So beautiful and so bitter: Fatima Bhutto and her versions of truth

fatima-bhutto

Photo: Courtesy Mag Weekly

Post updated Jan 2019, on request by her agent, to embed a link to Fatima Bhutto’s profile page with the mention below “to help her to gain more traction and booking requests”. Interestingly the profile mentions an ‘aunt’ who was ‘violently killed’ without saying *who* the ‘aunt’ was… Also updated to add another link: if I can do that for Fatima, why not for Victoria Schofield?

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She’s beautiful and bright (looks so much like her late aunt Benazir) – no wonder journalists (outside Pakistan notably) have been bowled over, leading to an overdose of fawning media attention (Khuswant Singh’s article takes the cake) in which few have tried to go beyond the surface.

Her father Murtaza’s cousin Tariq Islam (Z.A. Bhutto’s sister’s son) is one of the few people to have publicly challenged her version of the truth in at least one aspect. In her recently published, highly publicised book, Fatima Bhutto alleges that Z.A. Bhutto wrote to Murtaza to set up a militant base Afghanistan to wage an armed struggle against the military dictator, Zia ul Haq. Continue reading

Balochistan: Condemn the target killing of Nazima Talib

Quetta University teachers protest against Nazima Talib's murder. Photo courtesy Dawn

Another senseless death. Photo: courtesy BBC

Elaborating on the note posted to my yahoogroup this morning:
Condemn the cold-blooded target killing of Prof. Nazima Talib, gunned down while on her way in a rickshaw to the Department of Mass Communications of Balochistan University where she taught for 23 years. BLA claims credit… How can they hope to succeed if they kill educationists? Her murder is a devastating reminder of how the innocent pay for the political ambitions of the ruthless.

See also reports in CriticalPPP on the murder of Prof. Nazima Talib and report in Dawn today about the professor’s burial in Karachi. She leaves behind an elderly widowed mother and a son, 24.

HRCP says: “It is unfortunate that most of senior Baloch leaders have not condemned these ruthless killings strongly enough, some of them present conspiracy theories to divert the blame from the Baloch organisations… The discontent among the Baloch youth could not be assuaged though several months passed since the government made commitments to take measures to win over the Baloch nationalists, especially the young Baloch, under the Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan Package. The murder of the woman teacher at the Balochistan University should serve as a reminder to the powers that be that they need to act immediately and decisively to make things improve in the Balochistan province”. Complete statement at HRCP blog

TALES OF DEPRIVATION IN MINERAL-RICH PROVINCE in The Daily Tawar, Baluchistan, translation posted at NewAgeIslam

The Baloch people have a right to self-determination – A damning indictment of Pakistan’s continued military presence and human rights violations in Balochistan by the British activist Peter Tatchell, advocating Balochistan’s right to self-determination in Opendemocracy (thanks Anthony Barnett for flagging this)

Can a handkerchief bring peace? Indo-Pak school children’s campaign

HANKIES PEACE CHAIN initiative by Aman ki Asha, underway in India where thousands of schoolchildren have already signed & drawn peace messages for Pakistan. Launched yesterday in Pakistan. Below: text of the ad pubished in Pakistan on Apr 28, 2010 in The News and Jang

CAN A HANDKERCHIEF BRING PEACE?

Perhaps not. But there’s one small thing it could do. It could clean up a small space in the minds of our children. A little square piece where peace can bloom again. Just have your child write or draw a peace message on a handkerchief to children across the border and join in forming a chain that will stretch all the way from Lahore to Amritsar.

The Aman ki Asha peace chain is a nationwide schools initiative that will join hundreds of thousands of hankies in a chain of friendship that will stretch across generations to come.

Schools wishing to participate, please contact Aman ki Asha at amankiasha@janggroup.com.pk or phone 021-3221-5239; fax 021-3221-5238

Stranded in Doha

Article published in The News on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010

Beena Sarwar

Who would ever have thought that a volcano with an unpronounceable name, in Iceland of all places, would suddenly erupt and disrupt the world’s air traffic for days and days – nearly a week as I write this.

Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be among thousands if not millions of ‘volcanic ash zadgaan’ (affectees) stranded in various places around the world. I’ve had tidal wave nightmares (trapped between an approaching wall of water and a cliff – Paradise Point off the Karachi shore, to be precise) but a volcano thousands of miles away? Not on my horizon until now.

The bad news began trickling in on Thursday night as I packed for a four-day trip to Berlin to participate in a `Trialogue’ between Pakistani, Indian and Afghan delegates, organised by the German organisation Fredrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). My mother, in the UK for a TESOL (teachers of English to speakers of other languages) conference, was due back Friday afternoon. We were to cross each other in the skies. Her flight was of course cancelled. Continue reading

Kashmir solution ‘a hair’s breadth away’ – Kasuri at Aman ki Asha seminar

Aman ki Asha panel on 'A Common Destiny', April 23, 2010, Lahore

Back in Karachi after an eventful visit to Lahore for the Aman ki Asha ‘A Common Destiny’ conference that started on April 22, with a closed door discussion between distinguished Indians and Pakistanis deliberating on issues of strategic importance and the need for peace between the two countries. They agreed on this joint statement at the end of the day.

The following day, at a televised panel discussion, conducted by Iftikhar Ahmad of Geo TV,  former foreign minister Khursheed Kasuri elaborated on something he has hinted at before – that Pakistan and India had been a hair’s breadth away from a settlement on Kashmir. What stymied the agreement was instability within Pakistan and Musharraf’s ouster of the Chief Justice which led to a nation-wide movement. Following the panel discussion, he talked in more detail to some of the journalists present, including the Times of India’s senior editor Ranjan Roy, and Babar Dogar of The News. Their detailed stories, merged and published the following day with a joint byline, are available at this link. In brief: Continue reading

Aman ki Asha Press release: Dialogue on ‘A Common Destiny’

LAHORE, Apr 22: Prominent academics, writers and analysts from India and Pakistan met today at a closed-door seminar titled “A Common Destiny”, the first of Aman ki Asha’s series of discussions on issues of strategic importance.

Delegates at the first of Aman ki Asha’s series of discussions on issues of strategic importance to India and Pakistan, titled “A Common Destiny”, agreed on the need for peace between the two countries, and the importance of a sustained dialogue to resolve bilateral issues including Jammu & Kashmir, terrorism, water-sharing, trade and investment. Continue reading

Remembering Saneeya, five years on

Zohra Yusuf's tribute to Saneeya in 'The Herald' - one of dozens of articles about this extraordinary activist, journalist and wonderful human being

Hard to believe it’s five years already since we lost Saneeya to asthma and a traffic jam in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Our mutual friend in Sri Lanka, Nalaka Gunawardene remembers her in a blog post today titled “Remembering Saneeya Hussain of Absurdistan, five years on…”.

“Absurdistan” is the delightfully whimsical word Saneeya coined,  in her email to me in March 2005 in response to news of the attack on women participating in a ‘mixed’ (non-segregated) marathon in Gujranwala. Just two days later, we learnt that she had gone into a coma, from which she never recovered. I used “Absurdistan” as the headline of another article after she’d passed away.

Saneeya, we will always miss you. Thanks to all those who are  supporting the Saneeya Hussain Trust run by her family and friends to provide educational scholarships to deserving women and girls.

See my chapter “Uphill and downstream in Pakistan”, on Saneeya and environmental journalism in the recently published collection “The Green Pen” by Sage, India.

The short version of my documentary Celebrating Saneeya is up at Youtube

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