RIP Amjad Sabri, symbol of a syncretic Sufi culture increasingly under attack

Amjad SabriA sad, sad day. Rest in peace, Amjad Sabri, qawwal, shot dead in a target killing in Karachi today. Shortly afterwards, the young naat-khwan, Farhan Ali Waris escaped a murderous attack on his way home from a recording where he had in fact waiting for Amjad Sabri to join him.  A continuation of the trend of killing Shia and Ahmadi doctors for their faith, now musicians…? But Amjad Sabri was not just a ‘musician’.

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‘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

Unsilencing Pakistan and the 5th Global Vigil #NeverForget

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Daily vigil for Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi, 8-9 pm at Do Talwar

Protestors holding daily public protest vigils in Karachi demanding justice for Sabeen Mahmud hold placards calling to #unsilencePakistan and end the culture of impunity. Today’s vigil, marking give months of the Peshawar Army School massacre, also incorporates the carnage at Safoora Chowk in Karachi where armed men in police uniforms killed 45 of the 60 Ismailis on a bus.

“It has been 17 days since I have been present here daily from 8pm to 9pm,” poignantly writes Ibad Sheikh who initiated this event and brings along his drums to pound on. “I come to celebrate Sabeen, to grieve her death, to find comfort in fellow protesters and to tell the world that I have not forgotten her.” (From APS victims to Sabeen Mahmud: Honouring all who have been taken away from us, May 15, 2015)

Protestors at the Fifth Global Vigil this weekend in various cities are demanding an end to impunity and against terrorism in Pakistan.

  • Karachi – 16th May – assemble at Danish Gah, Punjab Chowrangi at 5:30pm and march to Do Talwar.
  • Islamabad – 16th May – 5.30 pm at Press Club
  • Boston – 16th May – 4 pm – Boston Common (near the fountain by the Part St. T)
  • Toronto/Mississauga – 6 pm, 7880 Keele Street, Unit #14, Vaughan, ON L4K 4G7
  • London – 17th May – 3-5 pm in front of Pakistan High Commission

Below, an extract from something I wrote recently about the Unsilencing Balochistan events in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi:  Continue reading

“Unsilencing Pakistan” and the ongoing “intellecticide”

Vigil for Sabeen in Harvard Yard, April 28, 2015. Poster designed by Erum Sattar shows a painting by Frida Kahlo whom Sabeen loved. Photo: Ken Shulman

Vigil for Sabeen in Harvard Yard, April 28, 2015. Poster designed by Erum Sattar shows a painting by Frida Kahlo whom Sabeen loved, with a word play on “mARTyr” she would have enjoyed. Photo: Ken Shulman

In the summer of 2011, young academic Nosheen Ali, and journalists Sahar Habib Ghazi and Malik Siraj Akbar approached me to work on a new initiative they called “Unsilencing Pakistan” that aimed to make an online record of all the journalists, activists, and thinkers in Pakistan who have been harassed, tortured, and/or executed. I had written at the time about those killed as ‘enlightenment martyrs’, part of an ongoing intellecticide. The “Unsilencing Pakistan” idea included a statement that we got several progressive voices to endorse  — Sabeen Mahmud among them (see below). We weren’t able to take the idea forward then but the concept remains critically important as Sabeen’s murder a week ago reminds us. I was also reminded by my friend Huma’s Facebook post today about the vigil for Sabeen uses the term #unsilencePakistan; and by the seminar titled Unsilencing Balochistan that was canceled at LUMS but held at T2F after which Sabeen was killed.  Continue reading

Pakistan #Intellecticide: Vigils for Sabeen – who was she and why was she killed?

Sabeen-Hero-Karachi-Mohsin Sayeed

Sabeen: delighted to find an old Karachi car number plate reading, “Tu Mera Hero” (you’re my hero) at the “Creative Karachi” festival, fund-raiser for T2F, 2014. Photo by Mohsin Sayeed

Vigils and protests for our slain comrade and friend Sabeen Mahmud are taking place in different cities of Pakistan and around the world. Anyone is welcome to submit online responses to the blog Sabeen Mahmud: A Tribute.

In Boston, students have organized a vigil for Sabeen on Tuesday, April 28, 7.30 pm at the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard (Facebook Event). In Pakistan, friends are meeting at Press Clubs in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to register their protest.

Bring an apple. Or a Beatles or Steve Jobs poster. Or Farida Kahlo or Farida Khanum, Faiz, Farid Ayaz… all the things she loved. Black armbands. She loved strong visual statements.

A lot has been written about who she was, what she stood for and why she was targeted. My offerings, with a heavy heart: Onpoint with Tom Ashbrook on NPR; in in Scroll: You refused to cower in silence’: A letter to a fallen Pakistani comrade; and In Pakistan, This Activist Was Martyred for Her Moderation in the Daily Beast co-authored with Asra Nomani.

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Please, not Sabeen. And no, that won’t shut us up.

SabeenIn shock and grieved beyond words at this horrible news that our dear friend and comrade Sabeen Mahmud has been shot dead, her mother in critical condition in hospital. They were returning from the event Unsilencing Balochistan (Take 2) held at The Second Floor (T2F) [NOTE: the facebook event link posted above mysteriously disappeared then reappeared]. It was tremendously brave of Sabeen to allow the event to be hosted there given that Balochistan is essentially a ‘no go’ area. Even as we grieve our friend we refuse to be silenced.

“She always spoke out. We must honour her legacy of speaking out,” said Mohammad Jibran Nasir when I spoke to him just now. “We will not let Balochistan be a no-go area”.

“They want to make us into a nation of intellectual cripples, no discussion, no dissent, no dialogue,” said Mona Kazim Shah. “How many will they kill?”

This intellecticide cannot continue. Sabeen… all-inclusive humanist, only child of her single mother, cat-lover, a gentle and compassionate soul who did all in her power to create spaces and platforms to give a voice to the less fortunate, the vulnerable, the under-privileged, those whose for whom her heart beat. Rest in peace my friend. I can’t believe you are no more. We will keep speaking out. We will honour your legacy.

Long March for Baloch Missing Persons
Photo Credit: Syed Ali Shah (DAWN)

Of political wisdom, restraint, and rotten eggs #socmm12

Sen. Rehman Malik: A strategic intervention with Pakistani and India social media users. Photo: FurSid

My article in the Aman ki Asha page of The News, July 18, 2012

Rehman Malik’s resounding call for peace between India and Pakistan, and the need for tolerance, understanding and humanity, drew enthusiastic applause from Indian and Pakistani delegates
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