Women in Media

The South Asia Women’s Media Network called SWAN was established during the second conference of ‘Women of South Asia: Partners in Development’ held in Chandigarh in March 2010 with the theme “Women Guiding the Destiny of South Asia”.

Ms Nandini Sahai, Director, the International Centre, Goa, is the Coordinator for SWAN on Women in Media.
This network is a central hub to which all the 8 networks of 1) Arts and Literature, 2) Crafts and textiles, 3) Education, 4) Environment 5) Health 6) Media 7) Micro-credit and8) Peacemaking could contribute their daily, weekly or monthly updates and can work together for the betterment of women in South-Asia. SWAN will give “Voice to the Voiceless”.

We plan to resurface issues that have been subversive for quite a long time, discuss and debate on them and come out with recommendations which can be taken as policy decisions.

Programmes held

- 9th Annual South Asia Media Summit-2012 on “Government Curbing Media: Regulation vs Self-regulation of Media in South Asia”, at The International Centre Goa, Dona Paula – Goa from October 14th – 16th 2012.

- 8th Annual South Asia Media Summit-2011 on  “Intra-State Conflict in South-Asia : Role of Media” was held from November 22-25, 2011 at The International Centre Goa.
Programme | Photo Gallery | Media Gallery

- Annual South Asia Media Summit – “Women in Media in South Asia: Partners in Development” was held in association with Media Information and Communication Centre of India & Friedrich Ebert Stiftung from 22nd – 25th November 2010.
Programme | Photo Gallery | Feedback Received | Papers | Articles contributed by Participants

11 thoughts on “Women in Media

  1. The Waxing Crescent
    Pakistan faces August 14 with foreboding as righteous forces tear at each other over the state’s future path
    On Independence Day, along with revered state heroes, a nation needs to celebrate contemporary feats of heroism too. This August, Pakistan has been celebrating the achievements of 21-year-old Samina Baig. After conquering Mount Everest, Samina, with her brother Mirza Ali, is now heading towards Mount Elbrus in Russia. Having already had the better of the highest continental peaks in Argentina, Antarctica, Tanzania and Alaska, Elbrus will make them the first Pakistani siblings to have conquered all the highest peaks in seven continents.

    But Pakistan’s government of the day has little time for celebrating the feats of the girl from Shimshal valley in upper Hunza. At the vanguard of the forces bes­­ieging it are hijab-clad, sloganeering women from Punjab, headline-grabbing footsoldiers of Can­ada-­­­­based firebrand cleric Allama Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awa­mi Tehriq (PAT). With expectations and apprehensions surro­u­n­ding Qadri’s Inq­ilab March from Lahore to Islam­abad on Aug­­ust 14 reaching a fevered pitch as the date draws near, all eyes are on the so-called ‘chicks with sticks’.

    Political commentator and former PML(N) member Ayaz Amir predicts dire times for Nawaz Sharif’s government. He speaks gushingly of PAT’s women brigade. “No political force, no organisation in Pakistan, has the kind of Dukhraran-e-Millat (daughters of the nation) that the PAT has. To see them raising their clenched fists and shouting slogans for Mustafvi Inqilab (revolution of the prophet) is to be cleansed of all cynical and defeatist thought.”

    “There is a chasm between a decaying governance and a vibrant and dynamic society driven by citizen activism.”Mushahid Hussain, PML(Q) Senator

    But Qadri, who has crossed swords with the PML(N) government by leading a raucous movement promising a revolution that would end corruption, is not the only one taking aim at Islamabad’s power centre. Also in the fray is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan, who has levelled a formidable battery of charges against Sharif, the most serious being rigging polls to win the general elections in 2013, and high corruption. Coincidentally, Imran too will lead a march on Islamabad—the Azadi March—on August 14, with the ult­imate aim of toppling the government.
    In Imran’s and Qadri’s challenges many see a threat to Pakistan’s hard-won dem­o­cracy, as they are supposedly backed by that ubiquitous player in Pakistani sta­tehood—the army. The idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds—the army and the Sharif government have not been on the best of terms. The army is unhappy with the prosecution of Gen Musharraf under Sharif’s watch, and feels Sharif supported the Geo group when the latter held the army and the ISI responsible for the attack on its lead anchor Hamid Mir. As it is in the throes of a desperate fight against militants in north Waziristan, the army also disliked Sharif’s attempted peace overtures with the Taliban.

    On the eve of its 68th independence day, this then is a snapshot of the complexities staring Pakistan in the face. Fortunately, the other pillars of power—the judiciary, the media, civil society and parliament—have little appetite for reversing democracy’s gains.

    Yet, there is no denying the deep political unrest. “The political system and large chunks of the political class in Islamabad is out of sync with the masses, so there is a chasm between a decaying, colonial-style state system of governance removed from the common man, and a vibrant society driven by self-starter citizen activism in which youth, women, civil society and the media are in the vanguard,” PML(Q) senator Mushahid Hussain tells Outlook. Indeed, fear and uncertainty has gripped the entire nation as it waits for PAT and PTI to execute their threat to besiege Islamabad with their twin, mammoth marches on August 14.

    For Pakistan Samina Baig on Mt Everest. She now has Mt Elbrus, Russia, on her sights. (Photograph by AFP, From Outlook 25 August 2014)

    The mood in the commentariat is often sombre. In an editorial in Friday Times, Najam Sethi writes that in Qadri’s speeches, “the rhetoric seems ominou­sly like an invitation to a beheading of democracy by the military…while Nawaz Sharif has not been able to display the wisdom and vision expected and is partly responsible for the mess in which we find ourselves”. Political analyst Ghazi Salahuddin warns that “if the primitive passions that have held us hostage for so long are not consciously suppressed and if the wounds that we have suffered are not healed, a change prompted by mass agitation will be meaningless”.

