Hope for young Ateeq, a real life ‘Ramchand Pakistani’

Below, a report I wrote on Feb 23, published in The News aman ki asha page of Feb 24 (see accompanying report ‘Prisoners of archaic laws‘ by Rabia Ali), shortly before 12-year old Ateeq’s hearing in Amritsar on Feb 26 – which Asma Jahangir and I.A. Rehman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan managed to attend.

12-year old Ateeq from Lahore, currently in the Juvenile Jail in Hoshiarpur, India

Here is an update from Asad Jamal in Lahore on Feb 26:
Release orders were passed for the 12 years old Pakistani boy in Indian Juvenile (Hoshiarpur) Prison after Asma Jahangir appeared in the Juvenile Court in Amritsar today. Now the Pakistan authorities have to complete procedural matters and bring the boy back home. Asma Jahangir met the boy in Amritsar and found him traumatised. She had taken video film of the boy’s father as well some clothes for him. Local lawyers/activists arranged and distributed sweets after the court order. Continue reading

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CONVERSATIONS: Peace is hard work

Published in The News on Sunday, Political Economy section, aman ki asha page, Feb 21, 2010

CONVERSATIONS

Peace is hard work

A Pakistani and an Indian begin an email exchange, attempting to share their thoughts honestly, without fear and hostility, exploring what divides our countries, and seeking ways to bridge the divide

By Dilip D’Souza and Beena Sarwar

February 16 2010

Dear Beena,

I started writing this before Pune. When I heard about those 11 more senseless deaths, I decided to rewrite it. I want to start by saying how difficult horrors like this make it to remain committed to the idea of peace, of speaking the language of reason. Here’s the bottom line: most Indians believe that this latest attack, like previous attacks, was conceived in Pakistan. Continue reading

A standing ovation for an innings of the ages

Proud father with daughter at her graduation

Published in The News Feb 12, 2010

Pioneering sports journalist and statistician Gul Hameed Bhatti remembered

By Beena Sarwar

Karachi, Feb 12: There was laughter and some tears as friends, relatives and admirers gathered at an informal reference for the late veteran sports journalist and former Sports Editor The News, and former Editor The News Karachi Gul Hameed Bhatti, at The Second Floor community space near Defence Library.

Prominent speakers highlighted Bhatti’s thorough decency and honesty, selflessness, professionalism, his pioneering role in establishing cricket statistics in Pakistan and on a more personal level, his sense of fun, his love for music, cinema, food and off-colour jokes, his unreserved support of his journalist wife’s career and dedication to their children Kamil and Sara. Continue reading

Howard Zinn: from Pakistan with love and respect

The Zinn magic. Photo: Beena Sarwar

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of a cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness”

– Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn’s death on Jan 27 came as a shock to his friends and admirers around the world. The iconic historian, activist, and academic (Professor Emeritus, Boston University) was 87, frail, but in reasonable health. He had a heart attack while swimming, an activity he loved. As Arundhati Roy put it when she called his old friend David Barsamian of Alternative Radio: “Howard lived a glorious life and accomplished so much and to die swimming — what a way to go”.

Howard Zinn, Cambridge, Oct 2006 (photo: BJ Bullert)

David writes that Howard had rented a place with a swimming pool near the ocean for three weeks and “was thrilled to be escaping the dreaded Boston winter.”

A fluent Urdu/Hindi speaker, David sent this note to friends: “A light has gone out. There are new lights to be lit,” adding the following verse from Iqbal’s poetry:

Sitaron se aage jahan aur bhi hain
abhi ishq ke imtehan aur bhi
(Beyond these stars there are other galaxies
The real test of love is yet to come)

Continue reading

Horrific murder of Turkish girl reflects distorted notions of honour

The hole where a 16-year-old girl was buried alive by her relatives in Adiyaman, southeastern Turkey Photograph: HO/REUTERS (courtesy: The Guardian - report below)

Recently there was a report about the horrific murder of a Turkish girl, whose family buried her alive because she was talking to a boy. Turkey’s shame… but she’s not alone. Such incidents take place regularly in conservative, patriarchal societies that face all kinds of conflict in this day and age, among communities that have distorted notions of ‘honour’. ‘Honour killings’ take place in Muslim-majority Pakistan but similar stories also emerge from Hindu-majority India, where such murders take place among those belonging to the Hindu or Sikh faiths (often when the girl or boy involved belongs to a ‘lower’ caste), not just Muslims. I believe the issues are related to power and patriarchy. Religion is just a tool in that game, as are notions of ‘honour’. As I wrote when a similar case emerged in Pakistan (four women buried alive in Balochistan for wanting to marry of their own choice), there is no honour in killing. Below: text of the report that appeared in The Guardian, by Robert Tait in Istanbul, Feb 4, 2010:

Turkish girl, 16, buried alive for talking to boys

Death reopens debate over ‘honour’ killings in Turkey, which account for half of all the country’s murders Continue reading

Dolphin-watching, Karachi, and the fishermen’s lament

PERSONAL POLITICAL article written on Jan 26, 2010, published in The News on Sunday Footloose page Feb 7, as ‘Wild, pure magic of malhars’

Photo by MAHA SARWAR SHAHID, age 13

Beena Sarwar

Out on a fishing boat under a clear blue early morning sky to go dolphin watching, the violence, squabbles and tensions that mark daily life fade into irrelevance – including the recent tensions arising from the Indian Premier League’s refusal to bid for Pakistani cricketers.

We cruise the sparkling azure waters of the Arabian Sea parallel to the lengthy sand spit (imaginatively called ‘Sandspit’) along the Karachi coast. About five kilometres out to sea, we can still clearly see the recreational ‘huts’ that dot Sandspit beach. As we pass another fishing boat, the crews exchange greetings – just as highway truckers and bus drivers do. Continue reading

Adieu Gul Hameed Bhatti

Gul Hameed Bhatti as I will always remember him (photo courtesy GHB Facebook page)

Feb 5, 2010: Sad day. Woke up this morning to the news that Gul Hameed Bhatti had passed away last night. I knew he was not keeping well, but didn’t know how ill he was — dedicated journalist, sports editor, friend, equal rights upholder, and fine human being. Went to the funeral this afternoon and it brought back so many memories – the last time I was there was probably when his wife Razia Bhatti, founder editor of Newsline, died in 1996. I had known them both since 1981, when I was an intern at The Star evening paper, now also sadly no more. Razia was then editor of monthly Herald, down the corridor.

Gullast we spoke was when I called you about a story I was doing on the Pakistan Women’s Swimming Team for IPS, several months ago. Your own reports provided great material on the issue of course, like this 2008 story in The News on Sunday Sports page. My story got delayed several months because my father was very ill and subsequently passed away. I was relieved for him when his suffering was over, and Gul, I am relieved your suffering is over and that you are with your beloved Razia where ever you are, together again.
Continue reading

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