Tribute to a nationalistic hawk-turned-peacemonger with a SouthAsian vision

Lahore, 1992: Dr Syeda Hameed with Dr Mubashir Hasan, uncle, comrade and mentor. Photo by Reza Kazim.

With the world in the grip of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to find space for anything else. As horrors unfolded in country after country, exposing the hollowness behind military might, glittering capitalist facades, and exploitation, a gentle soul slipped into the hereafter at his house in Lahore. At 98, he had spent the last half of his life fighting for exactly the kind of egalitarian, people centered system that would have mitigated the ravages of Covid-19. There have been some wonderful tributes to Dr Mubashir Hasan. Two of the best I’ve seen are by his old friend I.A. Rehman and Indian journalist Nirupama Subramaniam in Indian Express, also published in Aman Ki Asha.

Below, my tribute to Dr M. in The News on Sunday last weekend, a follow up to my piece in The Wire earlier. Also below, two previously unpublished pieces I am honoured to present here — a powerful, poignant poem in Dr M’s memory by his niece in Delhi, and a lively little remembrance by a 12-year old based on her memories of the Chaukas collective meetings she attended with her mother, that led to A New Social Contract published by Dr M, 2016. Also linking here this tribute in Mainstream Weekly magazine, Kolkata, founded by Dr Mubashir’s friend Nikhil Chakravartty — “one of the greatest journalists of the subcontinent” as Dr M called him — now edited by his son Sumit Chakravartty.

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Pakistan Elections: Democracy, Dichotomies, and Shades of Grey

Here’s the piece I wrote for the Economic and Political Weekly, India, published on the web today, copied below with minor changes, photos and added links.

Lahore, Dec 9, 2007: (L-R): Nawaz Sharif. Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Imran Khan meet to discuss whether to boycott January 8, 2008 polls. "Boycott, and then what?" asked Benazir Bhutto who convinced Sharif to participate in the polls. The rest is history. Photo: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Lahore, Dec 9, 2007: (L-R): Nawaz Sharif. Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Imran Khan meet to discuss whether to boycott January 8, 2008 polls. “Boycott, and then what?” asked Benazir Bhutto who convinced Sharif to participate in the polls. The rest is history. Photo: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

The recent elections in Pakistan show that the country is finally on the right track notwithstanding the rigging, the violence and the brutal prevention of women from voting in some areas by representatives of all the political parties. The huge turnout of women and first time young voters risking their lives to exercise their right to choose is something to celebrate and strengthen Continue reading

“Karachi Battles” – Haris Gazdar in EPW, 2011

Karachi. Photo: Muhammad Arshad/IPS

Karachi. Photo: Muhammad Arshad/IPS


As Karachi once again reels under uncertainty, fear and economic shut-down, it may be worthwhile to re-visit this 2011 article by Haris Gazdar in EPW, “Karachi Battles”… Excerpt:
“The big picture still favours an accord between the PPP (and ANP) and the MQM. The PPP cannot allow the military to use Karachi to undermine its rule not just in Sindh but nationally. The MQM should know that a “neutral” army operation means a crackdown on the MQM, sooner rather than later. The ANP might also be aware that its hard-won position in its home region would collapse if the jihadists regain initiative with the break-up of the secular coalition. All three should know that the most powerful militant wing belongs to the military itself, which must not be tempted into seeing an opportunity where none exists.” Read the full article here: Karachi battles – Haris Gazdar in EPW Sept 2011

Rinkle Kumari: A Test Case for Jinnah’s Pakistan (Updated)

Marvi Sirmed raises some critical questions about the complex case of Rinkle Kumari, with a timeline of the case, on her blog Rinkle Kumari: A Test Case for Jinnah’s Pakistan (Updated).

Personal Political: The tragedy of Karachi

Holding up a 'I ❤ KHI' t-shirt at Itwar Bazar, July 2011. Photo: Beena Sarwar

My column for Hardnews India — written on Aug 25, 2011 (although much has happened since, this provides a context and an overview of the Karachi situation).

Personal Political: The tragedy of Karachi

Beena Sarwar

“Will it be possible to write about the tragedy of Karachi…?” asked my editor.

Possible, yes. Easy, no. In two words: turf wars. But behind that is a long, complex history, bound up in money, crime, politics, power and greed. Continue reading

Lagay Raho, Media Bhai (Keep At It, Brother Media!)

See article below, posted with this comment by Shaheryar Azhar, Moderator, The Forum: “What is amazing is that people like Kamran Khan, Shaheen Sehbai and then politicos like PMLN (and PPP to be sure as in 1999) and everyone in between have such low opinion and regard for democracy that for all kinds of invented reasons they are ready to sacrifice it at a drop of a hat. They are or unwittingly become instruments of the Army. No one has the mental toughness to ask the difficult questions or patience to let the political process sort out the incompetent and the corrupt overtime. Irony of irony is that, in turn, each of them have themselves been a victim of the same establishment whose line they now toe. What accounts for this short-sightedness? Are they too self-absorbed, too bereft of core beliefs, too egotistically driven, too lacking in wisdom to see the circus of repeating rings! This is a great article by Sadiq Saleem because he is raising the logical issues – one can already see an alternative narrative developing here, which can, one hopes, lead one day to the true practice of the Charter of Democracy.”

Lagay Raho, Media Bhai (Keep At It, Brother Media!)
The News, November 04, 2009
By Sadiq Saleem
On Monday, November 2, thirty-five innocent Pakistanis lost their lives to a terrorist attack. These were ordinary people, standing in line at a bank to receive their monthly salary. They must have gone there with plans of spending that money on their parents, wives, children, brothers and sisters. But for the Pakistani media, especially the TV anchors who have now become the arbiters of what is important and what is not, the death of these poor people was not important. With their usual cast of characters from —Jamaat-e-Islami to Imran Khan to the two Muslim Leagues— the electronic media that day was exclusively focused on the so-called NRO issue.

DEVELOPMENT-SOUTH ASIA: Women’s Peace Offensive

Analysis by Beena Sarwar

A collective aspiration for peace brings together women from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Photo:Roshan Sirran

A collective aspiration for peace brings together women from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Photo:Roshan Sirran

KABUL, Oct 18 (IPS) – ‘Give peace a chance’ may just be another cliché for many, but for women who have suffered the ravages of war, endless strife and other forms of conflict, joining hands to find meaningful solutions to their collective aspiration lends it a whole new meaning.

Within the South Asian region, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan have for decades been torn by internal and external conflicts that have cried out for, but have not quite found, a lasting resolution.

“We waited for a long time to see what the men would do for peace,” Zahira Khattak, a member of the think-tank formed by Pakistan’s Awami National Party (ANP), told IPS.

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