Impunity For Religiously-Charged Mobs Is Now An Old Problem For Pakistan

By: Agha Haider Raza

The riled-up mob was chanting. They wanted to avenge themselves on him, they wanted him to come outside. Locked up in a room for protection, he prayed for his life as the angel of death descended from above. The violent mob overpowered the few trying to protect the unprotected. He was eventually dragged outside, pelted with stones and torched to death.

27 years ago, Sajjad Farooq was murdered by this barbaric mob in Gujranwala, an industrial city in Pakistan. This storyline may seem familiar. Last week, in Sialkot, Pakistan, Priyantha Kumara was also dragged outside, pelted with stones and set ablaze. Both men were accused of blasphemy. Neither was charged or investigated for any crime. They were just brutally lynched.

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‘The Pit’ at Penn Station

By: Agha Haider Raza
Cramped for space inside the scrum during evening rush hour, scores of commuters wistfully stare at a screen, either at a television hanging on the walls or at a mobile phone in their hands. Despite wearing masks as a precaution against COVID, everyone is huddled together, standing shoulder to shoulder in what they call “the pit” – the concourse for New Jersey Transit passengers at Penn Station.

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BLM on the Ballot

By: Agha Haider Raza

At first glance, wearing a black tie and pants with a white shirt, Jomo Williams is reminiscent of a lawyer from England. While not a practicing lawyer, Williams did study at John Jay Criminal Justice College in New York City. His time there directed him towards social activism and today he is on the ballot for the District 7 City Council seat on the Upper West Side. What is striking, however, is not his candidacy, but the platform he is campaigning on. Williams is running as a Black Lives Matters Party candidate.

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Politics is ‘Personal’ for Abreu

By: Agha Haider Raza

Running for public office is a daunting task. Meeting community members, fund raising, debating policies and platforms is intimidating.

The boyish-looking, 30-year-old Shaun Abreu is doing all of that in his bid to represent Upper West Side’s District 7 in the New York City Council. So far, his efforts seem to be working. Abreu elbowed out 12 candidates in the Democratic primary to win the coveted spot as nominee for the elections that will be held in November.

The City Council election is Abreu’s first public race. He was born and raised in the neighborhood he seeks to represent. A first-generation college graduate, his parents are immigrants from the Dominican Republic.

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Pakistan Being Ruled With an Iron Fist

In the end of July, amidst much fanfare, Prime Minister Imran Khan returned to Islamabad after a 3-day visit to Washington, DC.  Despite landing at 2 am, Khan had his senior cabinet and party members present to shower him with garlands and rose petals. Speaking to his ardent followers who had gathered in the arrival lounge, Khan proudly proclaimed that he felt as if he won the World Cup all over again. While the aesthetics gave a feeling that Khan actually won the crown, in reality, he came back without much substance and was constantly hounded at all public events about the harsh restrictions his government has placed on the media in Pakistan.

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Imran Khan Feeling The Heat!

Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed a fairly large rally in Jamrud, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the end of a tumultuous week for politics in Pakistan.  In what should have been a policy speech for the uplifting of the former FATA region, Khan used the stage to lash out at his opponents in Punjab and Sindh.  With great uncertainty on the economic front, severe in-fighting amongst PTI leadership, Shahbaz Sharif’s name taken off the Exit Control List (ECL), Nawaz Sharif getting some respite from the courts and Bilawal Bhutto raising the stakes with his harsh criticism on the government, Khan seems to be feeling the heat.

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Should the PTI contest the senate elections?

“The PTI is finally going to become part of the same parliament [by contesting the upcoming senate elections] that Mr Khan protested against and derided for the 126 days of his sit-in outside Parliament House”.

Why would the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) contest the upcoming senate elections in March when the voters are the very same parliamentarians that the PTI claims are not legitimate due to electoral rigging in 2013? Why does the PTI want more seats when they have deprived 12,070,038 people of representation for the last 4 months as 67 members refuse to attend parliament. Continue reading

Imran Khan’s tsunami is flooding Pakistan!

By: Agha Haider Raza

Pakistan’s media airwaves have gone haywire over the spectacle that has emerged since renowned journalist, Hamid Mir, was shot at multiple times in Karachi a few weeks ago. In response to the audacious attack, Mir’s employer, GEO News openly hinted that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was responsible for the attempt on Mir’s life.  As expected, the ISI sprung into action; flexing their muscles through the “independent” media and “civil society” by protesting against the allegations leveled by GEO News.  Rather than using the unfortunate attack on Hamid Mir as an opportunity to engage in a frank discussion on the safety of journalists in Pakistan (deemed one of the world’s least safe place for journalists), this incident has opened a debate on the credibility of Pakistan’s first democratic transition and reignited long-standing tensions between the incumbent government and the country’s most powerful institution, the Pakistan Army.  Using the bold attack on Hamid Mir as a springboard, Imran Khan is boycotting GEO News and has resorted to street protests to declare the sham of a democracy we have at present. Khan and his party claim that the general elections of 2013 were stolen from them via alleged rigging committed by the PML-N and GEO News and after exhausting all appropriate avenues have decided to utilize there street power.  This is not the time. What the country really needs are its politicians to embolden and strengthen Pakistan’s fragile Parliament by passing electoral reform and acting on the discrepancies in the last election to avoid repeating similar mistakes in the future.

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To Use or Not to Use Religion

By: Agha Haider Raza

With the first ever democratically elected Parliament nearly passing the baton to another parliament via general elections in the midst of our reach, we may just be witnessing history.  History is in the making because over the 66-year roller coaster ride, Pakistan has never observed such a transition.  Numerous military interventions, lack of assertive civilian leadership along with the involvement of non-state and foreign actors has made Pakistan suffer deeply.

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The Narrative Needs to Change

This morning, Pakistani’s found themselves standing in lines, shoulder to shoulder behind the coffins of a Shia doctor and his eleven year-old son.  Reason for death; bullet wounds.  The real cause for death however, was not the bullets that pierced through their bodies but rather the sect of Islam they believed in.  While the twitterverse and other social media outlets have openly expressed their disgust and shock towards the ease by which minorities and citizens are being hunted and slaughtered, the government seems to have their head in the sand, oblivious to reality.

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