Reflections on fascism, autocracy, media and the democratic political process

fullsizeoutput_153PRINCETON BLOG: Something I wrote for my class blog at Princeton University where I taught a journalism seminar this past semester, based on a lecture soon after the US Presidential elections, by Egyptian journalist Yasmine El-Rashidi, a fellow visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism with the University’s Council of Humanities

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Fact sheet on Kanak Dixit’s arrest

Fact sheet on Kanak Dixit’s arrest – used as the basis for an online petition to CIAA Nepal Lok Man Singh Karki

Opposition to the current investigation by the CIAA into alleged corruption by Mr Kanak Mani Dixit is based on the grounds that the process has been flawed as demonstrated by facts:

1. Mr Kanak Mani Dixit had opposed the appointment of Lokman Singh Karki as the head of the CIAA (Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority) at the time of the appointment in 2013 on the grounds that Mr Karki had been indicted by the Rayamajhi Commission for suppressing the people’s movement: Under well-established principles of jurisprudence a judge or investigator with a personal bias or interest in a case should not be carrying out an investigation or pronouncing on a case, and in fact should recuse himself or herself from such a case to prevent prejudice. However though Mr Karki himself was the individual criticised by Mr Dixit, in a public campaign, Mr Karki continues to drive the investigations. Continue reading

Media figures call for release of Himal Editor Kanak Mani Dixit

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Kanak being arrested at a pro-democracy rally in Nepal, 2006. Photo by Shehab Uddin

Press Statement: media figures call for release of Himal Editor Kanak Mani Dixit

New Delhi, April 23 — Editors and media figures as well as intellectuals and scholars from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, UK, US, Australia and Sri Lanka have called for the release of Himal editor and prominent Nepali journalist Kanak Mani Dixit who was arrested yesterday in Katmandu by anti-graft officials.

The following is the text of the statement:

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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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Stifling dissent in Southasia

I earlier posted about resistance to the stifling of dissent in India, and why as a Pakistani it matters to me. The trend is visible in other parts of Southasia too, including of course Pakistan about which I’ve written a fair amount. Here’s an update from Bangladesh, where defamation, sedition cases and the attempts to silence the independent media are underway, as well as Chattisgarh, India.

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Smiles and sedition. Photo: Andrew Biraj, Reuters

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Farewell, Aslam

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Aslam Azhar, Islamabad, 2013. Photo: Beena Sarwar

My personal tribute to a giant of progressive politics in Pakistan, published in The Friday Times on Jan 15, 2016, posted below with links that didn’t make it into the TFT copy. 

By Beena Sarwar

Aslam. That’s what everyone, junior or senior, in the theatre group Dastak called him. He insisted upon it. That was just one aspect of Aslam Azhar, the founding father of Pakistan Television and already a legendary figure in the late 1980s. That was when I joined the theatre group that he had started in 1982 with his close friend and comrade Mansoor Saeed – who also insisted on being called Mansoor. Continue reading

In wake of Pakistan university attack, the voices grow louder – stop glorifying the dead

Screen Shot Hamid Mir-Geo TV

Screenshot from Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk, Geo TV, Jan 20, 2016

I wrote this piece on Jan 20, 2016 on the barbaric attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda. Published in Scroll.in on Jan 22, 2016.

As Pakistanis look for solutions, a consensus is emerging that people killed in such attacks should not be called ‘martyrs’ or ‘heroes’.

By Beena Sarwar

There is now a numbing familiarity to the kind of news that broke on Wednesday morning from Pakistan.

This time, heavily armed militants in suicide vests scaled the walls of a sprawling university campus near Charsadda, a picturesque town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as North West Frontier) province near the Afghan border. Gunfire and explosions starting at about 9 am resounded through the dense fog enveloping Bacha Khan University, set idyllically amidst sugar cane fields some 13 km from Charsadda.

The four assailants killed at least 19 students and teachers before themselves being killed by the police and army in a three-hour long gun-battle.

The casualty rate was far lower than the attack on the Army Public School in nearby Peshawar just over a year ago on Dec 16, 2014 in which militants killed some 150 school children and teachers.

The relatively low casualties, pointed out Senator Rubina Khalid of the Pakistan People’s Party, is not a basis for self-congratulation.
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