    And the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Trans­parency warns in a report that even if none of the parties involved—PML(N), PTI and the army—really want a military takeover, “the possible escalation in violence and breakdown of law and order may lead to that eventuality…this grave situation has serious implications for civil-military relations, which were not ideal even before the march was announced.”

    Former ambassador and PPP leader Sherry Rehman, head of the Jinnah Ins­titute, says the streets reflect the pri­nc­i­pally elite nature of political battles, with common South Asian deprivations def­ining the daily frustrations of people at the bottom of the social pyramid. “Pak­istan is facing a political crisis this Ind­e­pendence Day, mostly because key pla­­­yers are unable to find a political path forward for reforms based on consent. The real issues such as electricity shortages, internally displaced persons, public narrative deficits in supporting counter-­terrorism, and others have been bru­­shed aside in the clamour,” she tells Outlook.

    Even facing up to the decades of gross neglect in key social services that PAT’s ‘revolution’ hopes to address, Mushahid Hussain is one of the optimists. “The future is bright, given the demographic advantage of a youthful population, with some of the Third World’s most talented and creative young women and men, who are increasingly returning home, reposing faith in the future of their country,” he notes. Agrees Samina Ahmed, Pakistan head of International Crisis Group: “Pakistanis are proud of their country but fearful of the future. There’s still hope for this country so long as there are democratic avenues to address demands and grievances.”

    Pakistan in 2014 is certainly not what the nation’s founding father Jinnah had envisaged. The Qaid-e-Azam would certainly find it tough to comprehend the ongoing military operation—Zarb-e-Azb (the sword of the holy Prophet)—in Waziristan. In reality, it’s a cleaning-up operation for the mess ghq has created over decades of following a self-serving, myopic foreign policy during self-rule and democratic interludes.

    “Pakistan’s foremost challenge is combating the threat posed by the various groups trying to impose extremist religious ideologies on democracy and the social norms we have evolved over the centuries,” says former ambassador to India Aziz Ahmed Khan. Future challenges, he says, will be whether the nation will win the battle against “the…extremist narrative that has taken root in a lot of our educational and religious institutions and the confusion it has created in the minds of ordinary citizens”.

    Relations with India, too, figure in the minds of many. Ershad Mahmud, a Kashmiri and executive director of the Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms, tells Outlook, “In my view, Pakistan is still going through an internal debate and wrangling between several state institutions to form a policy which could transform its relations with neighbours, especially India, and solve key outstanding disputes such as Kashmir”.

    “The real issues—electricity shortage, internally displaced persons etc—are brushed aside by Pakistan’s political crisis.”Sherry Rehman, Head, Jinnah Institute

    Aziz Ahmed Khan also underscores the need to normalise ties with New Delhi. “Hopefully, the Narendra Modi government, with its comfortable majority, will be able to move more boldly in resolving all issues, including Kashmir, through a fast-track dialogue process,” he says. He hopes India won’t miss an opportunity, especially when most issues have been discussed threadbare over a long period and only require wise political decisions. “The present government in Pakistan seems ready for it. Here there is an acr­oss-the-board, political as well as public, consensus to have good relations with India and one only hopes that India will respond in a similar manner,” he adds.
    Even by highly combustible Pakistani standards, as the nation teeters on the edge of political ferment, there is a sense of hushed premonition. Heavy containers guard the approaches into the capital, placed there to prevent mobs from the Inqilab and Azadi marches from entering the city. In Islamabad, petrol pumps are running out of gas, and grocery is flying off the shelves. There is on the surface not much to celebrate this August 14.

    Asked how she would choose to celebrate Independence Day, Kishwar Naheed, the famous feminist and Urdu poet, told Outlook, “It reminds of me of what Marquez wrote in his novels…. Pakistan at the moment is in the grip of lost images. Problem is that it’s the elders who are creating these complexities for the young generation. This is the time for them to enjoy life, not parrot slogans that PTI and PAT are trying to teach them”.

    A pall of gloom hangs over the many gains and successes notched up by Pakistan in recent days. Ominous questions do the rounds. Will it be back to the barracks on August 14? Columnist Nadeem Paracha wrote in Dawn, “Just like it did in 1971, Pakistan once again is facing a seriously existentialist dile­mma. Its diverse sects and sub-sects are at each others throats and the state is at war with exactly the same muj­ahids that the country’s ideology had eulogised in the 1980s.” This is a state of the nation no Pakistani wanted.

  2. Mariana Baabar
    Saturday, June 28, 2014

    CHANG MAI, Thailand: Indian and Pakistani delegates discussed and debated for two days the significance of a new government in New Delhi and the opportunities it creates for Indo-Pak relations, particularly in trade and economic integration—and peace and security in Afghanistan.

    The participants were brought together at the 14th Chaophaya Dialogue, an Indo-Pakistan Track-2 in Chang Mai, organised by The Jinnah Institute and the Australia India Institute in Melbourne.

    While acknowledging Modi’s legitimacy conferred upon him by the people of India, Pakistan brought to the table the fact that the ball was now in Modi’s court and he had to take the first of several steps to ensure that he is willing to take bilateral relations to a new high.

    After all even Nawaz Sharif was reluctant to publicly acknowledging the presence of Modi’s emissaries in April this year in Lahore and Islamabad (in the midst of the election campaign), because of Modi’s unpopularity, which was at its height during spring.

    Yet, Pakistanis rose to the occasion when Modi’s invite came for the oath taking ceremony and it was “Go, Sharif go”, with hardliners on the fringe, best ignored.

