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The day I’m killed

Dr Azra Raza – a fearless and sensitive soul – sent me this poem via email.

Travel Tickets

The day I’m killed,
my killer, rifling through my pockets,
will find travel tickets:
One to peace,
one to the fields and the rain,
and one to the conscience of humankind.

Dear killer of mine, I beg you:
Do not stay and waste them.
Take them, use them.
I beg you to travel.

Palestinian Poet, Samih Al Qasim, Translated by A.Z. Foreman


The image is of slain Mustafa – my colleague & a member of my family- who was killed by terrorists while they attacked me in Lahore.


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.



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


At the Abyss

By Raza Rumi

tft-39-p-8-a-600x349The recent drone strike in Pakistan’s northwest has eliminated an enemy of the state and his close associates. Hakimullah Mehsud’s death in North Waziristan has shaken the loose alliance of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In any other country, the security policy managers would have capitalized such an opportunity. Not in Pakistan. In fact the reaction from the political parties, which had recently vowed to hold talks with TTP to secure peace, are alarming to say the least. Despite the great urge of politicians to hold talks, there were murmurs that the military may not be too excited about this development even though the COAS Gen Kayani gave his public assent saying that the army was following the political consensus. A PTI leader recently posted on social media that there was only a 40% chance of success for a military operation. However, the party stalwarts on social media later refuted this claim.

Independent security experts and political commentators have been highlighting that the simplistic, populist solution of ‘talks-will-lead-to-peace’ was designed to fail. Whom would the government negotiate with? What would be the conditions? Would the TTP end its terror attacks against Pakistani state and its citizens? All of these questions were unanswered. Yet, Hakimullah’s death has invited a barrage of reactions from politicians and right wing media that the latest drone strikes were a ‘murder of peace’. […]

Redeeming our tryst with destiny

Raza Rumi took a group of Pakistani politicians to India where, amid food fests and conferences and emotionally charged mushairas, the first pages of a new history were written

After weeks of hectic preparations, last-minute revolutions and all the trappings of an Indo-Pak event, we arrived at Wagah border on a humid September morning. Unlike my other visits to India, this was meant to be a different undertaking: playing the organizer, acting as co-host (Jinnah Institute) – and that too of a high-powered delegation of Pakistani parliamentarians who had consented to represent their respective parties in a “Track Two” engagement with their Indian counterparts. The India-Pakistan peace bus is often boarded by the usual suspects from civil society and the candle-light vigil wallahs, who often return home to face the cynicism of the realists, the hawks, and all those who have a stake in the status quo. But this was different.

The Pakistani delegation at Wagah
The Pakistani delegation at Wagah
 Due to Pakistan’s truncated democratic history, and the limited control of civilians on India policy, there have been fewer interactions between the “elected” from both countries. These are men and women who pass through the arduous grind of building support in complex constituencies, answering the public on serious and not-so-serious issues, and generally being the punching bag for all that comes with the post-colonial bureaucratic states of South Asia. The Pakistani delegation was a good mix with almost all parties represented in the Parliament. MNAs Ayaz Amir, Sardar Mansab Dogar and Hafiz Noman represented the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N); Senators Saeed Ghani, Rubina Khalid and Saifullah Magsi represented the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP); and the firebrand Haider Abbas Rizvi and Abdul Rasheed Godil represented the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). The Awami National Party (ANP) was led by Bushra Gohar and Senator Farah Aqil. The delegation was later joined by Kashmala Tariq of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q), representing a particular faction which calls itself “Like-Minded”.

After crossing the border, we were driven to the new Attari check post, a huge facility recently built by the Indian government reflecting the preparations for the great thaw between the two countries in terms of trade and visa agreements. The Integrated Check Post at Attari replaces the quaint immigration and customs facility, and is rather impressive for its scale. Sadly, not many visitors were passing by, but it was clear that there is a certain level of confidence in the ongoing peace process that has resulted in this major investment on the border. It is a separate matter that the archaic system of handwritten record-keeping at the border disappointed all of us, as it took ages to finish the clearances while our host, the Indian Punjab Finance Minister, waited for the delegation to arrive. Our hosts in India, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and the mover-shaker Jyoti Malhotra, a noted journalist and peace activist, joined in the protest of entering duplicative details of our passports and other particulars. But this was a short-lived irritation and we were whisked away to a posh Amritsar hotel where a little welcome ceremony awaited us.

 The delegates made fiery speeches on the merits of peace and on forgetting past acrimonies. The most inspiring arguments came from Haider Abbas Rizvi and Bushra Gohar, who are known for not mincing their words and challenging orthodox notions on Indo-Pak relations. The Punjab Finance Minister, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, also made a warm, conciliatory speech underlining the local trade issues between the two Punjab provinces. There is, in fact, an urgent requirement to move towards sub-national or regional trade pacts, as Haider Abbas Rizvi kept on reminding everybody that there was a trade check post other than Wagah-Attari. The Karachi-Munabao trade route has been closed for decades, and the distance between the two ports allows for ample opportunities for regional movement of goods and services. […]

Manmohan Singh’s ignorance

Manmohan Singh whom I have always held in high regard, disappointed millions in South Asia with his distastefully ill-timed hard talk during his Independence day address. As if Pakistan’s current misery was a time to blow India’s trumpet. He surely was also unaware of what his patriotic Indian poet, Ali Sardar Jafri had written years ago –Dialogue Souldn’t Cease. Here is an Urdu version with a full translation. Perhaps, someone should pass a copy of this poem to the exalted Prime Minister of India.


The peace process: The way forward

By Subhojit Goswami

Kolkata, Aug 1: “A dialogue process is not about ‘who wins’ but about empathetic understanding”, came the strong words from Pritha Kejriwal, the Editor-in-Chief, Kindle Magazine, as she started on a solemn note with a critical evaluation of what has taken place with India and Pakistan and what hasn’t in the last 60 years. She was speaking at the Round Table organized by Kindle at the Kolkata Town Hall. The panel discussion riveted on the ongoing Indo-Pak talks and the future that we look up to.

Addressing the ongoing Indo-Pak dialogue as ‘deliberately redundant’, Pritha went on to add that there are forces existing in both India and Pakistan who have systematically instructed people to “confuse mutual hatred with patriotism.” […]

Calcutta Town Hall Meeting

July 31st, 2010|India-Pakistan History, Indo Pak peace, Pakistan|0 Comments