Remembering Poppy and Sabeen: Support inclusive cultural spaces

flood-relief-concert-kuch-khaas-14

Kuch Khaas, 2011: Flood Relief concert featuring folk artists from interior Sindh (Thar) along with musicians Todd Shea, QB, Arieb Azhar and Yasir and Jawad. Photo courtesy – PakiUM

My oped published in The News, April 24, 2016

I sit down to write this on April 21, the birthday of one of my oldest, dearest childhood friends, universally known as Poppy – Shayan Afzal Khan, to use her full name. On Feb 21, 2015, Poppy lost her second battle with cancer, which she had fought with her characteristic grace, courage and humour. One of Poppy’s enduring legacies is her book ‘Unveiling the Ideal: A New Look at Early Muslim Women’, published by Musawah-Sisters in Islam, Malaysia in 2007. For this book, she drew on her writing skills, faith, feminism and history degree (Girton College, Cambridge, 1985). Continue reading

Once more for the Spinal Beetle and Southasia connectivity

Spinal Beetle with its Nepali eyes arrives in Pakistan

Here’s the latest report of the Southasian journey undertaken recently by my friend, civil rights activist, writer and journalist (editor Himal SouthasianKanak Mani Dixit, his wife Shanta (a teacher) and son Eelum (an actor, and yes, his name derives from ‘ilm’ which means knowledge, named by his dada, Kanak’s father who is a prominent writer).

Eelum, Kanak and Shanta Dixit: A great drive

The family started their 1100-mile odyssey in Kathmandu, Nepal, ending in Peshawar, Pakistan, to raise funds and awareness about the need for spinal injury rehabilitation. Those who have been following this issue would know that Kanak injured his spine in a trekking accident a decade ago. He survived, making a near miraculous recovery, and started the Spinal Centre Nepal in 2002, inaugurated by the late Sir Edmund Hillary. The coverage they’ve got on this journey has helped publicize their drive tremendously but the required funds have not arrived, and they are well short of their target. This is a personal appeal. Please donate what you can for this important cause. And do read this riveting account of their journey, includes important insights and information… Continue reading

Update and info: The Great Nepal-India-Pakistan Spinal Beetle Fund-raising Drive

The President graciously comes down to meet the people who came to see the Beetle off / SpinalNepal fb page

Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav flagged off the Spinal Beetle on its journey this morning. Great photos here. Below: the press note with planned itinerary and local contacts in India and Pakistan:

After his near miraculous recovery from a spinal  injury in 2001, Kanak Mani Dixit, a prominent journalist and civil rights  activist in Kathmandu started Nepal’s first Spinal Injury Rehabilitation  Centre, together with friends and family. The Centre, inaugurated by the late  Sir Edmund Hillary in 2002, runs entirely on private funding. It now needs to increase its service from 38 beds to 51. “The Great Nepal-India-Pakistan  Spinal Beetle Fund-raising Drive” (1100 miles)  – and all for a good cause – is being made on a 1973  Volkswagen Beetle, raising funds at USD 100 per mile. Continue reading

Indian Peace Delegation meets Pakistan Prime Minister, policy makers and people in successful visit

PRESS STATEMENT

Indian Peace Delegation meets Pakistan Prime Minister, policy makers and people in successful visit

An Indian Peace Delegation visited Pakistan from March 17-25, 2011. During their stay they visited Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad and Lahore. They met Pakistan Prime Minister Mr. Yusuf Reza Gilani, Sindh Chief Minister Mr. Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Senators of various political parties, civil society activists, journalists, members of business community, and students amongst others. Continue reading

Murders most foul

Salute to Naeem Sabir and Shahbaz Bhatti: dedicated human rights workers, paid with their lives for speaking out for the truth and for justice.

Yesterday we heard the tragic news about the cold-blooded murder of human rights activist Naeem Sabir, HRCP coordinator in Khuzdar, Balochistan. We had yet to recover from that blow when assassins gunned down Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the only Christian member of the cabinet.

There is outrage and anger at these cowardly acts that have deprived Pakistan of two dedicated human rights activists just when we needed them most. It is heartening that citizens in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad assembled at very short notice to protest, however small in numbers they may have been.

Here’s my response to an email quoting the famous saying “They came for the Socialists and I didn’t speak…”:

People are speaking out. Protests were held today, convened by Citizens for Democracy, in front of Karachi Press Club 5.30 pm, Lahore Press Club 3.00 pm and then on Mall Road, Islamabad opposite Mr Books at 6.30 pm. Another protest in Islamabad is scheduled on March 3 at 5.00 pm at the same venue.

Also tomorrow Mar 3rd, 2011, 11 am – protest at Miran Muhammad Shah Road near Hyderabad Press Club, via Movement for Peace and Tolerance (MPT) and Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC)

But it’s not enough. Also, our fight is not on the streets in competition with the mullahs who can bring thousands of brain washed youth from their captive audience madrassahs and ‘religious parties’. We have to fight through Parliament, rule of law, ideas and public positions eg statements at CFD blog – http://citizensfordemocracy.wordpress.com – pamphlets in local languages etc.

Unfortunately, our ideas don’t get much space in the mainstream television channels, that are in general more interested in talk shows that fan conflict (get more ratings) rather than in propagating responsible ideas that make people think…

I also want to share this note from Kamran Shafi: “You and I and other friends can protest until we are blue in the face, it will make no difference as long as the Deep State goes on supporting these extremist obscurantists. It is time we picketed the Establishment itself if we are to save this country from its nosedive into the shadows of hate and intolerance. We need slogans like: ‘Murderers cannot be this country’s “STRATEGIC ASSETS”‘! WE ARE!'”

Please also see posts at Citizens for Democracy, Gawaahi.com and this excellent post by Kalsoom Lakhani at  Changing Up Pakistan, (CHUP), which includes a video of Shahbaz Bhatti.

Brief update; my Secularism and ‘Blasphemy’ articles & others

Pix from Take Back the Tech at T2F. Courtesy: Newsline

I posted this to my yahoogroup today, along with a note from Avaaz on taking action against the Wikileaks crackdown (posting that separately)

Links to some of my recent articles, including about the ‘blasphemy law’ and secularism in Pakistan.

A brief update from me: I recently showed the film on DSF (Democratic Students Federation) that Sharjil and I made to a rapt audience in Islamabad at Kuch Khaas, the wonderful space set up by my old friend Poppy (Shayan Afzal Khan) – they hold film screenings, seminars, book launches; hold classes in dance, music etc (with a percentage of the admissions being reserved for underprivileged children who attend on scholarships).

My Mukhtiar Mai film was part of a couple of events held to commemorate 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. It was screened at the `No Honour in Killing‘ exhibition curated by Niilofur Farrukh now in Karachi at V.M. Art Gallery till Dec 20th (has been to other cities including Larkana and Jamshoro). It was also part of the Take Back the Tech event linked to 16 Days, at a discussion (Newsline report here) held at The Second Floor in Karachi.

Below, links to my recent articles & others on the ‘blasphemy laws’ and on secularism

BLASPHEMY in Pakistan: time to repeal a flawed law – my OpEd in Common Ground News Service

Also see the other articles on the blasphemy law in Pakistan that I compiled at this link

SECULARISM PAKISTAN: My article “Secularism – Not a dirty word‘ for The News on Sunday’s series on the issue. Shorter version for Hard News, India – my monthly column Personal Political ‘Deep down in our hearts…

Also see the other articles in that series, compiled at this link.

Thanks.

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