Women’s cross-border solidarity

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 11.35.04 AMWrote a short piece last night for the Women’s Regional Network, published on their original content blog. Honoured to be in the company of women like Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal in India, Najla Ayoubi in Afghanistan and others Pakistan taking on issues like how Street Harrassment is Hurting Afghanistan’s Democracy and Development,  Young Pakistani Women Recognized for their Achievements, The Rise of Online Trolls in India, Countering Violent Extremism and more. My brief contribution Borderless Issues: Mothers in Conflict also copied below:  Continue reading

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

A year after Peshawar APS massacre; Islamophobia and yes, Humanity Trumps All

Rev Joe Robinson-Boston-APS-Islamophobia

Rev. Joe Robinson of the Christ Church of Cambridge addressing the gathering in solidarity with Peshawar APS victims, and Muslims. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Last Sunday as we geared up to commemorate the Peshawar APS massacre of Dec 16, 2014, when Taliban killed 144 schoolchildren, a bomb blast in Shia-majority Parachinar at the lunda bazar (second-hand market) killed over 22 people, most of them poor. We talked about that at our gathering that afternoon at Harvard Square where Reverend Joe Robinson and members of the Christ Church in Cambridge joined us in solidarity, as did many others from the local Pakistani and Indian communities. Rabbi Neal Gold of Temple Shir Tikvah couldn’t join us but we read out his letter of support and solidarity to the Islamic Center of Boston.

Many friends joined us from another rally in Providence, R.I., an hour away, attended by some 3-400 people of all faiths, including Muslim, Jewish, Christian and agnostics.

Here’s a link to a piece I wrote for Scroll.in on the issue: #NeverForget: A year after Peshawar school attack, voices rise in solidarity around the world

For Insha Afsar… Ski is the limit

Ski is the limit

Insha Afsar: A champion skier from Muzaffarabad.

Thanks to the Association of Pakistani Physicians of New England (APPNE) for the opportunity to meet an inspiring young lady, 14-year old Insha Afsar of Muzaffarabad who lost a leg in the earthquake of 2005 but has risen to become a champion one-legged skier, enabled by her supportive host parents in the USA. My piece in The News on Sunday

Some weeks ago, I happened to sit at the same table as a bright-eyed, long-haired young girl with a wide smile. The only non-desis in the room were the white couple with her. I assumed they were doctors or medical representatives in that hall full of physicians and their families.

But a pair of crutches resting on the table indicated that the girl was Insha Afsar, the 14-year old from Muzaffarabad who lost a leg in the 2005 Kashmir earthquake but has become a skiing sensation as she dominates the slopes — on one leg. Continue reading

#Peshawar attack: A former student remembers his teachers, vows to rebuild the school

RIP Tahira Qazi, principal of Army Public School who had reportedly been rescued but ran back to help her students and was brutally killed.

RIP Tahira Qazi, principal of Army Public School who had reportedly been rescued but ran back to help her students and was brutally killed.

On BBC World Have your Say this morning one of my fellow guests was a singer in Peshawar, Rahim Khan. He had been a student at the Army Public School on Warsak Road, Peshawar, from 2001-2003, in grades 11 and 12. In this clip he recalls a reunion at the school ten years later with the principal Tahira Qazi, who was so brutally killed in the attack on Dec 16. Rahim remembered singing in the very auditorium where so many were killed. We shared some more thoughts on Twitter later; see below. Continue reading

Thirty years after 1984 Sikh carnage, ‘Kultar’s Mime’ underscores truths about victimhood and violence

Cat with Rano ptg by Evanleigh Davis

“Rano” – painting by Evanleigh Davis

“Innocent victims are the same, regardless of how they worship God and what tongues they speak” – Sarbpreet Singh 

A dramatic production of Sarbpreet Singh’s poem ‘Kultar’s Mime’ is being performed to acclaim in the USA and Canada, and will be in India at the end of the month. Here’s the link to my article in Scroll.in; text below with photos, links and dates not included in the Scroll version. Continue reading

The North Waziristan military operation and appeal to help internal refugees

IDPs Bannu. Courtesy: Dawn

IDPs Bannu. Courtesy: Dawn

While supporting the much delayed military operation against the militants, we need to also support the democratic political process and strengthening accountability and the rule of law in Pakistan. See ‘Recapturing North Waziristan: A tragic necessity‘ – interview of Pervez Hoodbhoy in Viewpointonline. Meanwhile, the fighting is taking a toll on the people of North Waziristan, thousands of whom have fled the fighting and are now refugees in their own land – internally displaced people or IDPs in development jargon.

Here are links to three moving articles on the issue that highlight the humanitarian aspect and suffering, by Rashida Dohad, Owais Tohid and Taha Siddiqui. Rashida and Taha also make the point that militant organisations are reaping dividends in terms of goodwill “while the state fidgets or forsakes”; credible organisations are made to obtain non-objection certificates while religious and extremist organisations are allowed “to operate freely”. Continue reading

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