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miniature painting goes global

Steeped in the past, and yet, modernist in its application, neo miniature is the new face of Pakistani miniature painting and art. Having evolved as a genre that is entirely indigenous in its expressions, it has also globalized Pakistani cultural idiom and has inspired a generation of artists within and outside the country

Pakistani miniature painting and art. The survival of a revival

Raza Rumi believes the neo-miniature movement is located within the resilience of Pakistani society as well as its struggle to reinvent aesthetic and cultural parameters of identity.

Pakistani miniature painting art

My detailed report for DAWN:

Nearly two generations of Pakistani artists have experimented with the traditional genre of miniature painting and art; some have even gone on to expand its scope and vocabulary. It is on the shoulders of such artistic endeavor and innovation that Pakistan’s neo-miniature movement has now turned global.

Neo-miniatures retain traditional techniques while incorporating contemporary themes, and some have even deconstructed the format and articulated sensibilities that otherwise would be identified with post-modernism.

Its entry into Western markets — galleries and private collections — is are recognition of the rigorous technique and innovative thematic inferences employed by Pakistani artists. Undoubtedly, Pakistani art has found a discernible niche in the global art market. […]

Islam Needs Reformation from Within

“Would you permit me to teach my children that God is greater, more just, and more merciful than all the (religious) scholars on earth combined? And that His standards are different from the standards of those trading the religion” — Nizar Qabbani, Syrian poet.

Much has been said about the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and its slain cartoonists and their provocative cartoons about Muslims. Satirical representations of the Muslims in Europe do merge with racism and evoke destructive passions. But the barbaric killing of journalists exercising their right of free speech is beyond condemnable. It strikes at the heart of press freedom.

Muslim communities in most Western countries view themselves as besieged collectives. Issues of integration, racism and the colonial baggage resonate each day. But in the past two decades especially with the rise of violent extremism as global phenomena, these complexities have become even more intractable.

By brutally killing staffers of Charlie Hebdo magazine, the violent extremists have offended their faith far more than the perceived blasphemy of the magazine. Theirs is a political ideology — of using terror as a weapon — to avenge a history, to settle grievances and to assert power through violence.

Billions of men and women who practice Islam often have little input in shaping such narratives of hatred. Such violent ideas emanate from the minority schools of thought within Islam, which rationalize the killing of ‘infidels’ and their ‘associates’. This ideology is the same that hounded Salman Rushdie, and killed Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam for a film.

Ironically, the main targets of this ideology have been Muslims themselves. From the mass killings of Hazara Shias in Afghanistan and Pakistan to the ongoing killing spree in Syria and Iraq, it is the Muslims that bear the brunt of this violent mindset.

Dozens of Sufi shrines and hundreds of schools have been blown up in Pakistan by extremists. Most of the 50,000 Pakistanis killed in the last decade were Muslims. And in this day and age this ideology prevents the majority of Pakistanis to access YouTube simply because somewhere, someone lampooned the holy figure of Islam.


Strategic Blunders

Raza Rumi

tft-51-p-2-bRecent events and statements by the civilian leadership indicate that there is a move towards undertaking a military operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). This has been a much delayed option that haunts the state of Pakistan especially the power military which has lost thousands of personnel, officials and five generals in the past few years. If one adds the civilian casualties and the climate of fear that grips Pakistan. Earlier, media reports suggested that in a briefing the army was not too optimistic about the success of an operation. The Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, whose simplistic position on war, terrorism and domestic anarchy has been informing the discourse, had quoted 40% chances of success in a media interaction.

Admittedly, with a large number of civilians residing in NWA, air strikes and ground operations can be lethal as the recent bombings in Mir Ali demonstrated. The armed forces were successful in hitting valuable targets but it came with a cost. This was a route that ought to have been adopted years ago but Pakistan’s strategic calculations prevented such clarity. In large measure, high tolerance for the existence of a mini-Emirate within Pakistan’s territory was perhaps a means to allow the functioning of Afghan Taliban factions in NWA. This was an opportune moment for the Pakistani militants to increase their strength, enter into alliances with sectarian groups countrywide and enhance their ‘soft power’ through media interactions, and gain the sympathies of political parties such as Imran Khan’s PTI. The results have been disastrous for the country. Pakistanis while condemning acts of terror against civilians are willing to give leeway to the militants terming acts as an expression of resistance to Pakistan’s partnership with the US. […]

February 14th, 2014|Published in The Friday Times|0 Comments

On the Controversial US Drones’ Program in Pakistan

Raza Rumi

tft-42-p-8-a Mustafa Qadri with a copy of the new Amnesty International

Amnesty International’s recent publication, “Will I be Next? US Drone Strikes in Pakistan” has spurred a global debate on the use of drone strikes in Pakistan. The report invited some critical responses on issues of accuracy and objectivity but overall it has informed the ongoing debates. In Pakistan, it has been used by different lobbies to advocate their stance through selective interpretation. Raza Rumi spoke to Amnesty’s Pakistan Researcher Mustafa Qadri on some of these issues and concerns.

