Winning hearts

Feb 15 2015

The Friday Times

Fahmida Riaz

At the sixth Karachi Literature Festival, Fahmida Riaz received a prize on behalf of a friend with a heavy heart
DelhiByheart2

It was a pleasure and a privilege for me to have received one of the KLF Peace Prizes on behalf of dear friend Raza Rumi, for his book, ‘Delhi  By Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller’. This is a book that I know rather well. I saw it being written and when I read its drafts I realized that a younger writer was continuing the struggle to shed stereotypes about the ‘enemy’ India and highlight the common civilization that we share. I told the audience that the book is about our shared heritage and history with India written by a Pakistani with profound insight and that each chapter deserves a separate prize.

As a poet and writer I found his book merging sensibilities of Urdu literature with the English language. How Delhi’s past – that is our past too – has influenced and shaped our language, culture, habits, poetry and mystic beliefs. Very few people of the younger generation actually make that effort.

Talking about our shared heritage with India and a common past is also a crime, as Pakistan has desperately tried to invent a new history for itself, and today younger generations only know that. At the same time Pakistan’s efforts at recreating history have been outdone by Hindutva ideologues who are mutilating history beyond recognition. This is why Raza’s book is so important. It challenges official doctrines and also presents the social and cultural history of Muslims in the subcontinent.

I received the prize with a heavy heart, almost a deep, haunting grief. I was in India when extremists tried to kill Raza and sprayed his car with bullets in March 2014. His driver succumbed to the wounds in the car and this peace advocate, in blood stained clothes, tried to stop the speeding cars on that busy road so that the driver could be taken to the hospital in time. After a few weeks, feeling insecure, Raza left the country because he was not prepared to get another driver or guard killed for his sake. Having lived in exile myself I know exactly how it feels to be forced to stay away from your own people and the land you love.

After five years of engagement, he was absent and this was a void we all felt

Raza Rumi has been an active part of every KLF, bringing life and a certain sparkle to every event where he spoke or moderated. After five years of engagement, he was absent and this was a void that many of us felt. Raza was so dependable that in the literary circles of Lahore, he had come to be closely associated with Karachi! He could not come but I am glad that he is safe and alive.

The jury obviously noted that the worthy son of our homeland, who risked his life for human rights, always wrote and spoke for peace. And peace not just against the internal enemies of Pakistani people -the extremists – but for peace with a neighbouring country that has a symbiotic relationship with us.

DelhiByheart4

Raza had asked me to thank the jury, the sponsors, OUP especially Ameena Saiyid, Harper Collins, his family and friends on that occasion. Even though he has been banished from the country, I was happy that his efforts were recognized at KLF.

Despite the violence he faced, I am sure Raza will continue to advocate for a tolerant Pakistan at peace with itself and abroad.

(At KLF peace prizes were awarded to Ziauddin Sardar for his book “Mecca”, Ali U Qasmi for his book “Ahmedis and the politics of religious exclusion in Pakistan”; Moonis Ahmer for  “Conflict management and the vision of secularism in Pakistan” and Raza Rumi for “Delhi by Heart”).

 

Continue reading

Advertisements

We’re dying from apathy, not terrorism

Sitting in the semi-lit lounge at the Washington Plaza Hotel, Raza Rumi narrated the details of the fateful Friday in March when his driver died in an attack that targeted Rumi.

Raza’s driver, Mustafa, could have survived, had a good samaritan carried the injured driver to the hospital in time. But that didn’t happen.

Raza pleaded with the passersby to carry Mustafa to the hospital after they were attacked by the Lahore-based Taliban, but no one obliged.

“I was literally throwing myself on the cars, but still no one stopped,” Raza told me as his eyes teared up.

The militants came with the intent to kill. They missed their primary target, Raza. The passers-by near Raja Market in Garden Town, Lahore, or the doctors at the nearby hospital who refused to treat Mustafa, did not intend to aid the murderers. But this is precisely what they did.

Their apathy towards the dying driver supported the murderous designs of the militants.

What happened to Mustafa is not new. It happens every day in Pakistan where victims are left to die on the roadside.

On September 17, 1997, the same fate met five Iranian air force cadets and their Pakistani driver. They were ambushed near Choor Chowk in Rawalpindi by the sectarian militants who showered their vehicle with bullets. Continue reading

Assassin Who Loved Tom & Jerry

ISLAMABAD: Before he allegedly killed 14 people and narrowly missed four “high value targets”, Abdul Rauf was obsessed with the Tom and Jerry cartoon series.

