‘An honest Pakistan is a better Pakistan’: the ‘unsilencing’ idea and the ongoing intellecticide

Citizens in Lahore at a #Rally4Sabeen. Photo: Farooq Tariq

Citizens in Lahore at a #Rally4Sabeen. Photo: Farooq Tariq

I wrote this piece last week for EPW – Economic and Political Weekly, India; reproduced below with photos and additional links.

“Unsilencing Pakistan” was an idea first articulated in 2011. It has been revived following the recent murder of Sabeen Mahmud, who had attempted to create a space where Pakistanis could discuss contentious issues–like the human rights violations in Balochistan–without fear. Can Pakistan’s intellectuals and human rights activists survive the “intellecticide” being perpetrated?

By Beena Sarwar

When the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) announced that it was organising a seminar titled “Un-Silencing Balochistan” on 9 April 2015, it reminded me of the “Unsilencing Pakistan” initiative of the summer of 2011. Continue reading

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#Rise4Sabeen: Keep the dialogue going

Protest4Sabeen-28April2015

Below, some of the widespread condemnation and protest vigils against the cowardly murder of human rights activist and upholder of free speech Sabeen Mahmud, shot dead in Karachi on the night of April 24, 2015 after she hosted a conversation on human rights violations in Balochistan. Just published: Tanqeed’s partial transcript of the discussion. No, Sabeen was not a separatist, nor did she condone violence by anyone, whether in the name of nationalism, ethnicity, religion, or honour. She was a firm believer in open, civil dialogue. The best tribute we can pay to her is to keep her legacy alive by continuing to speak up and keep the dialogue going.

Statement by Malala Yousafzai on the killing of Sabeen Mahmud, April 25, 2015

LUMS STATEMENT on Sabeen Mahmud’s murder, April 25, 2015

HRCP shocked at T2F director’s murder, demands justice, April 25, 2015

Target Killing of Sabeen Mahmud: WAF Statement, 25 April 2015

SAHR Statement of Concern on the killing of Sabeen Mahmud, South Asians for Human Rights, April 27, 2015

Karachi citizens press release, April 28, 2015

Report from Lahore rally for Sabeen, April 28, 2015  Continue reading

Requiem for a rights activist

Rashid Rehman KhanSenior journalist and Director, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan I.A. Rehman on a valued comrade and beloved nephew, shot dead in his office last week:

He loved life but he loved justice even more. He did not fail anyone, everybody who mattered failed him…. What is the situation now?

• The journalists in Multan dare not write about the murder.
• The judges in the Lahore High Court are apparently avoiding hearing Aasia Bibi’s appeal.
• The Multan police want the people to believe they do not know who the mischief-makers are.
• There is no authority in the country that can stem the wave of intolerance that is going to erase all remnants of reason and civilisation.

Let all those hurt by murder in the HRCP office stop mourning  Rashid’s loss and gird up their loins to save the next ones marked for annihilation.

Read the complete article: Obituary: Requiem for a rights activist

A quiet hero. RIP Rashid Rehman Khan

Rashid Rehman- screenshot from Mukhtiar Mai documentaryHeard the terrible news a few hours ago that the courageous Multan-based advocate Rashid Rehman Khan of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has been shot dead in Multan. Criminal cowards barged into his chamber and opened fire, killing him and injuring two others. He had been under threat for some time for defending a blasphemy accused, but refused to back down. More ominously, no protection was provided to him – although given the climate in Pakistan, any lawyer taking up a blasphemy case should be given 24-hour protection. Continue reading

Human rights activists condemn threat to Asma Jahangir’s life

 Link to South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) statement of concern regarding the threat to Asma Jahangir 

Signatories to HRCP Press release condemning threat to Asma’s life:

Lahore, 4 June 2012: We the undersigned citizens, belonging to various sections of Pakistan’s civil society, express our serious concern and alarm at the information-leak from a responsible and highly credible source that there is a serious threat to the life of the country’s leading human rights activist and one of the most influential leaders of the bar, Ms Asma Jahangir. What makes the reported conspiracy to liquidate Asma Jahangir especially serious is, firstly, the environment of target-killings, in which dissident persons’ dead bodies are being dumped all over, and, secondly, the fact that the finger of accusation has been pointed at the extraordinarily privileged state actors. We wish to make it clear to all and sundry, especially those who preside over the security apparatus, that they must not under-estimate the consequences of any harm being caused to the life of Asma Jahangir. This is not a conspiracy against one individual alone; it is obviously a plot against Pakistan’s future as a democratic state, of which the threat to Asma Jahangir may be only one, though crucial, part. What the duty of the state in this matter is and how the civil society must face the challenge thrown to it need no elaboration. Continue reading

‘Any attempts to dislodge parliament will be resisted’

I. A. Rehman, Director HRCP:

National Dialogue on Challenges to Democracy and Role of Civil Society in Pakistan

Joint Declaration: Any attempts to dislodge parliament will be resisted

LAHORE, January 23, 2012: Civil society representative  and concerned  citizens (Intellectuals, legal activists, journalists, women, students trade union activists, religious minorities and academia) of Pakistan from all over the country shared their deep concerns over the current political situation and crises, while talking at a national consultation held in Human rights Commission of Pakistan’s office in Dorab  Patel  Auditorium, Lahore today. Continue reading

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

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