Women warriors for peace and a viral Punjabi music video

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A poetic dialogue between two neighbours separated by an insurmountable wall goes viral. Pictured here: Asma Abbas and Bushra Ansari, performing their sister Neelum Bashir’s poem.

There’s been so much going on that I haven’t shared any updates here for a while. On Tuesday 11 Feb., Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave a talk on Pakistan and the Welfare State at Harvard that I reported on: “We can’t say we’re too poor to look after our people”, published in The News on Sunday, 17 Feb.  I was going to post it with an important paragraph that got left out of my report when I cut it down, but the Pulwama attack of 14 Feb overshadowed everything. I’ll share it at some point. Continue reading

Remembering Kuldip Nayar, journalist, activist, peacemonger

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A precious photo: Kuldip Nayar, Nandita Das and Asma Jahangir at Wagah border. Photo: courtesy Seema Mustafa, The Citizen

I was sad to hear about the passing away of veteran journalist and peacemonger Kuldip Nayar, 95, in Delhi. His passing in general evoked great sadness — as well as a resolve to keep working for his values — not only in India but the land of his birth, Pakistan. I had got to know Kuldip ji over the years through the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) that I joined as a young journalist from Lahore when it was launched in 1994-95, as the largest people-to-people organization between the two countries. The last time I met him was at Allahabad train station a few years ago. The lawyer S.M.A. Kazmi and our family friend Zia ul Haq — the comrade, not the general, himself now over 90 were dropping me off and picking him up. He got the surprise of his life. We didn’t have much time to chat as my train was about to leave but I treasure that memory.

Sharing here the two pieces I put together for Aman Ki Asha (hope for peace), the India-Pakistan website I edit. One is pegged on a tribute from Dr Syeda Hameed in Delhi his long-time friend and fellow-activist, former member of the Planning Commission of India and founder trustee of the Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia (WIPSA) and the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation. She aptly termed him the “gentle giant of India Pakistan peace” in her wonderful piece in The Citizen. See also her account of the Aman Dost Yatra (peace and friendship march) at the border. In the other piece, I put together other tributes paid to him by Pakistanis.

Here are links to both pieces: Remembering the ‘gentle giant of India Pakistan peace’,  and Pakistanis pay tribute to Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar.

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(L-R) Dr Syeda Hameed, Navaid Hamid, Kuldip Nayar, Maulana Syed Jalauddin Umari. File photo – Indiatomorrow.ne.

Khan, Sidhu, Vajpayee, and India Pakistan relations

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Navjot Singh Sidhu has a visa to attend Imran Khan’s swearing in ceremony. Why can’t visas be easy for everyone? Image courtesy: CatchNews

August 17 this year marks 30 years since the mid-air explosion that killed the military dictator General Ziaul Haq in 1988. This year, Zia’s death anniversary ironically took a back seat to the election of the country’s new prime minister. Today, the 342-seat National Assembly voted on the prime minister, who of course was Imran Khan. His speech and that of Shahbaz Sharif were sadly marred by sloganeering in the gallery from their opponents. Everyone listened attentively to Bilawal Bhutto’s maiden speech in parliament – well spoken, reminded the speaker and prime minister-elect of their responsibilities and paid tribute to those who have given their lives for democracy. Very much hope both PTI and PML-N observe more decorum in coming sessions. Also worth listening to: Mohsin Dawar’s maiden speech, courageously calling for accountability beyond politicians and parliament. Tomorrow, Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony will be attended, among others, by Indian Punjab minister for culture and tourism, Navjot Singh Sidhu, himself a former cricketer. That, and former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s passing away yesterday are sharp reminders of the urgent need for peace between the two countries. I wrote about Vajpayee and his significance in terms of this issue for the India Today Group Digital, published in Daily O today (text below).  Whatever his flaws and political moorings, when it came to building peace in the region, Vajpayee showed the kind of moral courage and political will that today’s leaders would do well to learn from.

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Asma. A profound loss. An enduring inspiration

Asma-bbcAsma Jahangir: Pakistan human rights champion dies – BBC News

“Profoundly saddened by news of dear Asma’s passing. She has left us a rich legacy to follow. In condolence and solidarity”, writes Professor Badri Raina from New Delhi in an email to me and I. A. Rehman, former Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan that Asma Jahangir founded in 1987. “Our one tribute must be to keep up our human faith and human courage”.

Here is I. A. Rehman’s tribute to Asma speaking at the Karachi Literature Festival, soon after hearing the sad news. When I spoke to him later, he said, “I didn’t like doing it. Didn’t like it at all”.  Continue reading

Raza Khan, still missing. Why does it matter?

BringBackRaza3Raza Khan’s disappearance, like that of Zeenat Shehzadi earlier, is part of a new phase of such illegal abductions in Pakistan, violating due process and rule of law. Targeting young people from ordinary backgrounds, without social capital or networks, signals the miltablishment’s growing desperation to control the narrative on the military, religion and India, I argue in this opinion piece for the Washington PostIn Pakistan, promoting peace with India can be bad for your health — and freedom (Dec. 22, 2017; updated text below). Since then, a journalist covering this issue narrowly escaped an abduction attempt in Islamabad, and another journalist was picked up and beaten in Karachi, then released. 
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Pakistan: Another peace activist goes missing #FindRaza

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Raza Khan with a copy of the One Million Signature Campaign against violence against women, Pakistan

On Saturday, peace activist Raza Khan, 37, went “missing” in Lahore shortly after he had organised a public discussion about the recent ‘dharna’ (sit-in) on the country’s capital that ended in ignominious surrender to those seeking power in the guise of religion. He is a law-abiding, passionate campaigner for peace in the region particularly India, for gender equality and interfaith harmony — all of these are anathema to the keepers of Pakistan’s ‘ideology’. Please sign the online petition urging the government of Pakistan to find him. Share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #FindRaza. A twitter campaign for Raza is planned at 4 p.m. (Pakistan time today, Dec 5), hashtag #FindRaza. More case details below. Continue reading

A minute for peace with Pope Francis, June 8, 2017, 1:00 pm

Cross-posted from Aman ki Asha

A minute for peace, June 8, 2017, 1:00 pm

Pope Francis arrives in Assisi, Italy for the World Day of Prayer for Peace at the Sacred Convent, Sept. 20, 2016. Credit: L’Osservatore Romano

India Pakistan peace supporters have participated in several global prayer vigils in past years. What have these actions accomplished? We don’t know for sure but we believe that there is power in prayer, individual and collective, by persons of any faith or secular vision. Perhaps things would be even worse if we didn’t. We share here an appeal from a humanist of the highest order. Continue reading

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