He took a great pleasure in watching how Jerry always outsmarted deceptive moves of Tom. He used to laugh a lot.

Not only that, he regularly watched daily current affairs shows to get a better understanding of the political and ideological inclinations of prime-time anchors.

Time and money were two luxuries that he could afford and enjoy.

According to police sources, Rauf tried to kill a senior journalist, Raza Rumi, and a renowned playwright, Asghar Nadeem Syed.

But how did a Tom and Jerry lover become a ruthless killer? Who were his handlers? Or was he a lone wolf, ready to devour his next target?

Investigation by Daily Capital reveals Rauf came from a wealthy family running a wholesale business in Badami Bagh, Lahore. The family owned a big, sprawling house and owned hundreds of acres of land in Kasur and other districts.

Though conservative and religious, his family members never displayed signs of extremism. Infact, a few of Rauf’s aunts were married in Shia families.

In April 2014, police arrested six suspects, including Rauf.

“The mastermind Abdul Rauf Gujar belongs to a banned militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ),” Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Chaudhry Shafiq had told the media.

Five other suspects were Shafaqat Farooqi alias Muavia, Mohammad Hashim, Sheikh Farhan, Suleman Pathan and Sabir Shah.

Rauf and his gang had attacked Raza Rumi on March 28, 2014. The anchor made a narrow escape, but his driver, Mustafa, lost his life in the incident. Continue reading

Why Raza Rumi left Pakistan

Tariq Bashir  TFT Issue: 10 Oct 2014

The outspoken liberal will stay in exile and wait for a miracle

Raza Rumi2

It was exactly a week after he had been ambushed by motorbike riding assailants armed with automatic guns in a posh, built up neighbourhood of Lahore. A few minutes after I had been ushered by a bearer into the living room of his first floor apartment, Rumi walked in, attired in casual clothes showing outward calm while visibly disturbed from inside. He hadn’t shaved for a week, his face resembled that of a cerebral scholar with a salt and pepper stubble.

Over tea and cookies he showed me on his Macbook an exchange of direct messages with someone claiming to have inside information. According to the source, he had been attacked by Jundullah, one of the many banned extremist organisations, the message screamed and that he should expect another attempt on his after a month. The exchange had looked all the more chilling when Rumi’s pleas to speak to the higher-up had seemed to hit a dead end. His source was not willing to go any further.

Continue reading

Attack on Raza Rumi

March 28th, 2014

Pak Tea House

Our chief editor Raza Rumi has been attacked today. He has luckily survived the attack whereas his driver, a very young guy, could not make it.

This is a very serious incident and it highlights the deteriorating situation in Pakistan with respect to the safety of all those who are challenging the consistent erosion of freedom.

Our chief editor was attacked because he symbolises freedom and courage in a society which is spiraling rapidly into abyss. When they can not argue and win on the basis of rationale despite the fact that they get the space on media also, they resort to violence. And this violence is not bravery but cowardice. And this will continue unless we muster enough courage to put an end to this.

We hope that Government of Punjab takes serious steps to protect the media personnel and also ensure that the culprits in this case are apprehended.

We wish best of luck and health to our chief editor.

Regards

PTH Team

Raza Rumi: I’m Proud of You!

March 29th, 2014

Pak Tea House

Kasim Osmani

It is nothing but a stroke of luck when you happen to meet and start working with your most favorite personality. The very idea that you are going to work with country’s prominent political analyst excites the imagination. It fills you with high spirits and you feel like the luckiest person on planet. I felt so, when I met and started working with Raza Rumi.

A day after I shared my profile, I found myself sitting across Raza Rumi, having kehwa and discussing how I could contribute to his bulging workload. Staring at him with almost static eyeballs, I expressed my earnest gratitude and determination for the given responsibilities. Continue reading

Calling Us Dollar Hungry and Fake Liberals

March 30th, 2014

Pak Tea House

Raza Habib Raja

Raza Rumi, whom I consider a good friend, elder brother  and a mentor, was attacked two days ago. He survived whereas his young driver, Mustafa could not make it. When it happens to a person known well to you and to whom you owe a lot, the incident becomes personal at many levels.

Suddenly, you realize that words which are being written and spoken are not just a harmless exercise but entail life threatening consequences. And it also makes you realize that in this country- where ironically you are mocked at by titles like “Pseudo Liberal”, “Fake Liberal”, “Dollar Khor”, “Indian and US Agents”- you are always risking your life and despite the risk, continue to be mocked by our sick urban middleclass. Continue reading