Chakwalians, Rotarians to gather for “a tsunami of peace” reunion at Kartarpur Corridor

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur: Bringing people together. Image credit: Facebook/@syed.alli

Dozens of Indians and Pakistanis with ancestral roots in Chakwal will meet up mid-week at Kartarpur Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, taking advantage of the visa-free corridor inaugurated in November 2019 by Prime Minister Imran Khan for Baba Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th birthday celebrations.

Delhi-based Rotarian Anil Ghai, whose own family has strong connections to Chakwal since before Partition in 1947, will lead the Indian delegation.

The family had to flee with whatever belongings they could take, in a Dakota aircraft, remember area natives. Ghai’s visit to Pakistan in 1996 had led to rekindling those ties.

The establishment of Chakwal International Group about six months gave momentum to the upcoming ground-breaking meeting planned for Wednesday, 23 February.

“Everyone is welcome, they do not have to be Rotarians,” says Mohammed “Mo” Ayyaz, a Rotarian in London who is also from Chakwal and one of the driving forces behind the initiative.

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RIP Saquib Hanif: A meticulous editor, generous friend, passionate cultural aficionado

Death brings people together. I had known Saquib Hanif and his wife Nadia Chundrigar for years in Karachi without really knowing them. We spent a lot of time together when they came to Boston 2015 for the funeral of Saquib’s childhood buddy, the brilliant Nasser Hussain, younger brother of one of my old school friends. Now, it is Saquib’s sudden death, aged just 57, that brings us together again.

Thanks to The News on Sunday for asking me to write his obituary, published on the same page as another obituary, of Tasneem Siddiqui, the top former ‘pro-people” bureaucrat and social activist who died recently from a cardiac arrest, aged 82. We had run into him at the Karachi Gymkhana just a couple of weeks earlier. He had attended a meeting on the morning he died.

In the process of working on Saquib’s obituary, I talked to old friends Amra Ali and Salman Rashid – their contrasting views of Saquib would no doubt have amused him greatly. Also sharing Salman Rashid’s lovely video – he had talked to me about these aspects of Saquib the day before recording it.

I took the photos below the day Saquib and Nadia were leaving. There was intense grief, and yet we found it within ourselves to laugh.

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Singing and inspiration in dark times: Art and resistance in South Asia

Inspiring, uplifting and thought-provoking event, part of Sapan’s series themed Imagine: Neighbours in Peace, held on the last Sunday of every month. Coming up: Love, activism, Southasia solidarities with Saif Samejo, Parvathy Baul, and others… Watch out for updates at http://www.southasiapeace.com

Southasia Peace Action Network

NOTE: This feature report produced by Sapan News Service is free for publication with credit to Sapan, www.southasiapeace.com. Editors may trim content to their own needs.

By Sushmita Preetha and Priyanka Singh

Feb 3, 2022: “In dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will be singing, about the dark times”

Iconic German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s words continue to echo and remain relevant, particularly in South Asia, as underscored by prominent artists at Resisting Together: Art and the Artist in South Asia, an online gathering across time zones.

Dozens of participants at the online session enthusiastically endorsed Sapan’s call for a visa-free South Asia, a demand enshrined in the regional coalition’s Founding Charter jointly presented at the meeting by the activist couple Lalita Ramdas and former chief of Indian Navy Admiral L. Ramdas, both founder members of Sapan.

Lalita Ramdas and Admiral L. Ramdas: Taking forward Bapu’s…

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A real and dangerous pandemic, and lives well lived

The Covid-19 pandemic is real and dangerous. Yesterday it likely snatched another beloved relative from us. My beautiful, youthful 83-year-old cousin Geti’s husband Ismail Saad, 90, passed away in the early hours of Monday morning. He was frail and not keeping very well, but was mentally all there. Had just finished yet another book – in Urdu. A comparison between educational systems in different countries, it will now be published posthumously.

Ismail Saad and Geti Waheeduddin a week before their wedding, 1967.

He wasn’t tested but the positivity rate in Karachi is currently estimated at 40%. Like others, many of our family members tested positive over the past weeks – most with mild or no symptoms, probably the Omicron variant, including my mother Zakia Sarwar, 82, and many overseas guests visiting for a family wedding. But it’s not mild or asymptomatic for everyone. The day before Ismail Saad’s passing, the virus killed a senior pediatrician at Aga Khan Hospital.

