Zarteef Khan Afridi: The tribesman who showed the way

Zarteef Afridi's latest photo. Courtesy: HRCP

A tribute to the human rights activist Zarteef Khan Afridi who was shot dead recently – my article in The News on Sunday. Latitude News earlier published a shorter, different version titled In Pakistan, an unlikely hero dies for his cause. Also see my earlier article: Pakistan’s ‘enlightenment’ martyrs

The tribesman who showed the way

There was the letter from an anonymous writer saying he was going to hunt down and kill her. And then there was the letter from an Afridi tribesman offering to come down and protect her.

This was in the mid-1990s. The recipient of the letters was the fiery human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, under threat for having taken on the case of Salamat Masih, the illiterate Christian boy sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’ for having allegedly written sacrilegious words on the walls of a village mosque. Continue reading

General observations about Pakistan floods

Some general observations from the floods of 2010, which are sadly relevant again:

  • People affected by the floods (last year as well as now) were already among the poorest begin with although they do include some well-off farmers and trades-people too, in areas where there was already little access to education and healthcare.
  • The relief camps set up last year brought an unexpected silver lining in the opportunity to many flood affected people who had access to a doctor or a teacher – for the FIRST time in their lives – at the relief camps. This indicates the level of underdevelopment in Pakistan, the huge percentage of the population that lacks access to healthcare and education. Continue reading

‘101 uses for a chaddar’ – my article in The Star, 1980s

Scan of my 1980s article in The Star, with my illustrations

Women rock the boat

Pakistani women demand their rights. Photo: courtesy Nasir Mansoor, LPP

WOMEN’S DAY RALLY IN KARACHI: Thousands of working class women, many of them home based women workers, with red flags in their hands marched on roads of Karachi, chanting slogans against ‘mullahism’, religious extremism and for their democratic rights. The march started from Karachi Press Club and culminated at the Arts Council of Pakistan where a seminar was held in the open air theatre followed by songs, theatre and documentaries. They demanded: *End all discriminatory laws against women and minorities *End religious fundamentalism *Recognize home based women workers as workers in law, extend social security cover to them *Equal opportunity to women in all fields of life

Also see: Dedicated to Pyari Pakistanis: Happy Women’s Day, y’all! a delightful sum up of the situation of Pakistani women, with statistics and action points, by blogger and cartoonist Mehreen Kasana. Check it out 🙂

Karachi rally speakers and demands: Continue reading

Gawaahi (Witness): testimonies of abuse, survival, resistance

Happy to get this email from fellow journalist and activist Naveen Naqvi:
“I am happy to report that our site, Gawaahi.com is now online. Gawaahi.com aims to archive digital stories of abuse, survival and resistance.
If you are interested in how we came about, please visit our site and read Gawaahi.com – our story.
You can find more information on our mission and team in our About page. If you see the page titled Our Partners, you will see the wonderful support we have received even before launch.”
Great going (and I love this visual by Zaina Anwar)!

Zekiye Eglar’s Punjabi Village in Pakistan (with my intro, epilogue & bio)

Thrilled to receive my copy of  A Punjabi Village in Pakistan – Perspectives on Community, Land, and Economy by Zekiye Eglar, for which I wrote the introduction, epilogue and biography of Eglar, a Russian-Turkish anthropologist, protegee of Margaret Mead at Columbia University. Eglar provides a fascinating account of village life in Punjab, Pakistan, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when she lived in Mohla, a village not far from Gujranwala.

The OUP publication has compiled her out-of-print award-winning book (A Punjabi Village in Pakistan, Columbia University Press 1960) and its until-now unpublished sequel, (The Economic Life of a Punjabi Village), from a manuscript that Eglar’s friend and protege Fazal Chowdhry brought to the attention of Mary Catherine Bateson (prominent anthropologist, Mead’s daughter).

From the OUP website: “This volume contains relevant insights into Pakistani society, particularly women, which are still pertinent today, as well as a more holistic and humanistic view of village life in South Asia. Eglar’s study is useful for precisely what she focused on—the patterns of ritual service and gift exchange which underlay every facet of life in a village.”

Hardback 473 pages ISBN: 9780195477238 Price: PKRs.1,295.00

DEVELOPMENT-SOUTH ASIA: Women’s Peace Offensive

Analysis by Beena Sarwar

A collective aspiration for peace brings together women from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Photo:Roshan Sirran

A collective aspiration for peace brings together women from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Photo:Roshan Sirran

KABUL, Oct 18 (IPS) – ‘Give peace a chance’ may just be another cliché for many, but for women who have suffered the ravages of war, endless strife and other forms of conflict, joining hands to find meaningful solutions to their collective aspiration lends it a whole new meaning.

Within the South Asian region, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan have for decades been torn by internal and external conflicts that have cried out for, but have not quite found, a lasting resolution.

“We waited for a long time to see what the men would do for peace,” Zahira Khattak, a member of the think-tank formed by Pakistan’s Awami National Party (ANP), told IPS.

Continue reading

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