Pakistani Journalists Live Dangerously If They Cross The Line

10 May 2014

Listen to the story:

Steve Inskeep talks to Raza Rumi, editor of the Pakistani newspaper Friday Times, about the rise in attacks against journalists. Rumi fled Pakistan after surviving an assassination attempt last month.



A man came by our studios this week who cannot go home. He is known by the name Raza Rumi. He’s a writer and television host in Pakistan – or at least he was until gunmen opened fire on his car. And now he’s staying outside …

RAZA RUMI: I’m taking a break from the very toxic and very violent environment that I was reporting on, writing about, speaking about. I finally became a victim of that. And not just me but my driver, who was with us, was shot dead. You know, and he died in front of me. So, it has been extremely traumatic.

INSKEEP: Raza Rumi ducked when the bullet struck his car. His driver did not. Dozens of journalists have been killed in Pakistan in recent years. Just last weekend, another TV anchor was shot and wounded. Raza Rumi told us what it’s like to speak out in an insecure country. In newspaper columns and on television, he criticized extremists such as Pakistan’s Taliban. On his final TV program, he raised questions about Pakistan’s blasphemy law. That law is used to target Christians and others accused of insulting Islam. In the days before the attack, Raza Rumi says, callers to his show gave him a label that can be a death sentence. They called him a secularist. Were they right?

RUMI: Yes. There were many callers like that who would say that, you know, you are secular, which unfortunately I do not blame them. Because what has happened is that in the decades of Pakistan’s existence, the Islamic scholars and the villages’ parties particularly have integrated the word secular as an atheist or as irreligious or somebody who’s anti-religion. And so that’s the popular perception. Secularism is an abused word. I mean, I’ve actually stopped using it on my TV shows. You know, I would use things like moderation, pluralism, you know, only to appease these bullies. And, you know, now thank God I can say that, you know, I’m a committed secularist. I think that is the only way states ought to be, societies can only function normally if they are secular. Because if they started to become partisan or particularistic, then obviously you have violence and divisions and discord and hatred. And I think that’s just not on because, I mean, here I am a victim of all of that.

INSKEEP: Twenty bullets struck the car, was that correct?

RUMI: Well, yes. The police found 11 shells from the car. But, you know, there were more bullets. And, you know, I don’t have access to the exact investigation report, but, you know, it was over 20 bullets because some were sprayed in the air to first make sure that all passersby ran away, nobody gathered around the car because there was an operation going on.

INSKEEP: Very courteous of them to warn away civilians before they attempted to kill you.

RUMI: Yes, small mercies.

INSKEEP: How dangerous is it to be a journalist in Pakistan right now?

RUMI: It is extremely dangerous if you cross certain lines in Pakistani journalism. And those lines are when you get into direct confrontation with the state authorities or you get into a confrontation with the non-state actors. And non-state actors include both the extremist armed groups but also some sections of gangs affiliated with political parties. But it is extremely dangerous. If you don’t cross those lines, for example, if you ever talk about Christians and (unintelligible) and Shias and bigotry, etc., you’re safe. If you say the Taliban are great. If you feel the fight of al-Qaida against the West is kosher game, you’re safe. But if you cross these lines, you are unsafe.

INSKEEP: As you’re talking, I’m remembering a woman I knew in Pakistan named Perween Rahman. She was not precisely a journalist – she was an activist and a writer – but she revealed facts, she uncovered facts. And once she said to me, roughly speaking, please write what I’m writing so that I’m not the only one writing it. And I think about the fact that not long after that conversation, a few years after that conversation, she was killed. It must be a very lonely moment when you’re a writer and you’ve written something that you know could get you killed and you’re about to hit send – send it out to the world.

RUMI: Yeah. Yes, it’s a lonely moment but it is also cathartic. It is also cathartic because how could you be a conscientious, patriotic citizen of your country and not speak against injustice, not speak against, you know, the daily violation of rights of your fellow citizens. And I love my country, you know. I really think Pakistan has immense potential, you know. Wherever Pakistanis go, they make a mark. But what happens within Pakistan that you know such incidents occur. And I think those are the things I was trying to unpack.

INSKEEP: Can you ever go back?

