Youth-led, social media-powered movement in Pakistan gains ground – despite media blackout

Woman at a PTM rally clutch photos of missing loved ones. Photo: courtesy Taqra Qabaili Khwenday (brave tribal sisters) via Amna Durrani

When Scroll asked me to write something on the Pashtun movement sweeping through Pakistan, I thought it would be an easy assignment because I’ve been following the issue. But writing this piece was much more difficult and took a lot longer than I expected. Here’s my piece contextualising the issue trying to explain to a non-initiated audience what this is all about, published in Scroll on May 6, 2018 under the head: FIGHTING CENSORSHIP. 

In Pakistan, a youth-led, social media-powered movement is gaining ground – despite a media blackout

The revolution will not be televised in Pakistan. Unless it has the blessings of the powers-that-be. This has been proved time and again in the past, under a system ruled directly by the military for more than half the country’s 71-year history. The current censorship may be the worst-ever. Continue reading

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Update on Hamid Ansari, Indian national “missing” in Pakistan

Update to Hamid Ansari case: He was produced in court, tried in a military court and awarded three years’ vigorous imprisonment starting from December 15, 2015. He has appealed to be treated not for anti-state (espionage) but illegal activities (crossing the border without a visa).

Journeys to democracy

Hamid Ansari, 27, MBA, Rotarian from Mumbai... missing since Nov 2012 Hamid Ansari, 27, MBA, Rotarian from Mumbai… missing since Nov 2012

Update to case below: Hamid Ansari was produced in court, tried in a military court and awarded three years’ vigorous imprisonment starting from December 15, 2015. He has appealed to be treated not as a spy.

The police in Pakistan have confirmed that the ISI and MI have custody of Hamid Ansari, the young Indian national who has been missing in Pakistan since 2012. So will we see him produced in court as directed by the honorable judges? See my earlier post Hamid Ansari: Mumbai man missing in Pakistan (we treat each other’s citizens differently). On second thoughts, not that differently. Our security agencies treat their own citizens as badly. Plenty of examples all over both countries — Kashmir, Balochistan, Sindh, Assam, Manipur, to name some areas where such violations take place routinely. The documents below, presented…

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Returning inadvertent border-crossers and more: Glimpses of humanity

fauzia-ansari-and-nehal-ansari-parents-of-hamidLast week I wrote this short piece below for Aman ki Asha (hope for peace) after the Indian border security forces returned a young, inadvertent border-crosser to Pakistan. Today, there’s news that the Pakistan government will allow the wife of the Indian national and alleged spy Kulbushan Yadav to meet him “on humanitarian grounds”.

This raises hopes that the parents of another Indian prisoner Hamid Ansari will finally also be allowed to meet him. In fact, as the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy has said, the families of all cross-border prisoners should be given access to their loved ones in prison across the border.  Continue reading

Relief at Zeenat Shehzadi’s recovery

Zeenat-%22Quaid and daughter of Quaid%22 2014I wrote this piece for The Wire on Oct. 24, after hearing that the young journalist-activist Zeenat Shehzadi who “disappeared” over two years ago, has been recovered. A brief re-cap of what happened and how her case is linked to that of a young Indian man whose case she had been following after his “disappearance” in Pakistan. 

Pakistani Reporter Zeenat Shahzadi, Who Disappeared While Searching for Indian Man, Reappears

The Pakistani journalist-activist – who had gone missing in August 2015 – has paid a heavy price for wanting to uphold humanitarianism and the principles of social justice.

Five days before she was due to testify before Pakistan’s Commission of Enquiry on Enforced Disappearances in August 2015, 24-year-old journalist-activist Zeenat Shahzadi herself became a disappeared person. She remained missing until her parents received word on Friday – October 19, 2017 – that she had been recovered.

Shahzadi’s mother has spoken to her and reported that she was alright. The family would like to be left alone and not pressed for more details.   [Read more…]

India/Pakistan upcoming peace events August 3-9, 2017

Haroon Khalid, author of Walking with Nanak, will participate in a live Youtube discussion on Monday, 7 August.

As Pakistan and India commemorate 70 years of their existence as independent nation states, what is striking is the people’s desire for peace and how those who govern them continue to thwart these aspirations. As media highlight the tensions what goes largely unreported is people on the ground continuing their efforts to push for peace. Below: a few on-the-ground upcoming happenings I compiled that seek to further understanding between the two nations. At the very least, they are all expressions of the desire for normal relations. Continue reading

Why #NotInMyName protests against vigilante violence, mob lynchings in India resonate elsewhere too

My piece published in The Wire today. Also posted below.

Not in my name-Orijit Sen

Image by graphic artist Orijit Sen.

Catalysed by the mob murder of a teenager in India on June 24, followed by a Facebook post on June 24 by filmmaker Saba Dewan, a #NotInMyName campaign is taking off across India with simultaneous protests in several cities on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, against the ongoing mob lynchings and vigilante violence targeting Muslims and Dalits. Continue reading

The importance of representation: “Put us in the news!”

Morse School students use ribbons to express their support for immigrant families.

I wrote this piece after a discussion with fourth and fifth graders at a public school in Cambridge MA; slightly different versions published in the Cambridge Chronicle and The News on Sunday. The students’ desire to be “in the news” reflects what I believe is one of journalism’s key roles – to ensure that the voices of the under-represented get heard. The selfie-culture sweeping the world isn’t just about narcissism. It speaks to the human need to be affirmed and remembered. I was here. See me. Hear me. 

PERSONAL POLITICAL

By Beena Sarwar

“Did you see our ribbons? They are for immigrant families,” says Emma, one of half a dozen 9 and 10-year olds I’m talking to about journalism on a bitterly cold weekend in March.

Continue reading

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