Khan, Sidhu, Vajpayee, and India Pakistan relations

Sidhu-Khan

Navjot Singh Sidhu has a visa to attend Imran Khan’s swearing in ceremony. Why can’t visas be easy for everyone? Image courtesy: CatchNews

August 17 this year marks 30 years since the mid-air explosion that killed the military dictator General Ziaul Haq in 1988. This year, Zia’s death anniversary ironically took a back seat to the election of the country’s new prime minister. Today, the 342-seat National Assembly voted on the prime minister, who of course was Imran Khan. His speech and that of Shahbaz Sharif were sadly marred by sloganeering in the gallery from their opponents. Everyone listened attentively to Bilawal Bhutto’s maiden speech in parliament – well spoken, reminded the speaker and prime minister-elect of their responsibilities and paid tribute to those who have given their lives for democracy. Very much hope both PTI and PML-N observe more decorum in coming sessions. Also worth listening to: Mohsin Dawar’s maiden speech, courageously calling for accountability beyond politicians and parliament. Tomorrow, Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony will be attended, among others, by Indian Punjab minister for culture and tourism, Navjot Singh Sidhu, himself a former cricketer. That, and former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s passing away yesterday are sharp reminders of the urgent need for peace between the two countries. I wrote about Vajpayee and his significance in terms of this issue for the India Today Group Digital, published in Daily O today (text below).  Whatever his flaws and political moorings, when it came to building peace in the region, Vajpayee showed the kind of moral courage and political will that today’s leaders would do well to learn from.

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Ongoing worldwide protests against “missing” bloggers

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Lahore protest. Photo: Khalid Mahmood

January 15, 2017 marks just over two weeks since the professor, poet and activist Salman Haider was abducted from Islamabad, followed soon after by more such “disappearances”. Human rights activists around the world are demanding that Pakistan produce the missing bloggers and end the climate of fear being created. Disappearing activists is not a new tactic, as Pervez Hoodbhoy reminds us – been happening with alarming regularity in Balochistan. But these abductions happened in Punjab. Meanwhile, the propaganda machinery of the dirty tricks brigade (#DTBPk) is out in full force painting as ‘blasphemers’ and ‘traitors’ the missing bloggers and those supporting them – which in the context of Pakistan is a clear incitement to violence and vigilante action. Below: photographs from some of the protests – Peshawar, Toba Tek Singh, Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Dallas TX and London, England.  Continue reading

Mahesh Bhatt’s “Milne Do” – II

A year ago, I wrote about Mahesh Bhatt’s new theatrical project a play titled ‘Milne Do’ aiming to find common ground between India and Pakistan. Here’s an update: He’s going ahead with it in collaboration with Azad Theatre and Laal band in Lahore. My article published in Aman ki Asha below:

imran and mahesh 1

Imran Zahid and Mahesh Bhatt: teamwork for a causMahesh Bhatt, in an attempt to find common ground between India and Pakistan, is all set to produce and present a play titled “Milne Do”.

The veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, in an attempt to find common ground between India and Pakistan, is all set to produce and present a play titled “Milne Do”.

“I have always maintained that a movie or a play can be a greater vehicle of peace than all the lectures we give,” he says. Any message, if communicated through storytelling, touches a chord. We are also trying to do the same. This play will be an emotional transaction between industries on both sides.”

This cross-border collaborative project across borders has been in the making for over a year. Continue reading

Masood Hasan: A man who represented all that is good and decent

Masood HasanGrieved to have had to write this. Published in The News today.

Columnist, humourist, cricket and jazz buff, advertising doyen and connoisseur of the finer things in life Masood Hasan, 72, passed away in his beloved Lahore on Sunday, June 1.

Sunday was the day of his popular column ‘Over the Top’ in the op-ed page of The News, where it has been published since the launch of weekly The News on Sunday (originally The News on Friday) in 1994. Continue reading

Want to help families displaced by the Badami Bagh attack? Here’s how…

This family refuse a tent so they can squat in front of their home. Photo: Nadia Jamil

This family refuse a tent so they can squat in front of their home. Photo: Nadia Jamil

In the midst of the despair and anger caused by the insane, cold-blooded attack on the Christians of Joseph Colony (also known as Esa Nagri), in Badami Bagh Lahore, it is heartening to see Pakistanis come together not just to unequivocally condemn the attack, but also to help those who have lost everything. Please join this effort. Friends that I trust are working with the Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation, run by Cecil and Michelle, whose father the late Sqdn Ldr Cecil Chaudhry I knew as a wonderful human being, and a dedicated peace activist and educationist (although he was more famous for being a war hero). Please see below for information on how to help, as well as photos and updates. Continue reading

“They looted everything, we have nothing left”

RT @Norbalm: Where are the blasphemy charges now?

@Norbalm: Where are the blasphemy charges now?

“Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack…”
King Lear

See this brief, heartbreaking video below documenting the damage done by the criminal mob at Joseph Colony, Badami Bagh, Lahore. All efforts must be made to rehabilitate them and provide them with justice. When is enough enough? Or have we still not reached the breaking point? Also see my earlier article on the ‘blasphemy’ laws and the dangers of ignoring malicious intent when accusing someone of this crime.


Joseph Colony Arson Attack from Saad Sarfraz Sheikh on Vimeo.

Planned attack on Christian properties in Lahore; protest demonstrations Sunday

Demonstration in Karachi against the attack on Christians' homes in Lahore. AP Photo/Fareed Khan

Demonstration in Karachi against the attack on Christians’ homes in Lahore. AP Photo/Fareed Khan

Another day, another bout of madness in Pakistan. On Saturday, a mob torched Christian houses in Joseph Colony in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore, after allegations of ‘blasphemy’ against one of its residents. This was clearly no spontaneous ‘riot’ but a well-planned and orchestrated move. Because of the warnings received ahead of time, the residents were evacuated so that there was no loss of life (though the alleged blasphemer’s 65-year old father was beaten up). Small mercies.

Locals say that the land mafia was behind this attack. No surprise. Malafide motives (property, debt, rivalry etc) have been behind all accusations of ‘blasphemy’ investigated so far. Continue reading

A Hundred Years of Manto

Great post by the Indian journalist and blogger Shivam Vij in Kafila.org, compiling information from several articles, interviews and videos:  ‘A Hundred Years of Manto‘. Excerpt:

Where would we be without Manto? He died in 1955 but lives on in the hearts of millions of people in both Pakistan in India because his work has by now helped generations understand, and if I may say so, come to terms with the Partition of 1947 whose ghosts haven’t left us yet. Manto’s centrality in understanding Partition remains despite a growing body of historical research on the subject…

Good news from Pakistan (besides the Oscar award): LUMS to create Abdus Salam Chair

Update to the news below: Professor Asad Abidi Named the Inaugural Holder of the Abdus Salam Chair at LUMS, (Jan. 2017)

Exciting news from Adil Najam, Vice Chancellor of LUMS – for those who don’t know him, Dr. Adil Najam was the Frederick S. Pardee Professor of Global Public Policy at Boston University and served as a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), work for which the IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore. He left BU (where his office had the most gorgeous view overlooking the Charles River) to head the Lahore University of Management Sciences. 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

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