Save Rimsha Now

My piece which was published a fortnight ago. Today Rimsha was released on bail by a judge. Thank God sanity prevailed. But Rimsha and her family face grave dangers even now. We need to save Rimsha as well as protect the Christian community of Pakistan. Their rights as Pakistani citizens are inviolable.


As I write these lines, Rimsha Masih, a minor, languishes in an overcrowded jail on charges of blasphemy. Media reports suggest that she is unwell and suffers from Down Syndrome. For a week this case made the headlines with appeals for mercy and justice flowing in from all quarters of the world. But justice and compassion are in short supply for Islamabad’s zealots who got the girl booked in the first place allegedly for burning a “Noorani Qaeda” (a basic introduction to the Holy Quran for children). This is not the only case where someone has been prosecuted for blasphemy. Sadly, nor will this be the last one, given the open-ended and vague law which cannot be questioned.

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Christians mourn after the 2009 killings in Gojra
Christians mourn after the 2009 killings in Gojra
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A man-made colonial law has acquired a ‘holy’ status as if it were Divinely ordained. The British regime had enacted the original law in its own interest to maintain peace in a multi-faith India where religious tensions were rising in the early twentieth century. Instead of reviewing it once we achieved and fortified an Islamic Republic, Zia ul Haq and his followers made it even more stringent.

Human rights groups have been pointing out how this law is open to abuse to settle personal scores, grab land and entitlements of the poor and the marginalized irrespective of their faith. This is why dozens of such cases of blasphemy have been registered against Muslims than non-Muslims in Pakistan. In the 1990s, activist Asma Jahangir’s efforts to protect another young boy led to attacks on her and she had to remain under police protection for a long time. Also in the 1990s, a progressive High Court judge lost his life after he released those accused of blasphemy. Continue reading “Save Rimsha Now”

Killing Shias is not jihad – stop this carnage in Pakistan

This is an old article – When the state kills – authored by Pakistan’s eminent intellectual Khaled Ahmed. It remains relevant for what is happening today – the carnage in Karachi and targetted killing of the Shia minority is a cause for concern for  Pakistanis who want the country to become a plural, tolerant and progressive society for all its citizens irrespective of their faith, caste or creed.
Many of us – who identify themselves as neither Sunni nor Shia (only Muslims) – strongly condemn the Karachi incidents and will continue to raise voice against extremism and sectarianism. Continue reading “Killing Shias is not jihad – stop this carnage in Pakistan”

Mazhub – a voice for peaceful South Asia

Brijinder SagarIn 2006, I read this brilliant poem by Brijinder”Sagar (found here on Adnan’s brilliant site). I had kept it with me for an adequate translation. I have been unable to do justice and therefore I will rework my draft to post here. In the meantime, this poem will be accessible to Urdu-Hindustani speakers. This poem is about bigotry and extremism in the name of religion that has overtaken India as well as other South Asian countries. Pakistan is no exception and Bangladesh is also witnessing the rise of Islamism, though not as alarming as India and Pakistan. Sri Lanka has also seen ethnic warfare, different in its manifestation but akin to the violence and death that comes in its wake. In such a charged environment, voices for peace are delightful.

Har haath main mazhub kay parcham
Har aaNkh main wehshat ka junooN
Lub pay haiN nafratoN kay sholay
KhyaaloN pay ik aawaaraa fusooN
Ik zehar ka baadal fazaa pay chaayaa hai
Khumaar-e-ghaphlat phir zehanoN pay aayaa hai
Har nighaah main bus ik swaal ki bu
Hindu ki aulaad hai ya muslim hai tu
Tarak subnay kiyay viraasat kay khazaanay
Woh Nanak ki wehdat Kabir kay taraanay
KahiN talwaaraiN to kahiN trishool aayaay
SadioN ki pehchaanaiN sub bhool aayaay
Bhai ko bhai kay qatl ki pyaas
NamooN har samt yahi ghurbat-e-ahsaas
Lahu phir apnay hi lahu say laraa hai
Waqt phir sehmaa saa ik aur ja kharaa hai
Abhi to bhray bhi na thay Zakhm tam_ddun kay
Abhi to bhoolay bhi na thay woh aleel ayaam
DariNda insaaN main uthaa tha yeh abhi kal ki baat hai
Aadam khud bika tha yeh abhi kal ki baat hai
Aur aaj phir utraa hai afreet-e-wehshat
Aur phir say lagaayay hai chehraa mazhub ka
Phir say hai hujoomoN pay ik shauq-e-bekaar
Phir say banaa mazhub bahaanaa nafrat ka
Kab talak paighaMbar yooN neelaam karogay?
Kab talak latkaingay masihay saleeb-e-yaas par?
Kab talak pinhaaN insaaN qattl hogaa?
Kab talak pashymaaN karogay apnaa wazood?