Farewell Saleem Asmi: A quiet warrior slips into the night

Saleem Asmi, Nov. 29, 1934 – Oct. 30, 2020

First published in The News on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. Reposted here with more photos.

Saleem Asmi: Portrait by Sharjil Baloch, 2014-2015.

By Beena Sarwar

His old friend S. M. Shahid termed Saleem Asmi a ‘Marxist Sufi’ in his compilation of biographical essays, ‘Living Souls: Memories’. Asmi Sahib would typically brush aside the accolades that came his way, not because he didn’t appreciate himself but because he had no false pride, false humility, or a shred of hypocrisy.

I can imagine his chuckle at the couplet by his favourite poet initially chosen by family and friends to inscribe on his gravestone:

Ye masaail-e-tassawuf, ye tera byan Ghalib
Tujhey hum vali samajhtalay jo na baada khwar hota

The way you talk of philosophy Ghalib, the mystical way you explain it
You would have been considered a saint yourself, had your drinking been less.

Continue reading

‘My years with WAF’ – Zohra Yusuf on the Pakistani women’s movement

Below, an article by Zohra Yusuf, my first editor, with whom I worked at The Star Weekend in 1981-82, outlining the birth of the women’s movement in Pakistan

Lahore, Feb 12, 1983: Police brutality on the women's demonstration against the 'Law of Evidence' catapulted the nascent women's movement into the limelight. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

Lahore, Feb 12, 1983: Police brutality on the women’s demonstration against the ‘Law of Evidence’ catapulted the nascent women’s movement into the limelight. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

“My years with WAF” 

By Zohra Yusuf | Article written for a souvenir on WAF’s 25th anniversary, Oct 2006

Certain memories are etched on the mind. The birth of Women’s Action Forum is, for me, surely among them. It was on an afternoon in September 1981 that Aban Marker (Shirkatgah) called. She told me about the distressed call she had just received from Najma Sadeque (another SG founding member) regarding the case of Fehmida-Allah Bux. Pakistan’s first sentence of death by stoning and public whipping handed down to a couple under the Zina Ordinance of 1979. We had all read about the sentence and in our individual capacities felt deeply disturbed. After a bit of discussion, we decided to call a meeting of all women’s organizations at Aban’s place. The rest, as they say, is history. Continue reading

Remembering Saneeya, five years on

Zohra Yusuf's tribute to Saneeya in 'The Herald' - one of dozens of articles about this extraordinary activist, journalist and wonderful human being

Hard to believe it’s five years already since we lost Saneeya to asthma and a traffic jam in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Our mutual friend in Sri Lanka, Nalaka Gunawardene remembers her in a blog post today titled “Remembering Saneeya Hussain of Absurdistan, five years on…”.

“Absurdistan” is the delightfully whimsical word Saneeya coined,  in her email to me in March 2005 in response to news of the attack on women participating in a ‘mixed’ (non-segregated) marathon in Gujranwala. Just two days later, we learnt that she had gone into a coma, from which she never recovered. I used “Absurdistan” as the headline of another article after she’d passed away.

Saneeya, we will always miss you. Thanks to all those who are  supporting the Saneeya Hussain Trust run by her family and friends to provide educational scholarships to deserving women and girls.

See my chapter “Uphill and downstream in Pakistan”, on Saneeya and environmental journalism in the recently published collection “The Green Pen” by Sage, India.

The short version of my documentary Celebrating Saneeya is up at Youtube

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