    Narendra Modi is no ordinary prime minister, complete with a controversial past that cannot be wished away in a hurry, his choice of bureaucrats handling the country’s internal and external security, still being debated in the region. But if the reaction of Indian delegates at the recently held “longest consistently running Indo-Pak Track-2,” was anything to go by, these former civil and military bureaucrats, parliamentarians, policy experts and media persons will certainly have to come to terms with this reality and stop being so sensitive to what has been brilliantly documented by the Indian media.

    There was little appetite for the ‘others’ view about a former spook, Ajit Doval as National Security Adviser, (certainly a far cry from the very intellectual and thinker Shiv Shanker Menon) and any criticism saw meaningful glances, nods and chits passed on to those on the panel!

    What if another Mumbai happens, was a question also heard loud and clear by the Pakistani delegates who did not shy away from the fact that the Punjabi jihadis was still a force to be reckoned with, and certainly time for the umbilical cords to be snipped away. With time and strengthening of democracy, the military would slowly wean away from absolute power to correct the civil-military imbalance.

    Yet it was an Indian delegate who acknowledged the fact that after a long gap in relations the recent elections in both countries have thrown up “evenly matched governments’.

    Perhaps also for the first time one sees two hands on prime ministers with little patience with the red tape of their bureaucracies that the delegates nudged the two leaders to graduate from letter writing according to one recommendation to take, “steps for additional confidence-building measures (CBMs) to lessen the trust deficit, particularly the establishment of a hotline linking the two PMs”.

    Encouraged by the recent meeting of the two DGMOs another recommendation suggested, “meetings between the two army chiefs as well as the heads of intelligence agencies and more frequent interaction between DGMOs”.

    It was refreshing to hear voices across the table which pointed out that Modi’s reaction during a crisis would not necessarily be ‘muscular’ as he does not have to prove anything, and instead will take “a level headed approach”.

    Doval, no doubt has done his homework that any ‘muscular’ response would receive a befitting response across the LOC, and for this reason there is also thinking amongst those that guide policies that Modi will bow to a policy which points towards “understanding of smart power an integrated approach that will best serve India”.

    Pakistanis also heard about not only the Congress ‘missing the bus in Kashmir’ but also fears of the Indian Muslim population,” the largest minority in the world”, for whom Modi’s victory lap was “more of a shock as their worst fears have come true”.

    While the Indian army now considers the issue of Siachin as a cut and dried case from which it will not budge, a proposal worth pondering upon is revisiting the 2003 ceasefire agreement on the LOC which has certainly not held in these past two years.

    A suggestion which needs to be pondered over is to “create norms of necessary crisis management structure jointly which will detail rules of do and don’ts and standard operating procedure”.

    Already, the two sides are jointly working to fine tune LOC trade after the incident of alleged narcotic trafficking.Trade between the two countries was agreed upon as one area, which would see quick progress with the award of MFN not too far away.

    Another recommendation hoped that “the Commerce Ministers would use the opportunity provided by the meeting of SAFTA Ministerial Council in Thimpu in July 2014, to arrive at an early conclusion of discussions on the subject”.

    While no bones were made about India’s ties with the future government in Kabul with what was almost a war cry, “India’s involvement inside Afghanistan will continue till the Afghans stop us”.

    But there was an agreement that with the withdrawal of ISAF troops and with uncertainty still looming large over Pakistan’s western borders, both sides “expressed the hope that a smooth political transition would lead to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan”.

    There was realisation that there was room within this ‘uncertainty’ for a recommendation, “that India and Pakistan should commit themselves to non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and urged that Afghanistan should not allow the use of its soil for actions prejudicial to peace and security in the region”.

    For the media persons at the table it was indeed heartening that after Pakistan expelled two Indian journalists which now brings presence of correspondents in each country to nil, a recommendation adopted, “urged the two governments to liberalise the visa regime for students, academics and journalists, in particular for correspondents to be stationed in each other’s capitals”.

  3. Afghan women try to secure their rights
    Mariana Baabar
    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

    ISLAMABAD: History of sorts was made recently in Afghanistan when women campaigners in order to consolidate and ensure continuity of gains they had made in the last 14 years, got their petitions signed by both the presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

    Hasina Safi, director of the Afghan Women Network (AWN) and a member of South Asia Women Network (SWAN) told The News, “As part of our campaign, our vote our destiny, we had posted a 6-point petition to both candidates in order to keep our gains of the last 14 years and we got their commitment in the form of their signature in petition paper”.

    The petition outlines a plan for a just Afghanistan wherein women and men enjoy equal rights and protection under the law and the endorsement indicated a commitment to reflect the recommendations outlined in action plans, policies, and commitments for the finalists five-year term.

    “Commitment should include concrete steps for advancing implementation of the National Action Plan for Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA), Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Law, and other national and international commitments that have been adopted over the last decade and reinforced by commitments made in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework(July 2012).

    Afghan women’s 6-point petition to the front runners of the 2014 presidential election points out that: “Despite several setbacks and challenges there have been landmark changes in women’s socio-political status when compared to pre-2001 where oppression against women was institutionalised, confining women to their homes.

    The momentum of progress made over the last decade must be sustained with the change of national leadership set to take place. Women’s health, education, and leadership for strengthening governance should be a priority.

    Women’s inclusion should be considered as an integral standard of good governance, not a superficial commitment to the international community. Women’s voices should be counted just as their vote counts and defines the elections”.

  4. Nawaz to attend Modi’s oath-taking ceremony tomorrow

    Two leaders to hijack spotlight, headlines in Delhi; PM to stay for a day

    Mariana Baabar
    Sunday, May 25, 2014

    Sharif’s decision has been hailed as a step in the right direction to give peace a chance. He will stay in the Indian capital for a day after attending the swearing-in ceremony.