RUMI: Steve, I would love to go back. That is what I want to do but I don’t think I can immediately go back. But I can perhaps go back and have a hermit’s life in my home, but I would have to go out somewhere and somebody would go with me. And I don’t want another person to be killed because he or she was with me. A 25-year-old guy, head of a household, young, promising, who had his whole life ahead of him died in this confrontation between the extremists and the looney liberal voice. And I can’t kind of forget that, at least for now.

INSKEEP: Raza Rumi is a Pakistani journalist who for the moment is staying in Washington.

Original Post NPR


The Romance of Raja Rasalu

30 September 2009

By Raza Rumi

Story telling has been a primordial urge, never quite expressed in its fullest measure, but always lingering and floating like life. There was a sub-continent before the colonial interaction that brought in its wake an aesthetic hardened by the industrial revolution and its uniformity of life and space. This was a world rich with myriad identities, of whispers and tales all interlaced in a peculiarly complex kaleidoscope. Since the 19th century that particular aspect of folk story telling and transfer of generational accounts gave way to what is now known as education and knowledge – instruments and reflections of power and a linear world view set elsewhere but adapted awkwardly to the local context.
This is why Simorgh Women’s Resource and Publication Centre in Lahore, under the leadership of Neelum Hussain, have undertaken the challenging task of reclaiming the rich heritage that lies in our folklore especially that of the Punjab. “The Romance of Raja Rasalu and Other Tales” is a stunning compilation of the romance of Punjab’s legendary hero, Raja Rasalu and, while it draws heavily on the colonial storytellers, the book twists the narrative in a manner that brings us closer to the origins of our cultural sensibilities. The tales are sheer magic. The romance, the intrigue, the bravery and the integrated nature of human existence where it finds communication even with birds and trees comes to a full life throughout the narrative.

It is one thing to produce an admirable compendium but it is another matter to ensure that the purpose and spirit of the tales are adequately reflected in the illustrations. This particular touch of originality is provided by the eminent artist Laila Rehman whose breathtakingly attractive illustrations add a new layer of meaning and sensibility to the folk stories. It is, therefore, as has been rightly stated in the introduction, a book for pleasure: a pleasure that moves beyond the immediate and the momentary and merges into the real or imagined pleasure of living. Laila’s paintings and sketches are evocative enough to generate a parallel story within the larger narrative. It is as if the reader is traversing into several worlds. One minute you are locked in the words with imagination rescuing the linearity of the printed letters and another minute imagination and its scope are enlarged, tossed over and often chastened by the sheer colours and experiments of the palette. The sketches, graphics and canvasses become alive and converse with the reader.

The compilation of stories works in a twofold manner whereby the first section deals with Raja Rasalu’s entire legend. Rasalu was the son of Raja Salwahan of Sialkot and a descendant of Vikramjit. The epic narrates high romance and Rasalu’s grand deeds with tons of magic and comedy. It is said that Rasalu’s legend corresponds to 800 A.D. even though there is no evidence to confirm it. But the tales of his life have been preserved by the circle of story tellers in the Punjabi settlements. Rasalu is embedded in our part of the Punjab; for instance, Tilla Jogian (where he meets the legendary fakir) is close to Jhelum city, the location where Rasalu defeated the giants is located in today’s Attock and so on. However, the tales are not geographically specific or fixed in any moment of time for, like any other folk narration, these tales deal with essential urges and imperatives of human existence-the need to live, seek and attain.</div>
<div>The second collection of stories pertains to shorter versions of particular tales invoking magic, romance and comedy. These are particularly delightful for many of them are funny, sometimes bawdy and amazingly pertinent even in the fissured and depressing globalised world we live in.

