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

Raza- million signature-VAW

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

India/Pakistan: Thought leaders try to build a bridge to peace


Just a few of the hundreds putting their weight behind the resolution. Collage by Farhan Ahmed

Without expecting overnight transformation, over 500 eminent signatories from both countries are hoping to create a ripple effect that changes how citizens and governments view each other. My piece in The Wire about the recent citizens’ resolution that urges South Asian giants India and Pakistan “to take all steps possible towards improving relations” and aims to counter the prevailing atmosphere of hostility between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. 


Chomsky: Happy to endorse this “excellent statement”

Can the endorsements from significant, leading thinkers create a ripple effect of a “pebble thrown in a pond”, as one political leader hoped? The fact that he did not publicly endorse the statement while supporting it privately speaks to the reluctance of mainstream politicians to take positions perceived as unpopular in the public realm. Going against the tide created by political rhetoric and media hype requires courage, given the risk of being pilloried as a ‘traitor’.

Kishwar Naheed

Kishwar Naheed: Appeal to writers to sign on

But the 900 plus endorsements garnered in days by a loose coalition of activists and journalists – peacemongers – after the resolution was circulated privately shows that many are willing to take that risk. The signatories’ list, updated daily online by volunteers at various websites including Aman ki Asha, includes many who are not the ‘usual suspects’ – top ranking retired military personnel, parliamentarians and diplomats. In fact, the endorsements read like a who’s who of intellectuals, artists, journalists, filmmakers, lawyers, historians, physicians, businesspeople, economists and students in the region and beyond… Read more  

India Pakistan people’s peace resolution in mainstream media

Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik - Raksha Bandhan piece at Puri beach- Odisha

Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik’s piece for Raksha Bandhan at Puri beach, Odisha, with a message urging India and Pakistan to “Stop Bullets, Be Friends” (file photo, 2015)

Nice to see the mainstream media take note of this privately shared resolution urging India, Pakistan to resolve tensions through dialogue. Some pretty big names on board – check the updated list at the Aman ki Asha website at the end. Over 100 people endorsed it today, bringing the number to over 350 in just 48 hours.


Nandita Das. Photo by Marjolein

Pebbles in the pond – Lalita Ramdas in The News on Sunday

Why This Powerful Message From Indo-Pak Peaceniks Matters During Our Troubled Times – HuffPo

Indians, Pakistanis Ask Governments to Set Up ‘Uninterruptible’ Bilateral Dialogue: The Wire

Over 250 prominent Indians, Pakistanis sign powerful message for peace: Express Tribune

Indians and Pakistanis finally raise a mutual voice for peace: Hato Bacho

India-Pakistan people’s peace resolution: Throwing a pebble in the pond – Newsin.Asia

Thought Leaders from Pakistan and India call for uninterrupted, uninterruptible dialogue: Daily Times

Citizens of India and Pakistan Call for Peace: The Citizen

Indo-Pak civil society calls for uninterrupted talks: Dawn

India-Pakistan people’s peace resolution: Throwing a pebble in the pond: Aman ki Asha

Sabeen Mahmud: Inclusive spaces and #tree4Sabeen

In Karachi last week, I wrote about Sabeen Mahmud and the Creative Karachi Festival held to commemorate her life and work. PRI published it with the title Remembering a Pakistani woman who died because she wanted everyone to have a space to speak freely along with my radio interview with Marco Werman of PRI’s The World. Below is the unabridged text including with more links and photos. Also see our friend Afia Salam’s tribute to Sabeen in The Wire, Why Sabeen Mahmud Will Always Matter.


A poster with Sabeen’s photo at CKF 2016 on a divider between a stall and walkway at the Alliance Francaise. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Beena Sarwar

Early on Sunday morning in Karachi, a small, eclectic crowd converged at The Second Floor, the iconic coffee shop-cultural hub founded by my young friend Sabeen Mahmud in 2007.  Continue reading

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