    This will be Sharif’s first meeting with Modi, a newcomer to Delhi, as the Indian leader spent most of his time in Gujarat as its chief minister away from the diplomatic scene in New Delhi even when the BJP was in government.

    A final decision from Sharif came five days after Modi sent an official invitation on May 21, giving the prime minister here enough time to consult his aides, cabinet members and the Foreign Office.

    The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has welcomed the decision of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

    The BJP spokesman said it was very good news that Nawaz Sharif had accepted Modi’s invitation. “This would mark the start of a new relationship between Pakistan and India,” he added.

    As usual, amongst the Saarc leaders who will be represented at the oath-taking, all eyes will be on Sharif and his every move will be relayed live by TV cameras. In fact, regional leaders have traditionally complained that Pakistan and India hijack Saarc summits.

    Kashmiri leader Omer Abdullah captured this predicament in a tweet when he wrote: “Can’t help feel sorry for others taking oath or attending because the only photo op that will matter now will be the Modi-Sharif handshake”.

    Criticism of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksha will be apparent from Tamil leaders in India who had insisted that Rajapaksha should not be invited.

    The final decision was taken on Friday night after a meeting between Sharif’s troubleshooter Shahbaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif in Lahore so that all stakeholders were on board and the announcement was made by the prime minister’s office on Saturday morning. Luckily, hawks like Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar were kept at arm’s length.

    The final decision was also delayed as Sharif was keen that instead of just crossing over the eastern border for a photo-op, an opportunity should be there for a bilateral meeting with the prime minister-designate to make a fresh beginning.

    After all, Sharif is on record as saying that he will enter into a fresh trade agreement with India once a new government was in place.

    Also important for Sharif would be to get a commitment from Modi, known to think outside the box, that now was the time to restart the composite dialogue so that a series of uninterrupted talks could give a boost to bilateral relations.

    When Sharif lands in New Delhi airport on Monday, his hands will be strengthened as he will have the backing of not only the people of Pakistan, but all the major political parties and the security establishment which controls relations with India.

    The same day as a gesture of goodwill, Pakistan will be releasing 150 jailed Indian fishermen, a time-old tradition in which human beings are used by both countries as pawns.

    Except for the fringe and ignorable elements outside the democratic process, like the Punjabi jihadis, especially the Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s Hafiz Saeed who opposes the visit, everyone has rooted for Sharif to go into a meeting with Modi.

    Sharif, says a statement from his office, would be accompanied by his security and foreign policy team for whom this will also be their first meeting with the incoming Indian government.

    According to the Foreign Office, Sharif will meet with Modi on Tuesday morning. The prime minister will also call on the President of India before returning home later that evening.

    Sharif’s aides have been cautioning that no big announcements are expected.

    As usual, the Indian electronic media has become ballistic, first taunting Sharif to be his own boss and now bringing up all past disputes and insisting that Modi should be firm with Sharif.

    Modi’s slogan during elections was, “Terrorism divides, tourism unites” — an issue which is of great urgency for both countries.

    Outside the election rhetoric, the BJP is responding more like a government in charge with one senior leader Arun Jaitley saying that the invite showcases India’s faith in both democracy and greater integration of the region.

    “The invitation to all leaders of Saarc nations to be present at the ceremony is to showcase Indian democracy and its strength to the world at large. It is a democracy event and should not be viewed through the prism of bilateral issues between countries,” he added.

    While diplomatic sources in Delhi tell The News that the little known wife of Modi has already been given protocol befitting the future prime minister’s wife, in Pakistan two women stood out on the social media asking Sharif to take a bold step and respond positively to Modi’s invite.

    Maryam Nawaz Sharif was encouraged by the stance of the PPP and one of its leaders Ambassador Sherry Rehman and passed her tweets on to Sharif.

    “Good news, moving on from stalemate Nawaz Sharif, Narendra Modi to hold bilateral meeting on May 27”, tweeted Rehman.

    Responded Maryam,” I personally think cordial relations with the new Indian govt should be cultivated. Will help remove psychological barriers, fear & misgivings.”

    In New Delhi, Siddarth Varadarajan, a former editor and now at the Shiv Nadar University, said: “A giant leap for Modi and Nawaz Sharif, a small step for India, Pakistan, but here’s hoping that from small steps will come bigger ones. Now let’s not burden this event with a rush of expectations just yet”.

    Others like defence and security analyst Ejaz Haider is not impressed.

    He told The News: “Sharif would have done well to send Speaker of the National Assembly perhaps accompanied by his National Security Adviser instead of going himself. That way he would have responded to the gesture graciously while signalling that Pakistan retains its own position within Saarc and by extension in relation to India and its aspirations within and beyond the region”.

    He sees a ‘deeper irony’ saying that while the PML-N government backed off from movement on trade, which would have been a substantive development, it has walked right up to a table which looks great but where the serving is only for Mr. Modi.”

  5. A visit to the brave Hamid Mir

    Mariana Babar
    Thursday, May 22, 2014
    From Print Edition

    ISLAMABAD: He still has two bullets lodged in his legs, several shrapnel in his thigh and a stunt in his kidney but he tries not to grimace as he moves while lying down, though with each move the pain shoots up.

    Geo’s top anchor Hamid Mir is resting in his new home, that his wife Naheed also a journalist, has painstakingly designed and decorated.She clearly loves mosaic flooring and the color beige which is everywhere. Hamid’s only daughter Ayesha a Freshman at College, has just flown in from the United States clearly jet lagged but refusing to rest. One felt guilty taking up her time with her father as other guests also kept pouring in.

    Hamid had insisted that she should complete her studies, since she wanted to be by his side when she heard of the assassination attempt on him in Karachi by unknown sharp shooters.

