Category Archives: Terrorism and Violence

One year ago…


By Zubeida Mustafa

ON Thursday, March 13, it will be exactly a year to the day when a brutal killer snatched away from us a gentle, soft-spoken soul whose love for humanity was almost legendary.

Perween Rehman has been described as a caring, versatile development worker, a brilliant teacher, an architect who used her professional skills for the poor, an irreplaceable friend and an amazing woman who broke barriers from below. Above all, she was a woman of courage who defied her detractors.

It was after she was no more and the outpouring of grief wouldn’t cease that the world realised what it had lost and how many lives she had touched in the three decades of her professional association with the Orangi Pilot Project. She is still grievously missed. And there has been no closure for us — her family, friends and colleagues. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Human Rights, Law & Order, New, Notable Personalities, Perween Rahman, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace, Women |

Gandhi’s message

Rajmohan Gandhi (Picture courtesy:

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE fifth edition of the Karachi Literature Festival was like a gust of fresh air in the environment of despair and gloom that now engulfs the country. It came, it thrilled us and it left. All the sessions were food for the soul and did serve to drive away — even if momentarily — the depressing thoughts that seem to have come to stay permanently.

Of course, laughter is said to be the best medicine and there was plenty of it around. The halls were packed where satire, humour and comedy ruled. But what was more healing were the words of wisdom we received from sages such as Prof Rajmohan Gandhi each day of the festival. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Economy, Education, New, Politics, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace |

Oh those Taliban!

by Rifaat Hamid Ghani

guest-contributorIt is more than a decade since the post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan.
America now intends to withdraw from there, leaving only a token presence. If the elimination of the prospect of Taliban rule and extirpation of ‘Talibanism’ was the objective of that invasion it has not been achieved. It is also unlikely that America will subsequently be indifferent to Taliban resurgence becoming truly effective, or complaisant about its consolidating. So whose boots will stay on the ground to keep Taliban foothold from gaining space? There is a certain rationale to the speculation that America may find proxy warfare serves its unattained ends. Mercenaries cost, and international peace-keeping too has a running upkeep. Also, factor in that the world’s great powers past and present, collectively and separately, in competition as well as alliance, have more than a century’s working experience of strategic use of the porous borders between Afghanistan India and what in 1947 became Pakistan. Pakistan is in the middle whatever the perspective.

It has consistently and unabashedly been a facilitator of America’s Afghan activities and objectives. Before 9/11 it complemented CIA’s furtherance of the ethos of jihad to contain the ‘godless’ Soviet Union. Post 9/11 it too re-orientated itself and deprecated ‘jihadism’ as potentially terroristic. In 2001 it endorsed toppling the Taliban regime it had earlier furthered and rushed to recognize. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Foreign Policy of Pakistan, Guest Contributor, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace |

Tragedy of the Bheels

Picture courtesy

By Zubeida Mustafa

SO tough has been the race for land traditionally that even obtaining a plot for a grave can pose insurmountable barriers. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor of India, had said, “Do gaz zameen bhee na milee koo-i-yaar mein” (I didn’t get even a two-yard plot in my beloved’s street). That was more than a century and a half ago.

The situation is no better today but for a different reason. Then it was imperial politics. Today it is religious fanaticism combined with land hunger that denied Bhooro Bheel land for a grave in his ancestral graveyard. When obscurantism becomes the driving force behind a tragic incident one can expect rationality to take flight. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Human Rights, Minorities, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence |

Theatre: the way out

Photo courtesy: Sheema Kirmani

By Zubeida Mustafa

THERE is despondency in the air in Karachi. The violence in the city that has resulted in almost 3,000 deaths so far this year has left the youth brutalised.

Many are desensitised and the unnatural degree of violence and terrorism has become something normal for them. Too many will imbibe the criminality they witness around them — unless, of course, something happens to pre-empt this possibility. Others are so terrorised that it is doubtful whether they will ever be able to lead a normal and well-adjusted life. Continue reading

12 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence, Women |

How Perween Rehman Crossed Over

I was in class when I got the text message: “Perween Rahman shot dead.”

