A Battle for the Soul of Pakistan

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Sehwan: Women and children in the courtyard. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Wrote this in one go about the suicide attack at Sehwan Sharif that claimed over 80 lives. Sick at heart but not giving up. Thanks to friends around the world, especially in India for their messages of solidarity, to the Wire for publishing it so fast and editor Siddharth Varadarajan for the photos used with the Wire piece. We had gone to Sehwan together, along with Nandini Sundar and Aslam Khwaja. Extracts from my article:

I wonder if the bangle sellers outside the shrine are alive. I still have some chunky glass bangles I bought, bargaining more for the sake of it than to save money.

Did the woman bouncing a little girl on her shoulders, chanting and dancing to an inner beat before the drums sounded, go back last Thursday? Did they survive the blast?  Continue reading

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RIP Amjad Sabri, symbol of a syncretic Sufi culture increasingly under attack

Amjad SabriA sad, sad day. Rest in peace, Amjad Sabri, qawwal, shot dead in a target killing in Karachi today. Shortly afterwards, the young naat-khwan, Farhan Ali Waris escaped a murderous attack on his way home from a recording where he had in fact waiting for Amjad Sabri to join him.  A continuation of the trend of killing Shia and Ahmadi doctors for their faith, now musicians…? But Amjad Sabri was not just a ‘musician’.

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Nergis Mavalvala to be keynote for TCF Boston fundraiser

Nergis Mavalvala

Nergis Mavalvala: “The key to my success is the education I got as a girl in Pakistan”

Mavalvala to be keynote speaker at fundraiser for high-quality, low-income schools in Pakistan

BOSTON, May 04: Nergis Mavalvala, the Pakistani-American astrophysicist at MIT known for the part she played in the breakthrough on gravitational waves, will be a keynote speaker at the Third Annual The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF) Boston Fundraiser on Saturday, May 7, 2016. Continue reading

In wake of Pakistan university attack, the voices grow louder – stop glorifying the dead

Screen Shot Hamid Mir-Geo TV

Screenshot from Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk, Geo TV, Jan 20, 2016

I wrote this piece on Jan 20, 2016 on the barbaric attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda. Published in Scroll.in on Jan 22, 2016.

As Pakistanis look for solutions, a consensus is emerging that people killed in such attacks should not be called ‘martyrs’ or ‘heroes’.

By Beena Sarwar

There is now a numbing familiarity to the kind of news that broke on Wednesday morning from Pakistan.

This time, heavily armed militants in suicide vests scaled the walls of a sprawling university campus near Charsadda, a picturesque town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as North West Frontier) province near the Afghan border. Gunfire and explosions starting at about 9 am resounded through the dense fog enveloping Bacha Khan University, set idyllically amidst sugar cane fields some 13 km from Charsadda.

The four assailants killed at least 19 students and teachers before themselves being killed by the police and army in a three-hour long gun-battle.

The casualty rate was far lower than the attack on the Army Public School in nearby Peshawar just over a year ago on Dec 16, 2014 in which militants killed some 150 school children and teachers.

The relatively low casualties, pointed out Senator Rubina Khalid of the Pakistan People’s Party, is not a basis for self-congratulation.
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Desperate Fasadis trying to change Sindhi culture

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Muezzin by day, musician by night

Shikarpur and other areas of Sindh have always been famous for their tolerant, syncretic Sufi culture — and sweets. Not suicide attacks. That is obviously something that cowardly Takfiri Fasadis are trying desperately to change. From kidnapping and forced conversions of Hindu girls, to attacks on shrines and target killing of Ahmadis and Shias, they’re at it full throttle. Funded by Saudis and other sources in the Middle East, they are building massive madrassahs throughout the provice, huge buildings that look threatening and unfamiliar in a landscape where the traditional mosques have delicate minarets and people of all religions and sects have lived together peacefully for centuries.

On Saif Samejo‘s rooftop in Jamshoro a couple of summers ago, we were treated to music by some local folk musicians from Mithi. I did some sketches with ballpoint as they jammed. The man who plays the bhorindo (string instrument), on the left, is the maulvi of a masjid. Muezzin by day, musician by night. When the floods hit in 2010, he was approached by JUD to rebuild his mosque. He refused because “If I took money from them, I would be made to say what they want and my masjid would not be my own anymore.”

Move beyond conflict and ratings

Tributes to Peshawar terror attack victims

School children in Chennai pay tributes to Peshawar terror attack victims on Wednesday. Photo: R. Senthil Kumar/ PTI

Wrote this on Dec 18, 2014 for Lokmat Media, Pune: Situationer/ Comment on Peshawar attack aftermath in Pakistan, published on Dec 20 in three languages (below).

By Beena Sarwar

Two days after the horrific attack on an army-run school in Peshawar that killed 148 people, most of them schoolchildren, an anti-terrorist court approved bail for Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, leader of the banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT).

Lakhvi is allegedly the mastermind behind the horrific attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 and India has been demanding his extradition. India and Pakistan have not yet signed an extradition treaty though the possibility has been discussed in the past. He is unlikely to walk out on bail anytime soon. Prosecution lawyers said that the ATC decision came despite evidence against Lakhvi, and that they will challenge the decision. Continue reading

Pakistan Must Discard its ‘Good Taliban, Bad Taliban’ Narrative

MULLAH MOHAMMED OMAR

Pakistan needs to counter not just those who come out on the street in support of Taliban Inc. but also those who support them tacitly.

Thanks to The Huffington Post for inviting me to write this opinion piece, published on Dec. 17, 2014.

By Beena Sarwar

The world looks on with horror at the Pakistani Taliban’s barbaric murder of 145 children and teachers at a school in Peshawar.

Although Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has termed the Peshawar attack a national tragedy, announced three days of national mourning and promised to eradicate the terrorists, real change won’t occur unless Pakistan discards the “good Taliban, bad Taliban” narrative and moves to decisively uphold the rule of law. Continue reading

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