    Like in the past, smiling comes easily to Hamid, but he confesses that his three appearances at the Commission have tired him out as he has to keep sitting for hours in front of the judges. Specially when he is in a sitting position when the stunt in his kidney causes him acute pain.

    Why does he not have a couch to rest before the judges? “Impossible. I have all these files with me which I have to share with the judges and refer to them when they question me, so it’s not possible to lie down”, responds Hamid.

    It would be worth the pain that he is going through during those appearances, if at the end fingers can be pointed at and written in black and white the names of the hands no matter who they are, behind the hired guns that clearly wanted to take his life and silence him forever.

    Nobody in the room appears very hopeful with some mentioning the fate of the Shehzad Salim Commission report. But here the heavens were kind to Hamid where he can help the Commission to lead them to the murderers.

    Hamid asks whether I am in touch with AP’s Kathy Gannon who like him also survived an assassination attempt in Afghanistan and is seeking medical treatment in New York. “Please when you get in touch, give her my warmest regards and say that my prayers are with her”, he says.

    Naheed is proud of him and says that throughout his ordeal while others were crying, even after the operations and while in great agony he never complained. “Only once when he was a bit better, I thought of turning on the TV. To my horror, Hamid was greatly perturbed and saddened and with moist eyes he asked, “who will help her now?”

    Hamid was witnessing police brutality at its best when lathis were raining down on Mrs Amna Masood Janjua who is campaigning for the country’s missing persons and whose cause Hamid held very dear to his heart. “It’s the only time I saw my husband break down after the assassination attempt on his life”, says Naheed.

    A very downcast Najam Sethi, wearing a subtle yellow colored tie was present by Hamid’s bedside along with the very chirpy Asma Jehangir.Sethi said nothing when I teased, “I thought you would be jubilant after winning the case against poor old Zaka, but you appear so depressed.”

    Doctors are pleading with Hamid to go abroad for further medical surgery and further checkups, but initially he refused and had told The News from Karachi, “No chance of my leaving. I do not want to give the impression that six bullets have cowed me down and I am running away. I will stay in Pakistan and fight till the last.”

    But now he might reconsider and Naheed says he insists that if he goes for medical help, he will return as soon as possible. Gardenias and Magnolias from Harley Street are just what the doctor ordered. Hamid points to them as says that their fragrance is really overpowering before thanking me and looking pleased.

    Coming out of the gate and before stepping into the car, I thank the security guard who opens the gate and points to friends Arifa Noor, Resident Editor Dawn and Amir Mateen, Special Correspondent, The News. “We are all journalists, and who knows we meet the same fate as Hamid and you are sent to guard us?” I say.

    “No, no, not anymore. Not again, God preserve us”, he responds in chaste Pushto, his accent clearly indicating the part of Pakhtunkhwa he is from.Everyone it seems is totally fed up and losing patience with a state where journalists are soft targets with no city safe from these hired guns.

    Hopefully, things could change and sanity would return if everyone including those that are unhappy with journalists and their work learn to have patience, endurance and come to terms with the reality that is in cold print and beamed on their screens, to live and let live. Firefighting will help no-one.For now, all eyes in the Hamid Mir household and outside are on the Commission and its final report, which should hopefully save other journalists from hospital beds.

  6. Indian journalists asked to leave Pakistan

    Mariana Baabar
    Thursday, May 15, 2014
    From Print Edition

    ISLAMABAD: Two Indian journalists have been ordered to leave Pakistan within a week.When they returned home late last night, they found the typical ‘Sarkari’ brown colored envelope stuck to their doors informing them that the Government of Pakistan had decided not to extend their visas, which had expired in March and they would have to leave the country by May 20.

    For the Press Trust of India’s Snehesh Alex Philip and The Hindu’s Ms Meena Menon, it was no great surprise because enough hints had been dropped a few days earlier by the Ministry of Information, External Publicity, that it would be prudent for them to start packing and book their tickets for home.

    Both these Indian journalists have been here barely eight months while their predecessors spent four or five years here. It is an open question whether the government will grant visas to their replacements.

    There is a written agreement between Pakistani and Indian governments where a reciprocalarrangement allows two correspondents from each country to be stationed in the other’s capital.

    For several years now, no Pakistani journalist has requested for visa to be posted in India, though Delhi has assured that they would be willing to accommodate two Pakistani journalists. In the past journalists from APP and Radio Pakistan were posted but because of financial constraints they were called back.

    However, New Delhi has been very liberal in issuing visas to Pakistani journalists for visits which has seen dozens of Pakistani journalists visiting in their personal capacity or as guests of the Ministry of External Affairs.

    The News contacted Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Policy, Tariq Fatimi, who said: “I have been busy in meetings the whole day and am not aware of this development. The Ministry of Information would have all the details.”

    Minister for Information, Pervez Rasheed, who is presently abroad told The News on phone: “The Nawaz Sharif government has a very liberal visa regime, especially for foreign journalists including Indian journalists. As soon as I return to Pakistan, I will look into this matter as to why these Indian journalists are being denied visas.”

    Some close aides of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told The News that though they tried to ensure that these two journalists were granted visas, it was completely out of their hands as decisions were being taken elsewhere. No one would, however, make this statement on record.

    “The security establishment has certainly got it wrong as far as the timing is concerned. By throwing out these two journalists at this particular time, you are giving fodder to the anti-Pakistan forces in India, who are all set to form the new government. Or is this a message to the incoming Modi Sarkar?” a PML-N politician asked.

    “We all know that visas for foreigners, especially for Indians, are handled by the security establishment. They have decided for reasons known best to them that these two Indian journalists should be asked to leave. By doing so, they have also sent a clear message to the Sharif government that in these matters as on issues like enhancing the trade ties with India, they still call the the shots,” a senior PML-N politician told The News.

