Stories about freedom

The politics of Kashmir killings

On May 1, the Supreme Court of India asked the Ministry of Defence to take a call on whether the six army officers accused of carrying out the “cold blooded murder” of five innocent civilians in the Pathribal village in Kashmir valley should be tried by court martial or in a regular civil court. The Pathribal incident dates back to then US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India on March 20, 2000. This was when 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora village of Kashmir were shot dead by unknown men carrying automatic weapons, alcohol bottles and a lust for blood. The massacre was blamed on the men ...

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A lesson from Thaer Halahla’s hunger strike

This week, a Palestinian prisoner ended the 77th day of his peaceful hunger strike after Israeli authorities agreed to release him on June 5. Thaer Halahla was on the brink of death as the deal was secured. The father of one had been detained without charge for two years and has never even met his daughter – her existence is only known to him through a few pictures. Ironically, an Israeli spokesperson had stated: This is about hard-core activists, from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who through this protest are trying to instigate violence. Clearly this representative hasn’t heard of the term ‘non-violent resistance’ ...

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The tragedy of being a woman in Pakistan

Gazing out of my office window in Islamabad, I see trees dancing in the wind and heavy clouds hovering over the ground, ready to shower rain. I feel like going out for a walk to cherish the weather but I cannot.  It is not because of my work, my boss or my family but rather due to the fear of strangers on the road. I know this might sound funny coming from a journalist, but it is the reality! When I go out, I hear cheap comments made by strange men, cars follow me and old uncles shamelessly stop their vehicles ...

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Indian ‘nationalism’: Why Kashmir won’t move on

Manu Joseph, a senior Delhi based journalist and the editor of Open magazine recently asked why it was obscene to accept that a historically wounded group of  people is ready to move on. He was, of course, referring to the people in Kashmir, where a war has left 70,000 people dead and 8,000 victims of enforced disappearances – in short, a gruesome trail of death and destruction which has few parallels in modern history. As Mr Joseph points out, it is difficult, almost impossible to convince the highly nationalist Indians about how merciless the war in Kashmir has been. If ...

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My trip to Guantanamo Bay

A few nights ago, I had a dream where I had ended up in Guantanamo Bay again to cover a military commission hearing sans any luggage. It may sound like the stuff nightmares are made of, but in reality, going to Guantanamo Bay to cover military commission hearings of detainees has been a fascinating, if not surreal experience. From the moment the airhostess on the chartered flight announces, “Welcome to Guantanamo Bay”, to the realisation that you are on a tiny strip of land that has borne witness to some of the worst human rights abuses to have occurred on US ...

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Kashmir- where Indian democracy comes to weep

The title of one of the sessions in the recently held Jaipur Literature Festival was “Prison Diaries”. Moderated by Sidharat Vardarajan, editor of The Hindu, the three authors of on stage were all from Jammu and Kashmir; Iftikhar Gilani, Anjum Zamarud Habib and Sahil Maqbool. Whether it was by choice or coincidence, all the prison diaries that have been produced in India in recent times have been written by Kashmiris. Iftikhar Gilani, a journalist by profession who is also well-connected with political circles in Delhi, was picked up in 2002 by security agencies from his Delhi residence on charges of ...

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Liberty must trump security

How safe is safe enough? As terrorist attacks have hit nearly every major city in the country over the last four years, this is a question that almost nobody has asked. We now accept random police checkpoints, and intrusive security measures at places that were once significantly more open. A small price to pay for security, some might argue, but I only have one question: for how long? Exactly when will it be safe enough to take them all down? When there are zero bomb attacks in the country? We have had several months of those. A whole year, maybe? What ...

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The freedom to be

A friend from Lahore recently asked me: “What would you miss most about New York if you were to move back to Pakistan right now?” I thought about it for a few minutes. Unlike many Pakistanis living in the US I knew, I wasn’t particularly attached to this country, or to New York. To me,  it was just another city – a hard city, a cacophonous city, where bright lights and gleaming skyscrapers belied the darkness, the sadness, the grime and the poverty in the corners; where glamour, spectacle, a veneer of ethnic diversity thinly concealed the underlying greed and racism. I ...

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Jinnah’s Pakistan, hijacked by clerics

With the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan came into existence on August 14, 1947. The valiant and astute Muhammad Ali Jinnah led the minority Muslim community of united India to a separate homeland to fulfill the demand for freedom of religion, profession, and speech. Jinnah was an outstanding lawyer who had studied law in London. He had a modern outlook on the world and was strongly secular. Part of the oath under which he took office reads: “No subject … in Pakistan shall, on grounds only of religion, place of birth, descent, color or any of them be ineligible for office.” He was ...

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Give Kashmir a chance

On June 26, 2011 elections for the legislative assembly were held in the Pakistani Kashmir, also known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). This is one of the most unique names you would ever encounter in the history of names of states – a territory which has to prefix Azad (free) to its name to proclaim its freedom. The so called Azad Kashmir is by no stretch of imagination is ‘free’ – instead it has become a neo colony of the Pakistani establishment. The whole legislative assembly of Azad Kashmir is subordinate to the orders of GOC Murree and the ...

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