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One year after: On the endangered freedoms in Pakistan

Car fired uponIt has been a year as I wrote here since I was almost assassinated. I have already posted the tribute to Mustafa who died in the March 2014 attack. Here are a  few other stories that were published recently.

It has been […]

April 10th, 2015|Journalism, media|0 Comments

Pakistani Journalists Live Dangerously If They Cross The Line

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.

TRANSCRIPT:

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

[…]

Pakistani journalists under threat

For Express Tribune

That a detailed Amnesty International report on threats to media in Pakistan is all doom and gloom about the safety of journalists is hardly a surprise to anyone who may have been following recent developments. The report reveals that 34 journalists may […]

May 1st, 2014|Published in the Express Tribune|0 Comments

Lahore’s now the latest target of Taliban

Once again the terrorists have hit Lahore. But this time they have chosen the favourite target of the fundamentalists – the Ahmedis who were declared as non-Muslims in 1974. Two places of worship have been attacked and innocent people have died. This is unacceptable and outrageous. It means that the state policy of exclusion has […]

May 29th, 2010|human rights, Lahore, Pakistan, Religion, terrorism|0 Comments

Basharat Peer’s Curfewed Night

Book Review by Sumaira Samad

Curfewed Night is the memoir of young Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer, recounting his youth in the troubled valley during the ’80s and ’90s. A harrowing look at the political strife and armed conflict that has torn Kashmir apart over the last 30 years, Curfewed Night is nothing if not personal. The people, places and events Peer describes are ones he encountered and experienced first hand. They are his parents and neighbours and friends. Yet, despite this intimacy, essential to any good memoir, Peer’s narrative is refreshingly honest, frank and unbiased. His is no polemic, and sentimentality, self-pity and melodrama take a back seat.

Beginning in the years before the struggle, Curfewed Night invites the reader into a beautiful, peaceful mountain paradise where the regular, slow rhythms of village life make up one’s existence. Peer lives a happy, uneventful childhood, surrounded by a loving family and tight knit community. But this apparent serenity, as it turns out, is merely the glassy surface, hiding a quagmire beneath. The shadow of Kashmir’s turbulent history and unresolved conflicts never quite goes […]

national identity sans freedom

A few quotes from this article in the Hindustan Times – incidentally it also includes what I rambled….

Freedom means everything. But I’m not free. All these concepts are self-imposed imprisonments.—Roshan Seth, actor

Independence has provided me with a national identity but it hasn’t meant freedom. I find myself enslaved to narrow ideas of patriotism. I’m […]

August 20th, 2008|India-Pakistan History, Journalism|3 Comments

Kashmir,Azadi and Arundhati Roy

UPDATE from SAJA Forum, articles, news and comments here

UPDATE: Arundhati’s brutally frank piece where she asks this question:

The unimaginable sums of public money that are needed to keep the military occupation of Kashmir going is money that ought by right to be spent on schools and hospitals and food for an impoverished, malnutritioned population in India. What kind of government can possibly believe that it has the right to spend it on more weapons, more concertina wire and more prisons in Kashmir?

India needs azadi from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs azadi from India. […]

August 19th, 2008|India, Politics|136 Comments