‘An honest Pakistan is a better Pakistan’: the ‘unsilencing’ idea and the ongoing intellecticide

Citizens in Lahore at a #Rally4Sabeen. Photo: Farooq Tariq

Citizens in Lahore at a #Rally4Sabeen. Photo: Farooq Tariq

I wrote this piece last week for EPW – Economic and Political Weekly, India; reproduced below with photos and additional links.

“Unsilencing Pakistan” was an idea first articulated in 2011. It has been revived following the recent murder of Sabeen Mahmud, who had attempted to create a space where Pakistanis could discuss contentious issues–like the human rights violations in Balochistan–without fear. Can Pakistan’s intellectuals and human rights activists survive the “intellecticide” being perpetrated?

By Beena Sarwar

When the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) announced that it was organising a seminar titled “Un-Silencing Balochistan” on 9 April 2015, it reminded me of the “Unsilencing Pakistan” initiative of the summer of 2011. Continue reading

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Campaign against the genocide of progressive Pakistanis

Prof. Nazima Talib of Balochistan University

Prof Saba Dashtiyara 'Waja' of Balochistan University

Prof. Saba Dashtiary of Balochistan University

Modified from a post just sent to my yahoogroup: We need a campaign against the genocide of progressive Pakistani intellectuals and activists at the hands of those who have been distorting religion for political purposes, criminal and ethnic mafias. One or other of these elements is responsible for the murders of Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, Naeem Sabir (HRCP coordinator in Khuzdar, Balochistan), former senator Habib Jalib of Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal),  Saleem Shehzad and Prof. Dashtiyari. Baloch journalists killed include: Rehmatullah Shaeen, Ejaz Raisani, Lala Hameed Hayatan, Ilyas Nazar, Mohammad Khan Sasoil and Siddiq Eido and Abdus Rind. Also the fisherfolk leaders Haji Ghani and Abu Bakar spearheading a movement against the land mafia; Nisar Baloch who was fighting against the land mafia in Karachi; Latifullah Khan, the Communist Party member from Dir, and Nazima Talib, the professor of Balochistan University shot dead a year ago, and so many others. Continue reading

RIP Prof. Saba Dashtiyari… Tujh ko kitnon ka lahu chahi’ay ay arz-e-watan

Prof. Saba Dashtiyari giving an interview. Photo courtesy Homayoon Mobaraki

The situation in Balochistan continues to be volatile. The latest victim of the violence and anarchy in Pakistan’s largest province is the well known Baloch rights activist and professor, Saba Dashtiyari, gunned down in Quetta on June 1, 2011.  Words are not enough to express outrage and grief at this continued genocide of Pakistan’s liberal, secular, progressive citizens.

“As young kids, we had heard charming stories about a Baloch professor who was an atheist but, ironically, taught theology and Islamic studies at the University of Balochistan. Another thing that fascinated us about him was the narrative that he spent most of his salary on the promotion of Balochi language academies and preparation of Balochi text books,’ writes Malik Siraj Akbar in his moving obituary for the slain professor in Baloch Hal.

Video of Prof. Dashtiyari speaking at Karachi Press Club at a seminar last year on missing persons  – at the start a woman ‘journalist’ tries to interrupt him but he rightly insists on having his say and presents a strong argument about the situation in Balochistan, giving a historical and political perspective   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.

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