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Meeting Salma Bhatti

I met the wife of slain Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and discovered tales of woe, marginalisation and hope


salma bhatti

It has been over three years that Pakistan lost a brave Christian citizen Shahbaz Bhatti for his relentless advocacy of human rights and in particular for wanting to correct discriminatory and anti-people laws that afflicts all Pakistanis – Muslim or non-Muslim. Shahbaz Bhatti’s case has been treated in the same manner as most cases of this kind are. There are high-sounding condemnations; initial activity by the Police, arrest of a few ‘suspects’ and then the dysfunctional, collapsed system of justice takes over.

Shahbaz Bhatti was a serving Minister at the time of his murder. This was the second loss for the PPP – an ostensibly liberal and secular party in power. Earlier it was Punjab’s Governor Salmaan Taseer who was assassinated by his own guard in 2011, and in the same year a federal minister was gunned down in broad daylight. Yet, the response of the government was not what it ought to have been. By caving in to the extremists’ pressure and keeping survival in power as the top priority it lost the chance of changing the direction of the country. True, PPP was beholden by powerful corporate interests of the military and a formidable armed right wing but the impact of it all has been grievous for the country.

salma bhatti2

Taseer’s son is in the custody of militants since 2011. The former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son was also abducted by militants and remains a hostage. The public opinion in Pakistan is not concerned, as the middle class narrative holds the ‘corrupt’ politicians responsible and militancy is now viewed as a heroic resistance to the evil West. This is why Shahbaz Bhatti’s killers are free and the case most likely will lead to another unjust outcome. […]

South Asian Cooperation and the Role of the Punjabs

South Asian Cooperation and the Role of the Punjabs. Tridivesh Singh Maini. New Delhi: Siddharth Publications , 2007 

South Asian Cooperation and the Role of the Punjabs is a book that approaches the topic of conflict resolution with a difference. Trividesh Singh Maini’s book does not approach peaceful cooperation from the normative security framework. Nor, for that matter, does the author take the increasingly emergent economic approach to conflict resolution despite the fact that the book’s content deals with the subject of regional cooperation. Alternatively, Maini’s book helps its reader understand the dynamics of cooperation and peace among members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the island nations of Sri Lanka and Maldives) by presenting a cultural analysis.

This use of culture is persuasive. The author posits himself and his book as scholarship that thinks outside the bureaucratic box of normal research on South Asia with its vested interests in the region to reveal the “emotional” trajectory of cooperation that is occurring in this region. Using culture to support his thesis, Maini illustrates for the reader various cultural exchanges between two cities, Amritsar in East Punjab in India and Lahore in West Punjab in Pakistan. These include visits to religious shrines, literary exchanges and especially recent transportation events such as the initiation of bus services to help people meet their relatives on the other side of the border. […]

July 6th, 2008|books, History, India-Pakistan History, Indo Pak peace, Peace|3 Comments

We Are All Dr Faustus – Parveen Shakir

Last month, in the freezing climes of Islamabad, we talked about Parveen Shakir, Pakistan’s popular poet who died at a young age.

One of Parveen’s poems invokes the legend and metaphor of Dr Faustus:

‘The name ‘Faust’ has become deeply rooted in European mythology as the […]