My hands started shaking and I could hear my heart beating. I found a computer, and clicked around so I could scan the online news sites, and see if it was true. “On March 13, 2013, Perween Rahman was shot dead near a Banaras fly-over by armed gunmen as she made her way back home from Orangi.”

News of the dead and the dying hardly shocks the way it used to. But this was different. This was Perween Rehman. Continue reading

Leave a comment | Posted in Development and Poverty, Notable Personalities, Perween Rahman, Terrorism and Violence, Women |

We don’t need the noose

By Zubeida Mustafa

PAKISTAN’S leadership is in a dilemma. Should it continue the moratorium on the execution of prisoners on death row that the PPP government had enforced since June 2008?

Soon after assuming office in June, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was inclined to revive capital punishment presumably to demonstrate his commitment to fighting terrorism in the country. He naively believes that hanging criminals reduces crime.

He is now wavering. Has the outcry from human rights bodies and anti-death penalty activists shaken his resolve? Or did he change his mind when the Taliban threatened a bloodbath if two members of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi in Sukkur jail were hanged, as scheduled, in August? Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Justice, Law & Order, Terrorism and Violence |

Forced to kill

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE State of Pakistan’s Children 2012 quotes from the UN Secretary General’s Report on Children in Armed Conflicts: “In 2011 there were 11 incidents of children being used in suicide bomb attacks by militant groups operating in the country (Pakistan). The attackers included 10 boys some as young as 13 years and a nine-year old girl.”

The use of children in armed conflicts to fight the heinous wars of unscrupulous men has emerged as quite a common phenomenon worldwide. Young children are trained to use the gun and they are desensitised to human suffering so that life has no value for them. That is why they kill with impunity. Moreover, children are themselves victims of the violence and militancy that now grip Pakistan.

This is something very disturbing. It means that the cycle of violence will be perpetuated ad infinitum. Children who grow up in a violent environment become violent adults who accept death and destruction as something normal. Thus the cycle goes on from one generation to the next. This is not an ideal scenario for any society. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Education, Islamisation, Social Issues, Terrorism and Violence |

Where we went wrong

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT was supposed to be an occasion to felicitate Malala on her birthday and use her speech at the UN Youth Assembly to inspire the audience. Party representatives were to be brought together on a common platform to renew their pledge to educate Pakistan’s children, especially girls.

In this context the South Asian Women in Media, with the support of the South Asian Free Media Association, took the step of convening a seminar on ‘Women’s education and terrorism’ at the Karachi Press Club the other day.

Regrettably, the seminar failed to achieve the objective it had set out to do. It became a forum for politicking rather than focusing on the issues at stake in education. I was hoping to hear the party representatives spell out the strategies they were planning to promote education in the country. Instead we heard a lot of loud talk extolling the virtues of education, as though we didn’t know. Do our leaders believe we still have to be persuaded about the advantages of education? Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Education, Politics, Terrorism and Violence, Women |

A Gentle Heart Has Been Stopped


Aquila Ismail
Karachi, Pakistan

The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough…Tagore


“Apu! You’re here! Great!” That’s how my little sister Perween would greet me every time I arrived at her door from Abu Dhabi at 3:00 in the morning, followed by hugs and kisses. The fragrance of her embrace would right every little grievance that I had with the world. She had a habit of doing this smile with a tilt of her head that renewed life and plunged me into a world of twinkling eyes, melodious chimes of her bangles, peals of laughter, and high fives.

The sentence that invariably followed was,

“Apu, I have to meet someone from the KWSB/Goth [village]/Union council/etc. in the morning, so I will leave early and come back early.”

Knowing fully well the answer, I would ask, “How early?” Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Perween Rahman, Terrorism and Violence, Women |