Neelum Hussain provides an erudite introduction that compares the various versions, elaborates on their nuanced differentials and sets the context for the lay and specialised reader alike. For instance, she mentions how the Punjabi wonder tales, not unlike South Asian in general, twist gender identities and play with the fixed notions of personal identity. For instance, Rasalu’s “betrothed” teases him:
“Ho rider of the dark grey mare
Did you forget to bind your hair?
Like some girls’ all loosely tied
It flies about from side to side”
But the wonderland does far more than just such wordplay. It also blurs the differences between heroes and villains and urges the understanding of the villain. Such fluidity in these tales also confirms their egalitarianism and focus on the human. Above all, as Neelum Hussain, aptly puts “There is no room for any dogma in the comic tale.” This is why the folk and fairy tales and the world they weave are beyond the confines and oppressive structures imposed by the clergy and the establishment.
The lived experience of ordinary people or the common folk, as we often call them rather brutishly, is what that makes these tales universally accessible, understandable and enjoyable.
The three sources of the book’s materials are: Flora Annie Steel, R.C. Templeton and Charles Swynnerton, the colonial researchers who so painstakingly transcribed these tales from the Punjabi language through primary sources i.e. the bards and story tellers. Notwithstanding the warnings given by Edward Said in accepting colonial Orientalism, one has to ruefully admit that such an incisive and thorough labour of love was only done by the “white masters.” South Asia’s repugnant ruling classes remain bickering pygmies to date. And, about the scholarship and originality of knowledge production, the less said the better for the two centuries old drought refuses to go away. Specifically, this is truer for Pakistan than perhaps the other South Asian countries. For the Pakistani establishment and intelligentsia, increasingly becoming inseparable, have discarded and trashed their heritage in the pursuit of power, be it the Oxbridge brigade or the US mainstream lackeys, their intellect, alas, remains subservient and refuses to leave the dome like a trapped pigeon.
Hence my boundless excitement and absolute pleasure to have encountered the  ‘The Romance of Raja Rasalu and Other Tales’ that defies obscurantism and our collective inertia. I only wish that this book could become more accessible to a wider array of readers, children and students across Pakistan. More importantly, it should be published in Urdu language for a broader audience within the country. Some day we have to rescue our rich secular and egalitarian heritage. I think a great beginning has been made by Simorgh Women’s Resource and Publication Centre. (more…)

Abida Sings Shah Latif Bhitai

29 January 2009

Naveed Siraj has sent the captioned audio link.

The track is originally by Ustaad Manzoor Ali Khan who belongs to the Gwaliar Gharana. The track is called “Khutaa Keenjhar kinaray, tambo tamachee jaam ja” which NS has translated as: “At the banks of (Lake) Keenjhar, the King (Jam Tamachee) puts up the camp”. Here, we can visualise the mighty ruler of the land arriving at the Keenjhar with all the pomp and protocol and is received by poor mohanas.  This track as is mesmerising.

While taking me through the audio journey, I learnt about Khuta Kinjhar kin (The King puts up camp at Keenjhar).

This is Shah Latif’s Sur Nooree-Jam-Tamachee & it is simply describing the scene of the King Jam Tamachee falling for the simple fisherwoman Nooree.

So it starts with Shah giving voice to Nooree who cries out to the Samoo King “You are the supreme lord, I, a lowly fisherwoman, full of blemishes, pray do not foresake me and turn your back on me in view of our abject poverty. (more…)

Vandana Shiva on Farmer Suicides….

30 June 2008

Indian farmers have never committed suicide on a large scale. It’s something totally new. It’s linked to the last decade of globalization, trade liberalization under a corporate-driven economy. The seed sector was liberalized to allow corporations like Cargill and Monsanto to sell unregulated, untested seed. They began with hybrids, which can’t be saved, and moved on to genetically engineered Bt cotton. The cotton belt is where the suicides are taking place on a very, very large scale. It is the suicide belt of India.

And the high cost of seed is linked to high cost of chemicals, because these seeds need chemicals. In addition, these costly seeds need to be bought every year, because their very design is to make seeds nonrenewable, seed that isn’t renewable by its very nature, but whether it’s through patenting systems, intellectual property rights or technologically through hybridization, nonrenewable seed is being sold to farmers so they must buy every year.

More here

Affordable Health Insurance

15 June 2008

Blindcntr.org focuses on all aspects of health insurance. The company offers extensive guides and articles covering Health Insurance hoping to help our visitors get the information the need before and after buying health insurance.
Blindcntr.org health insurance quotes service is your doorway to affordable health insurance. By filling one easy form, you get access to multiple health insurance companies and agents.
Online Health Insurance quotes help make the process of buying insurance easy and stress-less. You will get offers from health insurance agents in your local area that are interested in your business. Quotes are available for affordable Health Insurance, family health insurance and group health insurance. (more…)

Internet Gaming

17 March 2008

This is a sponsored post.

Interested in gaming on the internet? Visit Online Casino Topic. This directory of Casinos - a guide of sorts provides you with a reliable selection of Online Casinos that offer the best online casino bonuses featuring the largest selection of games and much more. (more…)


19 January 2008

I come across your website while searching some material on sufiism….I must say its a great contribution by you towards promoting what we people used to be and what we should be. May Allah guide you for the best.

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