    The Indian government reacted quickly on Wednesday. “It is regrettable and unfortunate that two Indian correspondents in Pakistan have been asked to leave prematurely and suddenly. Not allowing independent journalists to function is a retrograde step. Free flow of information between India and Pakistan has long been recognised as an important confidence building measure,” tweeted Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman at the Ministry of External Affairs.

    Minister for External Affairs, Salman Khurshid, warned: “”Any such action on the journalists is not good for ties”.Syed Akbaruddin was asked whether the step of denying visas to the Indian journalists had anything to do with the recent media war in Pakistan where there have been allegations that the Jang Group was working on an Indian agenda through the Aman ki Asha programme, said he was surprised at numerous allegations against India in the ongoing controversy in Pakistan on media freedom and different views of Pakistani institutions.

    “We are surprised that there have been numerous allegations against India in the ongoing controversy in Pakistan on media freedom and the different views of Pakistan institutions thereto. The stationing of journalists and free flow of information is an important CBM and should be safeguarded by all concerned,” responded Akbaruddin.

    Meanwhile, M K Razdan, the editor-in-chief and CEO of PTI, said there was “no rationale and no reason” for the move. “It is a unilateral action and absolutely no reason has been given,” he said.

    “We have other arrangements for news coverage in Pakistan but since decades the norm has been that the main correspondent to Pakistan is sent from India.” He added it was too early to say whether the agency would apply to send a replacement for Philip.The Hindu headquarters in Chennai meanwhile, kept a stony silence.

    The Indian chapter of Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD) said in a statement that a wrong message at a critical juncture when elections are taking place will only help the hardliners. “In a global world and especially when Indians and Pakistanis want closer ties and a much more open visa policy, we are of the opinion that both the countries should allow more journalists into each other’s country.”

    Through A Spyglass
    A warily hopeful Pakistan considers life beside a Modi-led India

    Questions In Pakistan

    BJP’s track record in pursuing ties with Pakistan is good, but the Modi phenomenon is fully understood here
    The Manmohan Singh-led UPA, despite promises of improving ties, was reluctant to adopt necessary policies
    Will a new Indian government expand the Composite Dialogue beyond the present narrative of 26/11?
    Will the ‘Gujarat Model’ lead to further Muslim/Pakistan-bashing or to a stress on economic development?
    Can a BJP government make concessions to Pakistan as well as garner domestic support for such policies?

    The Pakistani street has taken notice—the neigbour is election-bound. The first signifier has been the augmented levels of bashing the old bugbear—Pakistan—by the front-runner. It has the average Pakistani appalled and bemused, especially since its own poll-bound leaders had advocated peaceful, enhanced ties with India.

    While a BJP government is remembered here as one that showed great political will and initiative to improve bilateral ties, its prime ministerial candidate in 2014, Narendra Modi, is not fully understood in Pakistan. “There are too many unk­nowns about Modi, a polarising politician in India, and about his foreign policy team. There is a sense of apprehension about what a Narendra Modi victory would mean for India-Pakistan relations. The muscular nationalism he represents could translate into a hardening of India’s stance on issues affecting ties,” former Pakistani diplomat Maleeha Lodhi tells Outlook.

    Any good intent the Manmohan Singh-led UPA might have had towards building good ties with Pakistan fell victim to the 26/11 Mumbai attack, but former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, says her country has a duty to fulfil too. “The sense is that official Delhi’s studied ‘peace fatigue’ over a revival of the composite dialogue over the last two years will continue unless Islamabad changes the game on penalties for Mumbai,” she wrote in The News.

    “Pakistan’s role as a pivotal player in South Asia is restored…any new Indian government will have to cope with that.”Mushahid Hussain, Senator, PML(Q)

    Actually, none can dismiss the possibility of another 26/11. Though a tenuous ceasefire with the Taliban drags on, there are no signs that the Punjabi jehadis have been restrained or that ghq in Rawalpindi has cut off long-fostered support to them. As their involvement in Afghanistan scales down, these jehadis will have lots of spare time. In the eventuality of a terror incident, Pakistan can be wary of a divisive figure in New Delhi. “What is worrying is that whatever the numbers, given the high-octane right-wing discourse fuelling rhetoric on a corporatised Indian media, all bets on a Manmohan-like restraint (as after 26/11) amid a possible crisis with Pakistan may well be off,” warns Rehman.
    But any leftover bonhomie towards India is itself wearing thin in Pakistan. Many here have taken to ridiculing Nawaz Sharif for his so-called ‘petticoat’ policy of ‘appeasement’. Former foreign secretary Riaz Khokar says that Modi should not be invited to Pakistan, as he is no moderate Vajpayee.

    “If Modi wins, he will be a prisoner of the RSS, the Hindu fundamentalist and fascist organisation. The RSS, which has brought him this far, is anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan. Modi is anti-Pakistan, and will show no flexibility or pragmatism on substantive issues between the two countries,” says Khokar of Modi’s ideological moorings.

    In contrast, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who met Vajpayee in a 2002 visit to India, has no misgivings over a BJP-led government. “We do not share the nervousness in many quarters that if the BJP wins, it will seal the fate of any revival of composite dialogue with Pakistan. Their anti-Pakistan rhetoric is merely campaign posturing. They may be more willing to talk to Pakistan, as history suggests, depending on the size of its victory”, JUI(F) spokesman Jan Achakzai says.

    Indeed, as in any polls, the BJP’s room for manoeuvre depends on its performance. Lodhi agrees. “The political complexion and stability of the next government will have a bearing on the speed and content of the normalisation process with Pakistan,” she says.

    Other voices point to the keenness of the Nawaz Sharif government for a breakthrough in ties, surmounting the kind of bureaucratic and political obstacles which paralysed the UPA in New Delhi, especially after the 26/11 attacks.

