Reflections on fascism, autocracy, media and the democratic political process

fullsizeoutput_153PRINCETON BLOG: Something I wrote for my class blog at Princeton University where I taught a journalism seminar this past semester, based on a lecture soon after the US Presidential elections, by Egyptian journalist Yasmine El-Rashidi, a fellow visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism with the University’s Council of Humanities

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“Future of Pakistan” Conference: London Declaration 2016

IMG_0602.JPGLondon Declaration for Pluralism and Democracy in Pakistan
October 29, 2016

Several prominent liberal, progressive and nationalist intellectuals, human rights and social media activists, and public figures from Pakistan gathered in London for a conference on ‘The Future of Pakistan’ organized under the banner of South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH), co-hosted by US-based columnist Dr Mohammad Taqi and former Pakistan ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

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Opposing elected PM Erdogan doesn’t mean supporting a military coup

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A man lies in front of a tank near Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport early Saturday, July 16. Ismail Coskun / AP

The coup in Turkey is a reminder of the dangers of impatiences with flawed democracy. Democracy, like peace, is a process, not an event. In the long run, the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship. Agree with the Awami Workers Party, Pakistan – “The solution to imperfect democracy is not to abolish it, but to deepen it”. Sharing their statement below:  Continue reading

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.

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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

Death of an activist: The courage survives and so does the message

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Rangers personnel baton charge on PIA employees near Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, February 2, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Three Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees protesting against the privatisation of the national carrier have died as the Singh Rangers countered their peaceful demonstration with water cannons, tear gas, baton charge, and bullets. The victims include PIA Assistant Manager Inayat Raza and engineer Saleem Akbar while a third victim, Zubair, succumbed to his wounds in hospital yesterday. The knee-jerk response of the administration to citizens exercising their right of peaceful assembly and protest is not new, and it has always backfired.

Instead of condoling with the families of those killed, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (who is believed to have a vested interest in privatising the airline), has suspended the PIA employees’ right to protest under the Essential Services Act, and threatened the them with loss of job and incarceration.

Killed by a bullet to the chest, Inayat Raza was a former student union leader with the National Students’ Federation (NSF) in Karachi in the 1980s. He is survived by his wife and three daughters. Below, a moving tribute to him by activist and researcher Mansoor Raza in Karachi:

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Farewell, Aslam

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Aslam Azhar, Islamabad, 2013. Photo: Beena Sarwar

My personal tribute to a giant of progressive politics in Pakistan, published in The Friday Times on Jan 15, 2016, posted below with links that didn’t make it into the TFT copy. 

By Beena Sarwar

Aslam. That’s what everyone, junior or senior, in the theatre group Dastak called him. He insisted upon it. That was just one aspect of Aslam Azhar, the founding father of Pakistan Television and already a legendary figure in the late 1980s. That was when I joined the theatre group that he had started in 1982 with his close friend and comrade Mansoor Saeed – who also insisted on being called Mansoor. Continue reading

‘Blood on the streets’

Part one of a series I am working on.

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M. Sarwar addressing a meeting in Karachi, early 1950s, Khaliqdina Hall. Seated left: Rehman Ali Hashmi.

Looking back to look forward: The DSF-led movement of the 1950s eschewed party politics, was inclusive, and focused on student unity. Besides students from medical, engineering and and law colleges, it involved students from girls’ and boys’ high schools, and women’s colleges. 

Below, an extract from my forthcoming memoir on the struggle for democratic spaces in Pakistan. This is from the chapter about the student movement of 1953 that shook the country and laid the foundations for the University of Karachi, published in The Friday Times, Jan. 8, 2016. Thanks to Raza Rumi for pushing me to share this Continue reading

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