India /Pakistan – That elusive visa: You can’t just ‘Google it’

My article in The News’ weekly Aman ki Asha page today (also on the website and TOI blog)

“Ye mein, ye Yusuf”… That’s me, that’s Yusuf… Still from Google’s “Reunion” ad

Google’s tearjerker “Reunion” ad released on the web has tapped into a rising groundswell for peace between the people of India and Pakistan

By Beena Sarwar

The internet search engine Google’s moving, beautifully made little video “Reunion”, released on November 13 has gone viral. In less than a week, the ad on Youtube has been played over four million times, and shared endlessly on facebook, twitter and blogs, and posted on other video sharing portals like Vimeo (over 70,000 views). Continue reading

Google’s tearjerker ‘Reunion’ ad, and the ‘Milne Do’ campaign

“Reunion”, the moving, well made little video released by Google today is going viral. And it’s not just the one ad, there’s a playlist of five in the series – ‘fennel’, ‘cricket’, ‘Anarkali’, and ‘sugar-free’. If it doesn’t move you, you’ve got a heart of stone. And if oh, it was that easy. For Pakistanis and Indians to get visas to visit each other’s country is just short of impossible. Check out their visa requirements for each other’s nationals — Pakistan visa requirements for Indians, India visa requirements for Pakistanis – which includes the notorious Sponsorship Certificate “mandatory from 07/03/2011 for all visa applications”, to be signed and stamped by an Indian first class gazetted officer vouching for the Pakistani applicant. But let’s suspend disbelief for now, and  watch Google’s heartwarming Reunion video below. If you can’t access Youtube, here’s the Vimeo link.


AKA LogoIf the Reunion ad moved you, go to the Milne Do (Let people meet) petition link and sign (and share) the campaign against India Pakistan visa restrictions. Every voice counts. Text below. Continue reading

Beyond security issues: A ‘wow’ moment and an inspiring video

For TCF success stories visit http://bit.ly/HLP1Fq

For TCF success stories visit http://bit.ly/HLP1Fq

There are many positive initiatives taking place in the field of education in Pakistan, but The Citizens Foundation is the largest and most visible, and probably also the most professionally run. Even if you drop in on a school without prior notice, you’ll find the same quality and care. Concerned citizens (not just Pakistanis) got together recently in Boston to form a chapter to support TCF. Yasmin’s experience that I’ve written about (below, published in The News and in TOI blogs) echoes my own, many years ago when I visited a TCF school. Scroll right down for an inspiring short video interview of a TCF graduate. More success stories hereUpdate: Harvard Pakistan Student Group is starting a summer internship programme with TCF, starting Summer 2014 (will update with details as soon as they’re finalised). Continue reading

Dunya TV, jawab do, badtameezi ka hisab do – Citizens for Free and Responsible Media

CFRM logo
Letter from Citizens for Free and responsible Media, Pakistan, emailed to top executives of Dunya TV News, Mr. Mian Amer Mahmood, Mr Naveed Kashif, and Mr Sami Abrahim, signed by prominent journalists, academics, and professionals in support of Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy

Dunya TV screenshot

Screenshot from the show

Dear Dunya News,

We are writing to express our concern about the shameful incident at your TV channel on Oct 26, 2013, in which the anchor Kamran Shahid allowed his guest Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy to be abused and shouted at by another guest, violating Dunya News’ own code of conduct for anchors that is supposed to be monitored by a three-member editorial Board. Continue reading

Samina Quraeshi : Bridging worlds

Samina Quraeshi: always dazzling. Photo by Andreas Burgess

Samina Quraeshi: always dazzling. Photo by Andreas Burgess

My article in The News on Sunday today about Samina Quraeshi (October 12, 1944-September 25, 2013), who will be treasured as a movie maker, photographer, designer, architect, writer, city planner, storyteller, and on and on…  See her introduction to

By Beena Sarwar

While in Pakistan nearly a year ago, filming for her documentary, ‘The Other Half of Tomorrow’ on the complexities and empowering aspects of the lives of Pakistani women, Samina Quraeshi suffered a stroke that doctors feared she would not recover from. Miraculously, she did. Her own indomitable spirit, the best medical care, and undoubtedly the love and prayers of countless friends and well-wishers pulled the vivacious, versatile writer, artist, and designer back from the brink.

Her right side was left paralysed, but she carried on with her characteristic zest for life, even though, as she said sadly, “I can’t even hold my granddaughter.” Continue reading

“Why are India and Pakistan at war?” asks 14-year old Kshitij…

Like father like son: Samir and Kshitij Gupta

Like father like son: Samir and Kshitij Gupta

My article published in The News oped, TOI blogs and Aman ki Asha on Monday, Nov 4, 2013 

“Why are India and Pakistan at war?”

Beena Sarwar

Some days ago I got a call from my friend Samir Gupta, on his way home after picking up his son, 14-year old Kshitij, from a Delhi train station late at night. Kshitij was returning from a school trip with some 30 other students from Delhi Public School, Ghaziabad. They’d taken an early morning train to Amritsar and watched the flag-lowering ceremony at Wagah Border.

Samir, a passionate advocate of peace and good relations between India and Pakistan, asked Kshitij about the trip. Continue reading

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