    Some in Pakistan hope the adoption of Modi’s ‘Gujarat model’ might translate into smoother bilateral ties.

    Senator Mushahid Hussain says that the weak and embattled Congress has effectively buried itself between a resurgent BJP and the sudden challenge of the AAP. “The positive thing is that in South Asia in 2014, Pakistan’s role as a pivotal player has been restored, with both China and US wooing Islamabad; in the aftermath of the Crimean crisis and Middle Eastern turmoil, Pakistan’s room for diplomatic manoeuvre has expanded, a reality any new Indian government will need to cope with,” says Mushahid.
    Many Pakistani analysts also see hope in Modi’s ‘Gujarat model’ translating into smoother bilateral ties with Pakistan. Back from a recent trip to India, senior journalist Amir Mateen says he sees an India obsessed with economic issues, which may tempt Modi towards political concessions. “Particularly so when it desperately needs to revive economic growth from under five per cent to levels where it could pretend to compete with China,” says Mateen.

    Agrees Gen Athar Abbas, also a recent visitor to India: “Eventually, corporate interests will take over and move tow­ards normalisation of ties with Pak­istan.” However, he questions the tendency to regard Modi’s premiership as an inevitability. “Modi is faced with a lot of resistance from within; that may create obstacles for getting the prime minister’s slot,” he adds.

    Shaheen Sehbai, executive editor at The News, which called Modi “a particularly noxious figure” in an editorial and added that “…the BJP will pursue an anti-Muslim agenda”, tells Outlook, “Although he would show his muscle to hustle Muslims, Kashmiris and Pak­istan, sooner than later, Modi will be tamed, since as prime minister of a country with high economic, regional and international ambitions, he cannot afford to behave like a guttersnipe.” Sehbai says that Modi needs to “grow faster”, before he does lasting damage to India-Pakistan relations.

    However, theories about Modi prioritising the economic front—and that leading to better India-Pakistan ties are being questioned. “The apprehension is, which part of the ‘Gujarat model’ will prevail? Will his aggressive Muslim/Pakistan-bashing triumph or will his regional foreign policy outlook be determined by business and economic considerations?” wonders Mushahid.

    Rehman says that even if Pakistani democrats see “regional cooperation as the future, albeit on mutual terms, in India, even outside an election cycle, the Lok Sabha can rock with a nationalism that chokes dialogue with Pakistan”. Even if one were to concede that the challenges of being PM would ‘tame’ Modi, how ‘easy’ would it be, asks Lodhi, for a BJP government “to be able to make diplomatic compromises to Pakistan while not being on the defensive over its Pakistan policy?”

    “The key question for Pakistan,” says Lodhi, “is whether the next government in New Delhi will agree to revive the broad-based ‘composite’ dialogue or persist with an approach that limits the bandwidth of talks by cherry-picking issues only of priority for India.”

    The debate rages on in Pakistan. Meanwhile, a tongue-in-cheek Gen Abbas slips in a fast one. “I see Modi less as a Pak­istani headache and more of a pain in India’s neck,” he says.

    A senior Pakistani journalist based in Islamabad, Mariana Baabar writes for Outlook and The News

  8. Indian women praise Pak embroidery

    ISLAMABAD: A unique manner to advance Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between Pakistan and India gave a chance for thousands of visitors at Dilli Haat in New Delhi, to witness embroideries from Pakistani craftswomen.
    ‘Celebrating Embroideries Workshop’, held earlier this year, enabled women from both countries to “share their thoughts and experiences of working together to exchange skills in India, making for a very positive and hear warm ending to a successful event’.
    The visitors to the workshop were able to observe the daily progress and interact with all the participants. Project head of the India-Pakistan Crafts Training and Skill Exchange Workshop was Jaya Jaitly, from Dastkari Haat Samiti, also an active member of South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN). They collaborated with five women from Behbud Association of Pakistan.
    The workshop was organized by India’s Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts, and later a colourful brochure ‘Celebrating embroideries—breaking boundaries’ , was published.
    It notes that “women participants broke boundaries by coming out of their homes to travel to another country.
    They moved out of conservative embroidery pattern layouts to express individuality and freedom by exploring concepts of abstraction and non-standardization in design’.
    The breathtaking embroidery, which indeed broke boundaries in this traditional South Asian craft, said it all on its front and back covers.
    Afida Kausar, one of the Pakistani participants in a unique manner using her nimble fingers conveys what would take a thousand words to write.
    On the back cover, she embroiders a flowerless tree with flowers that have sprouted but not bloomed.
    “This depicts the barrier of nervousness,” she writes worried whether Indian authorities would allow her beautiful work to be exhibited in India.
    This embroidery is transformed on the front cover with a beautiful tree blooming and all flowers with heads high in full bloom!
    As all bridges were crossed she says, “This is shown by me as a fully grown tree and many brilliantly coloured flowers.”
    So will women from different spheres of life now be the champions of peace in South Asia? At least SWAN is trying to make a difference and has succeeded in some areas.

  9. South Asia Women’s Network holds strategic planning workshop

    The South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) found an opportunity to hold a Strategic Planning Workshop in Male (Maldives), and witness firsthand claims by scientists that the waters surrounding the Maldives have risen significantly, and that the island may disappear in less than 200 years.

    In the last century, the sea level has risen 8 inches and scientists fear that in another hundred years, the sea level will rise up to 23 inches because of the alarming changes in global warming.

    Maldivian Minister for Environment Dr Maryiyam Shakeela told the SWAN meeting that in the case of Maldives women and girls continue to be voiceless and two-thirds women are illiterate in Maldives but not out of choice.

    “Women should be ambassadors of natural resources, and realising that gender equality is a challenge, we are setting up a new ministry of gender. Female unemployment is also still high here,” she said.