What are the most critical findings of Amnesty’s recent report?

In some of the cases we have documented extensively, the US appears to have committed unlawful killings in breach of international law. Some of these killings, particularly the targeting of so-called ‘rescuers’, may even constitute war crimes or extra-judicial executions. This includes the killing of 18 laborers in the impoverished village of Zowi Sidgi around Magreb time on 6 July 2012. In another case, a drone strike killed 67 year old grandmother Manana Bibi in front of her grandchildren. Those responsible for these killings must be brought to justice. The US must come clean and acknowledge this secretive program, fully disclose the number of documented deaths, how many they view as non-combatants, how they arrived at these figures, how they assess that a person is a combatant and therefore will be targeted, and fully disclose the legal basis for the program, including the US Department of Justice Legal Memo that is purportedly the cornerstone of its legality. I believe this is only possible if the program and the cases we and others have documented are investigated by a genuinely independent and impartial body. It should not be left to the Obama Administration and the US Congress and Senate committees, which are supposed to provide oversight of the targeted killing programs, because they have failed to adequately do this.

What were the difficulties in gathering data? How did you secure access to the victims and the area? Did Pakistan state cooperate or hinder the efforts?

Securing data is extremely difficult in FATA because of the secretive US program, the lawless and remote nature of the area, and the active control and suppression of accurate testimony by local actors including the Taliban, Al Qaeda linked groups and Pakistani security authorities. This issue is so politicised that it is difficult to take claims on face value. That’s why our research is based on extensive, discreet research from multiple eyewitnesses interviewed on three separate occasions by separate investigators who have worked with us in the past – not just on drones, but abuses by the Taliban and others, abuses against women and so on. We corroborated eyewitness testimony against satellite imagery, photographs, video, and analysis of missile fragments by experts. […]

December 7th, 2013|Published in The Friday Times, terrorism|2 Comments

Murder in the capital

By Raza Rumi

Nasiruddin Haqqani’s assassination is a significant move in a game of chess and nerves


A photographer takes picture of the spot where Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior leader of the feared militant Haqqani network, was assassinated at an Afghan bakery in the Bhara Kahu area on the outskirts of Islamabad

Pakistan’s media had to turn its attention to the visible-invisible world of good Taliban when the news of a high profile assassination hit social media. A key member of the controversial Haqqani network was assassinated in a quiet corner of Pakistan’s capital. The slain Nasiruddin was the brother of Siraj Uddin Haqqani and a son of Jalaluddin, a key figure of the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s. Haqqani group or better known as a ‘network’ is reportedly close to Pakistan’s security establishment. Pakistan’s alleged patronage and protection to Haqqanis has been one of the major causes for trust deficit between Pakistan, US and Afghan authorities. It may have jeopardized counterterrorism efforts over the last decade.

“He was the financier and emissary of the Haqqani network”

Nasiruddin Haqqani was known as the financier and emissary of the Haqqani network and unlike his brother and his father, kept a low profile. News stories circulating in the mainstream media consider his death to be perpetrated by ‘unknown assailants.’ The aims can inevitably be linked to demoralizing or undermining the network, which has been at the core of Pakistan’s security policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan. In the aftermath of HakeemUllah Mehsud’s death in a US drone strike in the village of Dande Darpa Khel of North Waziristan the Afghan Taliban’s overt support to the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek e Taliban I Pakistan (TTP) emerged as a clear signal of how the two branches of the same ideology reinforce each other. Haqqani network, according to several reports, though separate was not too averse to TTP either. […]

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’. […]

“Living in today’s Pakistan” – an interview for WPKN

From Tidings Blog featuring my interview which was broadcast on WPKN radio last year. Yes I have been a little lazy in posting all the stuff here.

Hazel Kahan has summarised some of the key points below and but those who can put up with my rants should click here –

In our wide-ranging interview, Raza spoke eloquently and poignantly about his country and what it is like to be living in Pakistan these days.  Through his lens we can see another Pakistan, a parallel society that has been obscured by the prevailing image of militaristic, unreliable and confusing Pakistan given to us by the mainstream media.

 I have summarized some of the significant points Raza made but I do urge you to listen to him in his own compelling voice.

1. ” Much of Pakistan’s seemingly inextricable alliance with Afghanistan and the Taliban can be explained by its existential fear, “a genuine insecurity” of being encircled by India.  Retaining its ties to the militants is one way of protecting itself from its huge eastern neighbor and as leverage ”in the endgame of Afghanistan.”  (What that endgame will be is “shrouded in mystery…nobody really has a clue of how to approach and how to handle it.”)

2. “The shared geography, history and culture of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the continuum between Pakistan and         Afghanistan “makes it very difficult to separate the two.”

3.”Now you have two Talibans, the ones who attack NATO troops and the ones who attack Pakistani people.   Pakistani people want to get rid of the Taliban because their lives have been traumatized…we feel really angry and we’re also suffering…  In this power politics, Afghanistan and Pakistan are burning.” […]

January 23rd, 2012|Arts & Culture|0 Comments