India/Pakistan: Sedition and blasphemy – Southasia’s déjà vu

Something I wrote last month about how sedition and blasphemy are the two sides of the same hyper-nationalist coin in India and Pakistan. Updated after the tragic bombing at a park in Lahore on Easter Sunday, published in Himal Southasian on March 30, 2016. 

People vote in the February 2008 elections in Lahore Photo: Wikimedia Commons / boellstiftung - Flickr

People vote in the February 2008 elections in Lahore Photo: Wikimedia Commons / boellstiftung – Flickr

From Pakistan there is mixed news. Recent headlines on the country juxtaposed with news from India prompts the thought that the kind of fascism that Pakistanis have been fighting against is now erupting across India. The encouraging news from Pakistan includes its second award at the Oscars, the execution of convicted killer Mumtaz Qadri (arguments against the death penalty notwithstanding) despite the militant rightwing support for him, and the recovery of the kidnapped son of Qadri’s victim Salmaan Taseer, killed for alleged blasphemy. The bad news includes the horrific suicide attack, allegedly by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar, on Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore on 27 March 2016.

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Pakistan: Protest curbs on academic freedom, freedom of expression and public debate

Censored- unsilencing balochistanSTATEMENT OF CONCERNED FACULTY MEMBERS AND STUDENTS OF LUMS REGARDING THE DECISION TO CANCEL THE TALK ON BALOCHISTAN IN KARACHI UNIVERSITY SCHEDULED TO BE HELD WEDNESDAY 6 MAY, 2015:

We, concerned students, alumni and faculty members of LUMS, deeply deplore the decision by the Karachi University administration to cancel the talk on Balochistan titled “Baloch Missing Persons and The Role of State and Society”, planned tomorrow Wednesday 6 May 2015 at Karachi University. This decision comes on the heels of the cancellation of the LUMS roundtable on “Un-Silencing Balochistan”, scheduled to be held on 9 April, and the tragic killing of Ms. Sabeen Mahmud, director of the café T2F in Karachi, right after a debate on the very same issue on 24 April on the premises of T2F. Continue reading

At an interfaith meeting in Fremont, CA, and beyond

Balochistan discussion at LUMS cancelled under pressure from ‘angels’

Censored- unsilencing balochistanJust got this press release that was read out to the LUMS student body earlier today (UPDATE: online petition at this link To the Prime Minister of Pakistan: Prevent Agencies from interfering in academic institutions; Also see this Storify by iFaqeer)

RE-SILENCING BALOCHISTAN?

Today, a roundtable on “Unsilencing Balochistan” to be held on Thursday 9 April at LUMS was cancelled due to state intervention.

The event was an academic event, gathering academics and activists involved in, or concerned by the situation in Balochistan. The guests were I. A. Rehman, director, HRCP; Aasim Sajjad, Professor, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad; Sajjad Changezi, Activist, Alif Ailaan; Mohammed Ali Talpur, Columnist; Mama Qadeer, President VMPB; Farzana Majeed, General Secretary VMPB (Voice of Missing Persons Balochistan). Continue reading

What were you like when you were 14? #SaveShafqat

Shafqat Hussain, photo taken before he left Muzaffarabad more than 10 years ago.

Shafqat Hussain, photo taken before he left Muzaffarabad more than 10 years ago.

Who is Shafqat, why is he being hanged, and why should we care? What were you like when you were 14? Please watch this lovely little video (also embedded below) and act to save Shafqat Hussain, death warrant issued (again) for Thursday, March 19. Shafqat was 14 when he left his village in Muzaffarabad, AJK, to go to Karachi looking for work. He was dirt-poor and resourceless, tortured into confession for the murder of a child, tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act (because the murder ‘spread terror in the neighbourhood’). The government-appointed lawyer never provided proof of his age. He was 15 when the court sentenced him to death. He has now been on death row for 10 years. In January, his execution was stopped under pressure from people like us. Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had promised a re-investigation into the case. That never happened. There has been no medical exam conducted for his age, and the state-provided birth certificate that proves his age has not been taken into account. Read Fatima Bhutto’s eloquent plea in NYT to save Shafqat

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Despair is not an option. Neither is silence.

Lahore March 15 Church attack protest

March 15: Activists protest in front of the Lahore Press Club in solidarity with Pakistan’s Christian community. Photo: courtesy Sajjad Anwar Mansoori

As I posted my last update about the third monthly Global Vigil of Pakistanis united against terrorism, March 15-16, 2015, to commemorate the Peshawar APS attack of Dec 16, 2014, news came in about the suicide attacks at two churches in Lahore – yet another horrible reminder of what happens when you keep snakes in your backyard and develop a culture of impunity. See my comment on the issue in Huffington Post, right after the Peshawar APS attack. It is a sign of the brutality and rage that engulfs Pakistan that a mob lynched, killed and burnt two men suspected of being co-conspirators in the attacks. Continue reading

India’s Crusader Against Impunity

Manoj Mitta speaking at MIT. Credit: Beena Sarwar

Manoj Mitta speaking at MIT. Credit: Beena Sarwar

My recent article for IPS 

BOSTON, Oct 25 2014 (IPS) – As senior Indian journalist Manoj Mitta was testifying before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress last month about mass violence and impunity in India, President Barack Obama escorted India’s newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Martin Luther King Memorial.

“They were just three miles away,” Mitta told IPS, commenting on the irony of this coincidence, remembering that the United States had banned Modi’s entry on the mass violence on his watch in 2002 leading to the killing of about 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat state. Continue reading

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