    Like other SWAN countries in Pakistan too, there is concern about the affect of climate change which is playing havoc with the environment, where unprecedented floods a few years ago, played havoc, with survivors still unable to return to their homes.

    As the Maldives conference was in progress, news came in about monsoon flooding in mountainous northern Indian state of Uttarakhan which has claimed the lives of thousands of people.

    Environment, militancy and peace and security are some of the challenges that SWAN is seized with, and the Maldives Strategic Planning Workshop, hosted by the Maldivian Women’s Network, focused on how these subjects which also affects all nine SWAN countries, could be taken further in the August SWAN annual meeting in Colombo.

    Uchita de Zoysa, executive director of the Centre for Environment and Development in Sri Lanka, is now looking at the environment outlining SWAN’s agenda post-2015.

    He says that moving from Minimum Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, SWAN has to identify the key South Asia Women’s rightful aspirations for equity, well being, sustainability, prosperity and happiness.

    “SWAN has to develop a set of regional sustainable development goals”, he adds.The South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) is a programme headquartered in The Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, while the convener is Professor Veena Sikri.

    SWAN brings women from across nine countries of South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The several issues that SWAN focuses upon relate to Arts and Literature; Women in Peacemaking; Health, Nutrition, and Food Security; Education; Crafts and Textiles; Microcredit, Livelihood, and Development; Environment; and Women in Media.

    SWAN has agreed that Sustainable development must be recognised as the fundamental basis for the post-2015 development framework.

    Structural changes are needed, together with a comprehensive set of SDGs, to overcome poverty and deprivation, inequality and insecurity, and the multiple converging crises of food, fuel, finance and climate change caused by the current development model that is rooted in unsustainable production and consumption patterns, combined with the foisting of inappropriate technologies on developing economies.

    It was also decided in Maldives that the coordinator of Women in Media, Nandini Sihai, will be organising a workshop in Goa this year, which will train media persons from SWAN to sensitize them about issues that SWAN is involved with.

    “This will mean training at the conference and taking them on field trips. After training and when they return home, these media persons will be monitored to see whether they are making any meaningful change in society”, Nandini told The News.

    It was recognised at Maldives that the media is one of the strongest engines for information sharing leading to realisation of sustainable development in the region. Women in the media have proven time and again that they do bring change but with sensitivity.

  10. The execution of sri lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek who languished in Death Row, in one of the most inhuman activities.before this i was writing to our fellow swans in media to write abour her fate on their respective news papers.this is her story as i heard.
    rizana is from a very poor family.Though a minor she went to Saudi Arabia at the age of around 17 to work as maid and earn a pittance to tide over her family’s economic difficulties. She reached Saudi Arabia on 1 April 2005 on a passport, in which her date of birth, 24 February 1988, was reported to have changed by her employment agent to 2 February, 1982. On arrival in Saudi Arabia she worked in the house of Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Otaibi whose wife had a four month old baby boy. She was assigned to cooking, washing and looking after the infant. She maintained good rapport with all in the house and there was no problem to speak of. The tragedy struck around 12.30 PM on 22 May 2005 while she was bottle-feeding noticed that milk was oozing through mouth and nose of the infant. She tried to sooth by striking infant’s throat, neck and face. She was panicked when she saw the infant’s eyelids closed and shouted for help. This clearly reveals the question of choking while feeding does not arise. Clarifying milk oozing out through nose and mouth doctors explained that there could have been a “Stop” when the milk does not go into the stomach, but oozes out. It can be also assumed that when the milk oozed out, the child might have already passed away. Around 1.30 PM the mother of the infant came home. On seeing the infant she went into rage and assaulted Rizana with slippers and hands and took the infant away. Blood started oozing from Rizana’s nose.
    On 25 May police arrested Rizana accusing her of murdering the infant. In the police station she was severely beaten with belt demanding a statement that she strangled the infant and electrocuted. Obtaining such a forced statement is complete violation of Shariah law. There was no one to talk to leave alone a word of comfort. Frightened Rizana placed her signature on the written paper given to her by the police. According to reports, police failed to conduct a postmortem to establish the cause of the death of the infant. This is a serious lapse. It is not known whether Saudi law firm Khateb Al-Shammary which represented Rizan took up the issue of the “postmortem”.Later Rizana vehemently denied all allegations against her and retracted her confession when she stated in the court on 3rd February 2007 that her original confession was obtained by the Police under duress. According to reports the person, Keralite, who took down her alleged confession, was not a competent interpreter .He was a sheep herder and was no longer in the country.
    On 16 June 2007 the High Court sentenced Rizana to death by beheading simply based on the police report obtained under duress. This verdict, in complete violation of Shariaw laws, was upheld by the so called Supreme Court on October 2010.In sentencing her to death the High Court and the Supreme Court have overlooked the most important fact – the absence of a postmortem report – the scientific evidence of the cause of death. Under such circumstance the question is whether Saudi Arabia which is not governed by Shariah laws can try Rizana under Shariah laws with so much of flaws in its legal system.
    now this poor girl is no more.but as swans if we can help to stop such horrible things happening to women in the future that will be great.and i think we are capable of doing that.

    I think we should get together and work hard to educate the less privilaged women about how they can and should fight for their rights.in sri lanka most of the women are not aware of the laws regarding women and go on been silent victims of domestic violence,rape etc.even the media in south asia is not addressing this issues deeply.most of them want to make a readable story out of these issues.that is so sad.they say good journalism promotes positive changes in society.
    Media is the most important actor in working towards a peaceful society for women.I think we should report more about plights of women in all south asian countries so that issues like rizana and delhi rape victim get wider coverage and get attention of respective governing bodies.

    Nishani Dissanayake

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