrote in March 2005, my column Personal Political published in The News op-ed and the Indian weekly Tehelka… Not much has changed since then.

Below, the version published in Tehelka, April 5, 2005

Cricket and the Peace Constituency

Ordinary Pakistanis and Indians are happy to recognise each other A Pakistani Girl Promoting Peace between Pakistan and India

Beena Sarwar

Will he, won’t he, will he, won’t he…?” Yes, he will, confirmed the Indian Prime Minister’s Office on March 15, ending the speculation by announcing that General Pervez Musharraf would visit India for a one-day match in Delhi on April 17. Musharraf had made it clear that he would make the visit if invited — and everyone was waiting to see whether the invitation would be extended.

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Gyan Chand; Azad’s speech; Say No to State Religion; Positively Pakistani women; Why Pakistan should be in the EU – hilarious video

Prof. Jagan Nath Azad. Photo courtesy: Chander K. Azad, Jammu

Prof. Jagan Nath Azad. Photo courtesy: Chander K. Azad, Jammu

Post script to the post below: ‘Meet Gyan Chand, the Hindu diplomat of Pakistan’, by Amir Mir, Aug 10, 2009, which I had earlier missed and looked up after reading this letter – Minority Rights by Manoj Kumar, Karachi – in Dawn recently.

Posted on beena issues this morning:

1. A moving and powerful speech by Jagannath Azad (in beautiful Urdu)

2. PLEASE SEND YOUR COMMENTS AND SAY NO TO THE STATE RELIGION OF PAKISTANSupport the Campaign for Amendment in Article 2 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 (text below)

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Remembering those who have passed on

Minal and Maha with Dr Sarwar (Zakia in background), Jan 2009

Minal and Maha with Dr Sarwar (Zakia in background), Jan 2009

Post on Dr Sarwar blog, Sept 21, 2009 (Also posted recently there – photos of Dr Sarwar & Zakia Sarwar, 1980s, with Ali Sardar Jafri and Ismat Chughtai in Karachi, Sehba Sarwar’s poem Doc 101… and more):

As we celebrate special occasions like birthdays, Eid, Christmas or Navratri, we especially remember those who have passed on. Here is a note from Sehba in Houston relating a conversation with her daughter Minal who turns five years old on Sept 21 (happy birthday Minal, and thanks for your words of wisdom and love):

Right now, we’re in the car doing errands. Minal had a busy morning playing with one of my friend’s kids. Suddenly, she says: “Every one dies no matter what.”

Reně and I nod.

She adds: “I miss Nana. Sometimes I stay up at night and cry for him.”

“You do?” I ask.

“I wish I’d talked to him before he died.”

This just came out of the blue. We hadn’t talked about Babba for sometime. But maybe she was thinking about him because we skyped with Beena this morning.

Bring back Jagannath Azad’s Pakistan anthem

The death in custody of another ‘blasphemy accused’ once again highlights what many of us have long been stressing: a need to repeal the ‘blasphemy laws’, train the police force, revise the education curriculum to remove the hate-mongering, and enforce law and order with a firm hand.

Below, my article on Pakistan’s first national anthem by Jagan Nath Azad (slightly abbreviated version published today in Dawn ‘Another time, another anthem’)

Prof. Jagan Nath Azad. Photo courtesy: Chander K. Azad, Jammu

Prof. Jagan Nath Azad. Photo courtesy: Chander K. Azad, Jammu

Beena Sarwar

As children we learnt that Pakistan didn’t have a national anthem until the 1950s. My journalist uncle Zawwar Hasan used to tell us of a reporter friend who visited China in the early 1950s. Asked about Pakistan’s national anthem, he sang the nonsensical ‘laralapa laralapa’.

If these journalists were unaware that Pakistan had a national anthem — commissioned and approved in 1947 by by no less a person than the country’s founder and first Governor General, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, long before Hafeez Jullandri’s Persianised lyrics were adopted as the anthem in 1954 — ordinary citizens may be forgiven for their ignorance. Continue reading

‘Life Goes on: Women Dead in Karachi Stampede’

Poverty and desperation coupled with private charity being distributed in a chaotic manner led to nearly 20 women and girls being killed in a stampede in Old Karachi on Sept 14. The Dawn aptly headlined its report ‘Crushed by poverty’. See also Shahid Husain’s report in The News ‘Food security is a fundamental human right’.

Free flour was being distributed in a busy neighbourhood when the stampede happened [AFP]
Free flour was being distributed in a busy neighbourhood when the stampede happened [AFP]

Below, temporal’s poem for the women who died, posted in Baithak:
‘Life Goes on: Women Dead in Karachi Stampede’
is nay kiya yeh
oos nay kiya yeh
aisa nahiN kerna chahiyay thaa
waisa nahiN kerna chahiyay thaa

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Media scandalising… Meera; Jack Lew’s briefing on Pakistan

Filmstar Meera - blitzed by hypocritical, misogynistic journalists (courtesy Open magazine)

Filmstar Meera - blitzed by hypocritical, misogynistic journalists (photo courtesy Open magazine)

Many journalists in Pakistan appear to have forgotten their responsibility to fairness and ethics. In one ongoing drama, they are going overboard about the ‘scandal’ of film actress Meera’s ‘marriage’, with anchor persons relishing her lack of sophistication and Geo going as far as to broadcast her interview AFTER she’s asked for the camera to be turned off. She may be lying but should anchors sneer? And should producers allow the camera to continue rolling after the subject has asked it to be turned off? But then, she’s a woman, she’s a film actress, she’s considered fair game… Is that fair? Here’s a sound antidote to all the drivel about Meera – A Girl Called Meera by Faiza S. Khan.

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We Don’t Feel Like Celebrating with Israel This Year

Naomi KleinWe Don’t Feel Like Celebrating with Israel This Year
Article by Naomi Klein – September 8th, 2009

Last para of Klein’s article:
….This is the context in which a small group of us drafted The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration Under Occupation, which has been signed by the likes of Danny Glover and Ken Loach (we will be unveiling hundreds of new names on the first day of TIFF). Contrary to the many misrepresentations, the letter is not calling for a boycott of the festival. It is a simple message of solidarity that says: We don’t feel like partying with Israel this year. It is also a small way of saying to Mona Al Shawa and millions of other Palestinians living under occupation and siege that we have not forgotten them, and we are still outraged.

It’s not too late to add your name

Adding Your Name
To add your name to this letter, please send your name, occupation and country to
We will accept signatures until September 14, 2009

For further reading on this issue:

Letter by Canadian filmmaker John Greyson on withdrawing his film from the Toronto International Film Festival in protest against City to City:
(not sure I agree with his decision to withdraw his film, but it reminds me of the Modi award going to Gujarat – ‘business as usual’ -beena)

Response by TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey to Greyson’s withdrawal and this petition:

Report in Israeli daily Haaretz:

Report in Guardian newspaper, UK:

Statement by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

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