Sabeen Mahmud: Inclusive spaces and #tree4Sabeen

In Karachi last week, I wrote about Sabeen Mahmud and the Creative Karachi Festival held to commemorate her life and work. PRI published it with the title Remembering a Pakistani woman who died because she wanted everyone to have a space to speak freely along with my radio interview with Marco Werman of PRI’s The World. Below is the unabridged text including with more links and photos. Also see our friend Afia Salam’s tribute to Sabeen in The Wire, Why Sabeen Mahmud Will Always Matter.

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A poster with Sabeen’s photo at CKF 2016 on a divider between a stall and walkway at the Alliance Francaise. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Beena Sarwar

Early on Sunday morning in Karachi, a small, eclectic crowd converged at The Second Floor, the iconic coffee shop-cultural hub founded by my young friend Sabeen Mahmud in 2007.  Continue reading

Remembering Poppy and Sabeen: Support inclusive cultural spaces

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Kuch Khaas, 2011: Flood Relief concert featuring folk artists from interior Sindh (Thar) along with musicians Todd Shea, QB, Arieb Azhar and Yasir and Jawad. Photo courtesy – PakiUM

My oped published in The News, April 24, 2016

I sit down to write this on April 21, the birthday of one of my oldest, dearest childhood friends, universally known as Poppy – Shayan Afzal Khan, to use her full name. On Feb 21, 2015, Poppy lost her second battle with cancer, which she had fought with her characteristic grace, courage and humour. One of Poppy’s enduring legacies is her book ‘Unveiling the Ideal: A New Look at Early Muslim Women’, published by Musawah-Sisters in Islam, Malaysia in 2007. For this book, she drew on her writing skills, faith, feminism and history degree (Girton College, Cambridge, 1985). Continue reading

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)

Brief update; my Secularism and ‘Blasphemy’ articles & others

Pix from Take Back the Tech at T2F. Courtesy: Newsline

I posted this to my yahoogroup today, along with a note from Avaaz on taking action against the Wikileaks crackdown (posting that separately)

Links to some of my recent articles, including about the ‘blasphemy law’ and secularism in Pakistan.

A brief update from me: I recently showed the film on DSF (Democratic Students Federation) that Sharjil and I made to a rapt audience in Islamabad at Kuch Khaas, the wonderful space set up by my old friend Poppy (Shayan Afzal Khan) – they hold film screenings, seminars, book launches; hold classes in dance, music etc (with a percentage of the admissions being reserved for underprivileged children who attend on scholarships).

My Mukhtiar Mai film was part of a couple of events held to commemorate 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. It was screened at the `No Honour in Killing‘ exhibition curated by Niilofur Farrukh now in Karachi at V.M. Art Gallery till Dec 20th (has been to other cities including Larkana and Jamshoro). It was also part of the Take Back the Tech event linked to 16 Days, at a discussion (Newsline report here) held at The Second Floor in Karachi.

Below, links to my recent articles & others on the ‘blasphemy laws’ and on secularism

BLASPHEMY in Pakistan: time to repeal a flawed law – my OpEd in Common Ground News Service

Also see the other articles on the blasphemy law in Pakistan that I compiled at this link

SECULARISM PAKISTAN: My article “Secularism – Not a dirty word‘ for The News on Sunday’s series on the issue. Shorter version for Hard News, India – my monthly column Personal Political ‘Deep down in our hearts…

Also see the other articles in that series, compiled at this link.

Thanks.

Combatting corruption with ‘zero’, Bindiya Rana, and more

This post is based on a note I began compiling over a week ago, sent to my yahoogroup the other day, which includes links to some articles on corruption and politics and a somewhat related note on Bindiya Rana, the Khwaja Sira (hijra) who features in Ragni Kidvai’s film ‘Bindiya Chamke Gi’…

‘Paying Zero for Public Services’: An Indian NGO called 5th Pillar gives the public a powerful ally, an imaginative way to combat petty corruption: a zero rupee note (“eruption against corruption”! – love it). Why can’t we do this in Pakistan?  (thanks Omar Ali)

Speaking of corruption: “The NRO judgment cannot be all about the evil in Asif Zardari. It must be seen on its own. It is a reminder of the time when the military’s illegal acts against Nawab Akbar Bugti were being tolerated because the latter was an unsavoury person” – Flaws in the judgment‘ by Asma Jahangir
Continue reading

Asimicus, we will miss you

Metropole corridor: Imtiaz Mughal, Noman Ahmed, Arif Hasan and Asim Butt (red shirt)

Just got back from the Tribute to Asim Butt event at T2F, which was packed to capacity with those who knew and loved Asim, others who knew his work and were inspired by him, and some who happened to be at the café and joined in the Tribute. Sabeen introduced the event, and told the story of how Asim painted that wonderful mural on the walls of T2F.01.

Several people spoke movingly about Asim, providing ancedotes, photos and video that helped bring pieces of Asim the person together with pieces of Asim the artist, the intellectual, the activist and the rebel to form a more complete picture. I had to leave early as it’s a school night, but was there for most of it. Speakers included George Fulton who read out a lovely poem;  artist Ahmed Ali sent an email from Lahore that Mazhar Zaidi read out, Khurram talked about the LUMS days and how Asim was a trailblazer in so many ways even there (thanks to him, the BA in Social Studies is called that, and not ‘Universal Education’; the time he took on the mullah who began giving an azan outside the room where they were studying for their final exams). Naiza Khan talked about Asim as a student at the Indus Valley School, and Sabina Ansari talked about the Asim she’s known since childhood, who kept her company at school when the other kids wouldn’t talk to her – and the legacy he has left, evident in all those who filled the room.

Gul Jafri spoke about her relationship with Asim as an ‘aunty’ (and provided insights into his innocence, typified in his indignation and incredulity at having his things filched from public places – ‘but those were my things’…), Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy talked about Asim’s involvement with Citizens’ Archives of Pakistan (CAP) and showed a video clip of him painting for CAP which I hope they’ll put on the FB group wall. In fact I hope everyone puts whatever they said on a blog or website for Asim. Below, something I wrote today, which I referred to in my comments: Continue reading

RIP Khwaja Masud; Asim Butt tribute live stream

Sad to learn yesterday of the passing away of Prof Khwaja Masud on Saturday, Jan 16, 2010. The well known educationist, newspaper columnist, Marxist intellectual and writer died in Islamabad after a brief illness, aged 88, leaving behind two sons. He played a good innings. See note at Dr Sarwar blog.

Activism, Dec 2007. Photo K.B. Abro

TRIBUTE TO ASIM BUTT: January 18, 2010, 6:30 pm at T2F 2.0. There will be a live webcast  (thanks Awab Alvi)

  • The stream will go live online at 6:30pm at this link
  • The Online tribute page allows visitors to leave a Text or Video Comment
  • Twitter Hashtag is #AsimButt

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