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Wanted: Adult behaviour in SouthAsia

The last Sapan – South Asia Peace Action Network – event of the year was titled “Growing up, growing together” with activists across the region resolving to continue working for a better tomorrow. It was wonderful to hear so many young people speak – most under 35 years old. Thanks to all those who worked so hard to make the event a success – including the poetry and music at the end. Sapan’s next monthly event on the last Sunday of January will have more music and culture.

The Facebook Live recording of the recent meeting is available at this link – video log online at this link. Here’s a feature report about the event.

Commemorating Human Rights Day, the founding of SAARC, and 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence, Sapan discussion highlights the commonality of human rights issues across the region

Some of the participants at the event – most speakers were under 35-years old. Screenshot.
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Married across an intractable border, Rajput Sodhas suffer due to India-Pakistan visa issues

Something I wrote based on a tip by an officer with a humanitarian conscience who came across Ganpat Singh Sodha’s story and wanted to help him reunite with his family. I subsequently connected Ganpat to a reporter colleague in India who wrote a great report about the issue, cited in my feature piece for which I did additional interviews and research. #MilneNo

Southasia Peace Action Network

This is the story of Ganpat Singh from Pakistan’s Sodha Rajput community of less than half a million. Like him, each member of this community has matrimonial linkages across the border in neighbouring Rajasthan, India. This is the only way they can keep their community alive, as they are barred from marrying within their own ‘gotra’. A special dispensation over a decade ago provided them relief with six-month visa extensions – but now those who apply for such extensions are being blacklisted, leading to painful and preventable human tragedies

By Beena Sarwar

Ganpat Singh Sodha couldn’t go to his mother as she lay dying of cancer at his brother’s house in Jodhpur, India, a little over 300 km from Umerkot, Pakistan, where he lives. Three of his children are in Jodhpur too. He has been apart from them for five years.

A former government schoolteacher of Sindhi in Umerkot —…

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“We will fight, we will win”

The spirit of South Asia and the power of the four-letter word love

Commemorating 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, remembering Kamla Bhasin

By Beena Sarwar

The annual international 16 Days of Activism against gender violence takes place this year without the pioneering feminist and poet Kamla Bhasin, even as her songs and poetry enliven events during this period and beyond.

Kamla Bhasin. Radical love. Photo: Kashif Saeed

The 16 Days are observed annually starting 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. They end 10 December, with international Human Rights Day. These are integrated issues that Kamla fought for all her life. And she did this with love, joy, music, poetry and compassion.

As she famously said, “I am a feminist, and I do not hate men. I am a feminist and I do not hate women who are not feminists. I am a feminist – and I laugh.”

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A Southasia climate resolution

The Sapan Resolution on Climate Change ahead of COP26 is still relevant

At the South Asia Peace Action Network, Sapan, event at the end of October, participants and speakers answered YES to the question of Can South Asia combat climate change? – and also suggested how.

The informative and engaging session hosted by Khushi Kabir and moderated by Afia Salam was followed by breakout rooms focusing on Climate justice, Cross-border reporting, Water issues, Renewable energy, and Indigenous communities, each facilitated by expert moderators and rapporteurs. See details at this link.

At the end of the event, youth activists Disha Ravi of India and Durlabh Ashok Pakistan read out a Resolution that participants endorsed. Read the Resolution at this link.

Speakers, moderators and rapporteurs: Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Vandana Shiva, Saleemul Haq, Khushi Kabir, Sunita Narain, Nalaka Gunawardene, Afia Salam, Sarita Bartaula, Durlabh Ashok, Priyanka Singh, Pragya Narang, Kinga Tshering, Pratima Gurung, Kunda Dixit, Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, Kanak Dixit, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Shilsila Acharya, Disha Ravi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rani Yan Yan Yoddha, Lubna Jerrar Naqvi, Dayamani Barla. Collage by Aekta Kapoor.

How climate change is linked to the tragedy of a Bengali-Pakistani fisherman incarcerated in India

Beena Sarwar

The tragedy of a fisherman who died of Covid-19 while imprisoned in India, far from his family in Karachi, highlights the link between geopolitics and climate change – issues being deliberated at the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow.

In November 2017, Amir Hamza was among the crew of a Pakistani fishing boat arrested by Indian security forces across the maritime border.

Fisherfolk along the Arabian Sea coast shared by nuclear-armed neighbours Pakistan and India know that they risk such arrests, as well as sea storms, if they stray across the invisible line. But it is a risk they take, driven by declining fish populations.

Bhuj to Attari-Wagah to Karachi: An arduous journey. Map: Beena Sarwar
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A South Asia women and peace weekend

Thrilled and honoured to be part of two peace building events with some awesome women this weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Tune in.

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