“The image conjured up by the name Persia is one of romance – roses and nightingales in elegant gardens, fast horses, flirtatious women, sharp sabres, jewel-coloured carpets, melodious music,” explains Michael Axworthy in his book Empire of the Mind. “But in the cliché of Western media presentation, the name Iran conjures a rather different image – frowning mullahs, black oil, women’s blanched faces peering from under dark chadors, grim crowds burning flags, chanting ‘death to …’,” he argues further. Considered to be public enemy number one and part of the “axis of evil” just a few years ago, a resurgent Iran is fast becoming the envy of historically pampered American allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Much to their dismay, Iran, the classic rogue state looks set to become America’s ally in the “war on terror”. Barack Hussein Obama’s Iran deal, symbolising the great thaw in relations with the Ayatollahs, is arguably as historic as Nixon’s deal with the Chinese.
As expected, Republican efforts to kill the deal were blocked by Democrats in the US Senate, securing a major foreign policy victory for President Obama; he will not have to veto any moves against the deal that reforms Iran’s nuclear programme. Republicans remained two votes short of the 60 needed to take the resolution to a final vote. “This vote is a victory for diplomacy for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world,” Obama said. In the run up to Obama’s triumph, likening the Vienna Agreement (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)) to a football match, a jocund President Hassan Rouhani posited that Iran had won the game by three goals to two. Continue reading
As a child Akbar (1542-1605) was deprived of the love and care of his parents and was brought up by nurses in the not too friendly homes of his uncles in Kandahar and Kabul. His father, Humayun, the favourite son of the Mughal emperor Babar and his mother, Hamida Banu Begum, abandoned him and his little sister Bakhshi Banu to his uncles, when he was only one year old. They ran from pillar to post in pitiful conditions as Humayun tried to win back the kingdom he had lost to Sher Shah Suri (1486-1545) and to his own brothers. Humayun captured and lost Kabul more than once and Akbar remained a hostage and prisoner with his uncle, Kamran Mirza, until his father decisively won Kabul in 1550. He had had a brief re-union with his parents in 1545.
Akbar’s parentless childhood should have left many scars on his personality. But he grew up to become a fierce and fearless warrior, a passionate hunter, a trainer of elephants and cheetahs, a fine polo player, a remarkable administrator, a conciliator of different interests, a lover of books and music, a man of many talents and, above all, a forgiver. He could get towers built with the skulls of those he vanquished and get rebels trampled under the feet of elephants but he often reinstated those who rebelled against him if they sought forgiveness. Continue reading
A Consultative Workshop on Mainstreaming Rights of Widows and Single Women in Public Policy was organised and hosted in Islamabad by Aurat Foundation Pakistan on 23-24 May 2012. Aurat Foundation is a member of the South Asian Network for Widows’ Empowerment in Development (SANWED). Born out of concern for the plight of widows in South Asia, SANWED was established in 2003 and is based in Kathmandu. Its vision is a world in which all widows enjoy their full human rights and live with dignity. It owes much of its recognition to the efforts of Lily Thapa, founder of Women for Human Rights (WHR) in Nepal and the determination of Margaret Owen, Director of Widows for Peace Through Democracy (WPD) who is SANWED’s international focal person.
I attended SANWED’s meetings on behalf of Aurat Foundation in Chennai in 2005, Kathmandu in 2010 and the conference launching International Widows’ Day on 23 June 2006, with Cherie Blair in the chair, in London. For different reasons and to different degrees, widows are marginalised in South Asian societies. In Hindu communities, they suffer from the worst forms of discrimination, which led Lily Thapa to found SANWED, after she lost her husband many years ago. Continue reading
Aurat Foundation Pakistan is a member of the South Asian Network for Women’s Empowerment in Development (Sanwed) and I have had the privilege of representing Aurat Foundation at Sanwed’s inaugural meeting in Chennai in December 2005, at the Conference in Kathmandu in June 2010 and at the International Windows Day Conference held in London on 23 June 2006. These gatherings were highly rewarding. They enabled me to meet colleagues and partners, exchange views, and learn about new ideas, projects and initiatives.
Therefore, I was looking forward to this Sanwed workshop which has been organised by Women for Human Rights (Single Women Group) in Kathmandu but, unfortunately, am unable to attend it. However, I should like to put forward my views on the subject of ameliorating the plight of widows, which is our common concern, with respect to Pakistan.
Until the results of Pakistan’s Census of 2011 become available, we have to rely on statistics about widows on the Census of 1998 which I have quoted in the paper I read in the Conference in Kathmandu in June 2010. However, since the population of Pakistan has increased greatly since the last Census, given the pattern population growth, the number of widows must have also risen in the same proportion. Continue reading