Pakistan’s ‘best kept secret’ (not The Samosa)

Sumaira Samad, Shahid Nadeem, Anwar Akhtar at Lahore Museum (screengrab)

Anwar Akhtar is a Pakistan-origin cultural activist based in London who started The Samosa many years ago — think cross-culture, activism, media, teaching. We had met several years ago and reconnected recently when he reached about his intriguingly titled documentary, Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret. I invited him to write about it for Aman Ki Asha. Sharing the documentary, as well as his piece, here:

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The need for ‘radical love’ – Cornel West, Dalit and Sheedi solidarity, and a #WC4BL Boston report

This is a follow up to my earlier post about physicians of Pakistani and Indian origin, already in the frontlines of the Covid19 battle in the US, stepping up in the war against a longer-running pandemic, racism. We know that racism is not limited to the US. In our home countries in South Asia, it is expressed as casteism and oppression of vulnerable communities.

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Fragile Egos, Fragile States: COVID-19 Doesn’t Care

Two demonstrations involving Indians and Pakistanis in Massachusetts once again foregrounded the common issues that the people of the two countries, and elsewhere, face

Wrote this piece published in The Wire some days back – feels like forever now, given the fast pace with which ‘coronamadness’ seems to be taking over the world. Sharing it here anyway.

Boycott CAA, NRC, NPR, RSS, BJP, Modi, Hindutva.
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RIP Dr Mubashir Hasan. The last public statement he endorsed was on India’s CAA along with other South Asian citizens

Dr Mubashir Hasan: A towering figure and visionary for South Asia regional peace. File photo.

In December 2019, when I visited Dr Mubashir Hasan at his home in Lahore, I read out to him a Statement on India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, drafted by a friend in Kathmandu. Dr Saab readily endorsed it, probably his last public comment (see below). He is the first person who talked to me about pushing for a South Asian Union along the lines of the European Union. He passed away today, aged 98. A great mentor, leader, guide and friend. May he rest in peace. More later.

Statement on India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act by 14 independent South Asian citizens

26 December 2019

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#MeToo: Moving towards a cycle of healing

Something I wrote about sexual harassment and abuse, published in The News on Sunday. It was a difficult piece to write, took a lot of thought, time, and research, and forced me to introspect on uncomfortable ideas. I went through a learning process that I’ve have tried to share. One idea links to the concept of restorative justice. Another is that, regardless of whether or not guilt is proven, such cases are forcing society to re-evaluate acceptable behaviour. This, in fact, may be the #MeToo movement’s most enduring contribution. 

me2-tns

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Celebrating Fahmida Riaz in Delhi

Fahmida Riaz-Delhi prog

Post updated to add the programme just received from Delhi; gratified that it includes the poem I posted here earlier, “Palwashe Muskurao”.

Great to know that friends in Delhi are organising this wonderful event to commemorate the great poet Fahmida Riaz – Fahmida Khala to me, she called my father Sarwar Bhai. I love the poem of hope and inspiration she recited, Palwashe Muskurao (Palwasha, smile), at the commemoration we organised for him and the student movement he led. Here’s information about the upcoming event in Delhi, fittingly, on Valentine’s Day, that I put together for the Aman Ki Asha website.

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Happenings Fahmida Riaz-Delhi-Feb 2019

What: ‘Transcending Boundaries, Defying Taboos:
The Poetry of Fahmida Riaz’

When: Thursday, 14 February 2019, 6.30 pm
Where: India Habitat Centre, Delhi
Who: Open and free to the public
Co-hosted by the PIPFPD and India Habitat Centre.

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Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle
Ab tak kahan chhupey they bhai!

(You have turned out to be just like us
Where were you hiding till now, brothers!)

Fahmida Riaz wrote her prescient poem in 1996 when the BJP first emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha. When she recited it nearly twenty years later before an Indian audience in April 201, “it carried a weight equal to the history of South Asia itself” say members of the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace & Democracy. Continue reading

Good news: Shahidul Alam walks free after over 100 days in Dhaka prison

Shahidul free

“Shahidul is free !! ধন্যবাদ !!! Thank you for your support!!” – message from Dhaka. Best news of the day 🙂

 Press statement from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and
South Asia Media Defenders Network

Dhaka, November 20– After day-long wrangles today between his lawyers and jail authorities in Dhaka over purported “discrepancy” in the prison’s address, internationally acclaimed Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam was set free on bail to joyous scenes this evening. Continue reading

Bangladesh #FreeShahidul – my opinion piece in Washington Post yesterday

Shahidul Alam in Central Park, New York, 2012. Photo: Beena Sarwar

The Washington Post published my opinion piece about Shahidul yesterday. Below, a slightly earlier version of the final edited piece for those unable to access WP.

Here’s why Bangladesh made a huge mistake by jailing Shahidul Alam

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Khan, Sidhu, Vajpayee, and India Pakistan relations

Sidhu-Khan

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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Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy among writers, artists urging Bangladesh #FreeShahidul

FreeShahidul

Academics, writers, artists and journalists around the world , including Noam Chomsky, Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Patrick Farrell, celebrated writers Arundhati Roy and Bapsi Sidhwa, artist and daughter of poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz Salima Hashmi, historian Ayesha Jalal, Urvashi Butalia, and others from Harvard to UC San Diego, have urged the Bangladesh government to free the detained photojournalist Shahidul Alam, picked up on 5 August — see statement and endorsements below. See also eminent photographer Raghu Rai’s powerful open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. and the Change.org petition urging Dhaka police to drop charges and release him.

Shahidul Alam’s detention underlines the growing crackdown on dissenting voices in Bangladesh, in a pattern that is visible elsewhere too. The court denied him bail and gave the  police a seven-day remand. This was subsequently reduced and the court ordered that Shahidul be sent to a hospital and given an immediate medical exam and treatment. However, at the time of writing (Aug 7), he is still at the Detective Branch and has not been moved to hospital. (UPDATE Aug 8: He was moved to hospital amid tight security and a few medical tests conducted. His family was allowed to visit him before he was taken back to the DB Special Branch centre).
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