Women warriors for peace and a viral Punjabi music video

Asma-Bushra-wall

A poetic dialogue between two neighbours separated by an insurmountable wall goes viral. Pictured here: Asma Abbas and Bushra Ansari, performing their sister Neelum Bashir’s poem.

There’s been so much going on that I haven’t shared any updates here for a while. On Tuesday 11 Feb., Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave a talk on Pakistan and the Welfare State at Harvard that I reported on: “We can’t say we’re too poor to look after our people”, published in The News on Sunday, 17 Feb.  I was going to post it with an important paragraph that got left out of my report when I cut it down, but the Pulwama attack of 14 Feb overshadowed everything. I’ll share it at some point. Continue reading

Pawns and prisoners of manufactured hatred

Screenshot of Sanaullah from a TV report last year, on Indian and Pakistani prisoners participating in a kite-flying festival together. "It's really nice, I feel like a child myself," Sanaullah told the reporter.

Screenshot of Sanaullah from a TV report last year, on Indian and Pakistani prisoners participating in a kite-flying festival together. “It’s really nice, I feel like a child myself,” Sanaullah told the reporter.

Tragically, Sanaullah, the Pakistani prisoner whom a fellow inmate had attacked in prison in Jammu in Indian administered Kashmir on May 3, finally succumbed to his injuries on May 9. The attack took place on the day of the funeral of Sarabjit Singh, the high profile Indian prisoner who died on May 3, after being in a coma following an attack by fellow inmates in Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore on April 26 — ironically, the day that Indian members of the India Pakistan Joint Judicial Committee on Prisoners landed in Pakistan to inspect jails and meet Indian prisoners. The Committee’s recommendations have been made public, and if implemented, will go a long way towards alleviating the plight of cross-border prisoners.

Here’s a link to the note I wrote, published in the weekly Aman ki Asha page in The News last week – Condemnable attack on unarmed prisoner. A followup note regarding Sanaullah was published in the AKA page of May 8. I sincerely hope this is the end of the series. (If you’re on facebook, feel free to ‘like’ the AKA page and join the AKA group – both managed on a voluntary basis) Continue reading

Conversations 9: Perceptions, perceptions

Published in The News on Sunday, Political Economy section, Aman ki Asha page, May 2, 2010

April 22 2010
Dear Beena,

I know your Berlin adventure was stymied by, of all things, a volcano in Iceland. Who’d have thought it? Somebody more eloquent than I could probably find some kind of metaphor, for the prospects for peace between us, in those spewing ashes. Another time.

To get to your last missive. Yes, perhaps we are going round in circles to a degree; and yet I think we are indeed getting somewhere. For surely it’s when we come to grips with things we disagree on, whatever they are, that we will find what making peace really entails.

And there are things I disagree with in your last missive. Continue reading

Dolphin-watching, Karachi, and the fishermen’s lament

PERSONAL POLITICAL article written on Jan 26, 2010, published in The News on Sunday Footloose page Feb 7, as ‘Wild, pure magic of malhars’

Photo by MAHA SARWAR SHAHID, age 13

Beena Sarwar

Out on a fishing boat under a clear blue early morning sky to go dolphin watching, the violence, squabbles and tensions that mark daily life fade into irrelevance – including the recent tensions arising from the Indian Premier League’s refusal to bid for Pakistani cricketers.

We cruise the sparkling azure waters of the Arabian Sea parallel to the lengthy sand spit (imaginatively called ‘Sandspit’) along the Karachi coast. About five kilometres out to sea, we can still clearly see the recreational ‘huts’ that dot Sandspit beach. As we pass another fishing boat, the crews exchange greetings – just as highway truckers and bus drivers do. Continue reading

‘No nuclear test, no missile test, just test cricket’

Cricket fanCongratulations Pakistan. Ok, so it wasn’t a test match – but is cricket a surrogate war between India and Pakistan – or a shared love that can help transcend animosities? Just found this article I wrote in March 2005, my column Personal Political published in The News op-ed and the Indian weekly Tehelka… Not much has changed since then.

Below, the version published in Tehelka, April 5, 2005

Cricket and the Peace Constituency

Ordinary Pakistanis and Indians are happy to recognise each other A Pakistani Girl Promoting Peace between Pakistan and India

Beena Sarwar

Will he, won’t he, will he, won’t he…?” Yes, he will, confirmed the Indian Prime Minister’s Office on March 15, ending the speculation by announcing that General Pervez Musharraf would visit India for a one-day match in Delhi on April 17. Musharraf had made it clear that he would make the visit if invited — and everyone was waiting to see whether the invitation would be extended.

Continue reading

Peace please, musically

No Saazish No Jung - Times of India, July14-09-

No Saazish No Jung - Times of India, July14-09-

Shahvar Ali Khan: “No Saazish, No Jung”

In January I posted out information to my  yahoogroup about a joint signature campaign between Indians and Pakistanis, and also a note from a Lahori who loves Mumbai, Shahvar Ali Khan

(A Lahori’s love for Mumbai; Pk-India joint signature campaign – http://groups.yahoo.com/group/beena-issues/message/1028)com/

Recently, Shahvar wrote, composed and sang a song “No Saazish, No Jung” (no conspiracy, no war) – which you can download at – http://www.shahvaralikhan.com/

I’m thrilled that it’s getting some media attention even without a video. There was a piece in Instep, The News on Sunday, Pakistan on July 06, 2009, and this piece in Times of India, July 14, 2009 – ‘Now a song for Indo-Pak peace’ –
http://tinyurl.com/TOI-Shahvar

Below, text of the Press Trust of India report of July 7, 2009 published in Indian papers:

Pak singer puts Gandhi, Jinnah together in appeal for peace

Islamabad (PTI): A Pakistani singer has combined the voices of Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto and US President Barack Obama in a new song that makes an impassioned plea for peace in the region.

Shahvaar Ali Khan’s “No Saazish, No Jung” is a peace anthem that tells “mullahs” and “foreigners” to leave his country alone.

Mullayae na kar tung, oo guraya na kar tung, meino rahen dae malang, mein nach nach kai larni yae jang de nal jang (Don’t bother me mullahs/Don’t bother me foreigners/Let me remain a free spirit/I will dance away and fight your war),” goes the song in Punjabi that combines a hard rock guitar riff with a folksy backing.

Khan, 25, said he plans to make a video based on the song. “I plan to shoot the video in Mumbai so that it will be an India-Pakistan peace initiative,” he said.

He is in touch with several Indian directors and is also looking for sponsors and TV channels to back the video so that it can be ready for release by the time Pakistan and India celebrate their independence days on August 14 and 15 respectively.

The song combines excerpts from speeches by Gandhi, Jinnah, Bhutto and Obama.

The voice of Gandhi can be heard intoning “…in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists”.

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