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Farzana’s honour killing is a national shame

My outrage – sadly limited to social media on the brutal stone age murder of a pregnant woman in Pakistan’s ostensibly ‘developed’ city

May 28th, 2014|Culture, Extremism, human rights, Lahore, women|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.



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


Book review: A psycho-social perspective on terror

By Raza Rumi

The launch of Dr Unaiza Niaz’s excellent book in September was most symbolic, as the world commemorated the ghastly incident of 9/11 and the subsequent ten years of ‘war’. The global media pundits had remarked that the world will not be the same place after 9/11. In our neighbourhood we have seen a gruesome war and occupation in Afghanistan; and its spillover into Pakistan making it a playground for terrorists of all shades and hues.

Iraq is another tragic fallout of the 9/11. A war launched by the military-industrial complex with ‘sexed up’ evidence to use the British admission has led to nearly a million people, dead, missing or invisible not to mention the wanton destruction of a country. The continued struggles in Kashmir, Chechnya and Palestine are sizzling stories of politics, high-level negotiations and bargains. However, those who have been through this mayhem remain invisible or at best random statistics. This is why Dr Niaz’s book is so important and timely: it puts forth the lost narratives, the spiraling traumas and continued dislocation and loss of bearing.

Dr Niaz’s book serves as a great framework for all those who wish to understand what happens to the victims of terrorism, war, and violence. In Pakistan we have lost over 35,000 Pakistanis to the monster of terrorism and there are hundreds and thousands of men, women, children who have been affected by this syndrome. Unfortunately, we are severely short of trauma counsellors and virtually incapable to deal with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as Dr Niaz explains in her brilliantly accessible chapters. More nuanced accounts of complex trauma and developmental trauma are also explained in detail with references and examples. In a way, this book is a vital, state of art compilation of most recent research and academic formulations on this critical subject.Another important strand in the book happens to the manner in which terrorism and its Islamic linkages have been debunked in the chapter contributed by Dr Idriss Teranti. It calls for the revival of Islam’s progressive and humane side instead of the Wahabi-Salafi onslaught witnessed these days. The book also dispels the myth that terrorists are mentally ill. The chapter on Algerian experience authored by Dr Idriss and Mohammad Chakali is a powerful account as it talks about the traumatism and resilience of people.

Wars, Insurgencies and Terrorist Attacks:
A Psycho-Social Perspective From The Muslim World
by Unaiza Niaz
Oxford University Press
Hardcover PP 350
Price: $49.95

The situation in Afghanistan is dire. Thirty-two years of continued trauma has distorted generations and the meaning of existence there. This is an important document for them too, and everywhere in the Muslim world where war and misery have destroyed lives and homes

My favourite part of the book is the chapter co-authored by Dr Niaz and Seher Hasan entitled Insurgencies in the Muslim world. It is closer to home as well. Since 2009, I have been advising a United Nations agency on post-conflict governance and development strategies. I had a chance to visit KPK and FATA after the IDP crisis where millions had to move away from Swat, Buner and Mohmand due to military operation. Having visited the IDPs and learnt of their stories, my economic and institutional analyses seem incomplete without the essential human aspect of the post-conflict trauma. Unfortunately, the federal and provincial governments had no clue or were completely ill-equipped to deal with the lives of women trapped in their tents in the scorching heat of May and the children who had lost their parents and guardians.

During 2010, I was also a part of the Post Crisis Needs Assessment carried out by the Government with the support of the United Nations and other International Agencies. Talking to men and children of FATA (I had little access to women) the meanings of complex and developmental traumas. The ongoing conflict is a reminder for all of us to focus our attention to the citizens of FATA and KPK and how they have been dealing with the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Pakistan Army and criminal gangs who have made life a living hell for people of Pakistan.

There are strong policy implications to Dr Niaz’s research and ongoing work. There are essential gaps in state’s medical […]

October 23rd, 2011|books, Culture, Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times|1 Comment

Fascists strike again in Pakistan: Minorities Minister killed

Shahbaz Bhatti (5 February 2010)
Sometimes it feels we are living in stone age where no dissent and no call for a tolerant society is possible. Murder, violence, mayhem are the order of the day. Today, we mourn the death of Shahbaz Bhatti who had been repeatedly threatened, but not intimidated.
It is time for Pakistan’s political parties to take stock of this situation and get their own ideological house in order before they are wiped out as well. Pakistani state organs have been appeasing the Right and Islamofasicsts for too long. It is time to stand up. If they think they can be safe then they ARE WRONG.
PTH condemns this murder and recalls that Pakistan was not created for this violence and bigotry that is now our halmark and has made us a joke in the international community.
Taseer’s murderers have to be booked, Benazir Bhutto’s murderers have to be brought to book and Bhatti’s murder should not go to waste.
Wake up Pakistan and our appeal to Pakistanis: stand up for your rights for living in a secure, tolerant society.
Here is a newsreport from BBC – sad and I hate to post it but then such are the times we live in:

Pakistan’s Minorities Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, has died after two gunmen opened fire on his car in the capital, Islamabad, hospital officials say. […]
March 2nd, 2011|Pakistan, terrorism|12 Comments

Living in Denialistan

The recent attack on Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine is another reminder of the plain truth that the Pakistani state needs to focus on its domestic crises rather than remain obsessive about external threats. The unholy conglomerate comprising al Qaeda, sectarian outfits and elements within the state has targeted Karachi’s best-known public and cultural space. This is a continuation of Islamist battles against Pakistan.

Yet, apologists remain adamant. Butchering of civilians and annihilation of a plural Sufi culture is a reaction, we are told. First, it was the US occupation of Afghanistan, then the invasion of Iraq and now drone attacks in Pakistan. True, Muslims and Pakistanis are enraged at US policies and its sheer arrogance in dealing with the region. But using anti-Americanism as an excuse to overlook the growing cancer of bigotry at home is disingenuous and dangerous for our future. […]

October 13th, 2010|governance, Pakistan, Published in the Express Tribune|6 Comments

A nation determined to be innocent

There's massive disappointment and anger that this could happen at a time when the country is going through such a bad phase," he said. "That's the worst part of this whole fiasco; it comes at a time when the collective morale is so low.

September 6th, 2010|media, SouthAsia, Sport|3 Comments

No alternative to peace with India

It is clear that regional stability is a foremost priority for India given its focus on achieving a 10 per cent growth rate. Pakistan should benefit from this dynamic by expanding trade with India. Mutual trade will be a win-win situation and give a much-needed boost to our economy.