Raza Khan, still missing. Why does it matter?

BringBackRaza3Raza Khan’s disappearance, like that of Zeenat Shehzadi earlier, is part of a new phase of such illegal abductions in Pakistan, violating due process and rule of law. Targeting young people from ordinary backgrounds, without social capital or networks, signals the miltablishment’s growing desperation to control the narrative on the military, religion and India, I argue in this opinion piece for the Washington PostIn Pakistan, promoting peace with India can be bad for your health — and freedom (Dec. 22, 2017; updated text below). Since then, a journalist covering this issue narrowly escaped an abduction attempt in Islamabad, and another journalist was picked up and beaten in Karachi, then released. 
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Pakistan: Another peace activist goes missing #FindRaza

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Raza Khan with a copy of the One Million Signature Campaign against violence against women, Pakistan

On Saturday, peace activist Raza Khan, 37, went “missing” in Lahore shortly after he had organised a public discussion about the recent ‘dharna’ (sit-in) on the country’s capital that ended in ignominious surrender to those seeking power in the guise of religion. He is a law-abiding, passionate campaigner for peace in the region particularly India, for gender equality and interfaith harmony — all of these are anathema to the keepers of Pakistan’s ‘ideology’. Please sign the online petition urging the government of Pakistan to find him. Share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #FindRaza. A twitter campaign for Raza is planned at 4 p.m. (Pakistan time today, Dec 5), hashtag #FindRaza. More case details below. Continue reading

Relief at Zeenat Shehzadi’s recovery

Zeenat-%22Quaid and daughter of Quaid%22 2014I wrote this piece for The Wire on Oct. 24, after hearing that the young journalist-activist Zeenat Shehzadi who “disappeared” over two years ago, has been recovered. A brief re-cap of what happened and how her case is linked to that of a young Indian man whose case she had been following after his “disappearance” in Pakistan. 

Pakistani Reporter Zeenat Shahzadi, Who Disappeared While Searching for Indian Man, Reappears

The Pakistani journalist-activist – who had gone missing in August 2015 – has paid a heavy price for wanting to uphold humanitarianism and the principles of social justice.

Five days before she was due to testify before Pakistan’s Commission of Enquiry on Enforced Disappearances in August 2015, 24-year-old journalist-activist Zeenat Shahzadi herself became a disappeared person. She remained missing until her parents received word on Friday – October 19, 2017 – that she had been recovered.

Shahzadi’s mother has spoken to her and reported that she was alright. The family would like to be left alone and not pressed for more details.   [Read more…]

Behind criminal acts motivated by religion, bigotry, misogyny, lies fear of change


Gauri Lankesh, Sabeen Mahmud.

My piece for The Wire on the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, that reminded me of the target-killing of my friend, activist Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi. I traced the patterns and similarity behind these murders.

A spoke in the wheel of this “intellecticide” is the ‘anti-intellectual’ nature of the vote for Donald Trump who shares a host of similarities with Modi in India despite differences. The rise of white supremacy in a nation of migrants built after virtually annihilating indigenous populations is a continuation of ongoing racism in the US.

The pendulum swings of history ushers in periods of the rise of the ‘Right’ or the ‘Left’. We are witnessing the rise of the militant Right at this moment with its ensuing bloodshed in India, Pakistan, the US and elsewhere.

But what will continue to rise inexorably, despite bloodshed along the way, are human aspirations to basic rights, equality and justice. There is no going back, no matter how fiercely the chaddis, topis or kluxies fight it.

Read more: In Life, and in Death, Gauri Lankesh and Sabeen Mahmud Battled Powers Fearful of Change


Protest at Harvard Square: Commemorating Gauri Lankesh’s murder and ongoing Rohingya massacre. Photo: Beena Sarwar


Coming up to 70 years… Sing (and sign) for peace

What an incredible outpouring of love and respect for each other as Independence Day comes up for Pakistanis and Indians. What’s remarkable about these efforts is the altruism of those involved, lack of commercial motivation, using their own resources.

One of the most moving expressions of these aspirations for peace between the two countries, is the Indian acapella group Voxchord’s courageous gesture of singing Pakistan’s national anthem uploaded to Youtube by Ram Subramaniam in Mumbai (Voice of Ram, @VORdotcom) on Aug 11 that quickly went viral on social media.

On August 12, Voice of Ram shared another spine-chillingly beautiful Peace Anthem, a video of the united national anthems of India and Pakistan sung by artists of both nations that is also being shared widely – see below.  Continue reading

India/Pakistan upcoming peace events August 3-9, 2017

Haroon Khalid, author of Walking with Nanak, will participate in a live Youtube discussion on Monday, 7 August.

As Pakistan and India commemorate 70 years of their existence as independent nation states, what is striking is the people’s desire for peace and how those who govern them continue to thwart these aspirations. As media highlight the tensions what goes largely unreported is people on the ground continuing their efforts to push for peace. Below: a few on-the-ground upcoming happenings I compiled that seek to further understanding between the two nations. At the very least, they are all expressions of the desire for normal relations. Continue reading

The fisherman’s tragedy

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Arrested Indian fishermen in Pakistan lockup. File photo. Getty images

Something I wrote in anguish yesterday, published in The Citizen, The Wire and Aman Ki Asha…  Not only are fishermen punished harshly for crossing a border they cannot see, once detained they are treated like prisoners of war by the other country.

The India-Pakistan Fisherman’s Story: Caught, Jailed, Dies, Body Wrapped in Red Tape

Imagine you are a fisherman. Born into poverty. Born in a small coastal village in India. Or Pakistan. (Hardly a matter of choice). You lead a tough life, following the profession of your father and grandfather. You are barely literate. You spend your life eking out a bare existence for yourself and your family, chasing the depleting shoals of fish that the wind and tide drive further out to sea.

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