Here are some quick comments on Pakistan’s urban elite’s latest project Bolo Bhi (Speak Up!) which claims to be a champion of human rights and advocacy in Pakistan. Bolo Bhi is the latest in a series of similar projects by Pakistan’s urban elites which include: Lawyers Movement, Citizens for Democracy, Aman ki Asha, Gawaahi etc.
1. Pakistan’s urban elites including several of those in Sana Saleem’s Bolo Bhi project are notorious for keeping quiet on the ongoing genocides of the Shias, Balochs, Pashtuns and persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims, Christians and other groups by Pakistan army or army-backed Jihadi-sectarian militants. For example, none of them, repeat none of them, has written a single newspaper article or blog post on three major Shia massacres in last two months in Pakistan: Khanpur 15 January 34 Shias, Parachinar 18 Feb 46 Shias, Kohistan 28 Feb 20 Shias. In fact, a few months ago, Sana Saleem herself was found to maintain silence on Shia genocide.
2. Some of them and their affiliates in Pakistani media and establishment (e.g., Sherry Rehman and Ejaz Haider’s Jinnah Institute, Najam Sethi and Raza Rumi’s The Friday Times, Raza Rumi’s Pak Tea House) are found to misrepresent Shia genocide or Pashtun genocide etc in their articles and reports;
3. Almost all of them belong to urban elite class of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. None of them represents the Shia, Ahmadi, Baloch, Pashtun or Christian activists of Pakistan. Their actions will demonstrate if they are interested in super-imposing their voice on the voice of the oppressed, the subaltern, or if instead of engagement with and true advocacy of the oppressed group (on the pattern of Pakistan Blogzine, Amn Tehrik, LUBP, Al Ufaq, Baloch blogs etc), they are only interested in maintaining silence through a thin layer of shallow activism in a hope to gain a few thousand dollars from foreign donors.
4. They belong to the same groups of elites (Najam Sethi, Mohammed Hanif, Sherry Rehman, Ejaz Haider, Raza Rumi etc) who keep promoting each other instead of uniting their voices in support of Pakistan’s oppressed communities, who are being target killed by Pakistan army and proxies. Recently, another member of the silent mafia in Dawn, Irfan Hussain, thus tried to promote Bolo Bhi: “And if Sana Saleem’s campaign succeeds, it well might. This brave young blogger, and founder of ‘Bolo Bhi’ [Speak Up], has been tireless in her attempt to block the government’s crude censorship policy. [Readers can follow her campaign at http://www.bolobhi.org.]” (Source: http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/10/welcome-to-1984.html)
Here’s an introduction of the Executive Board of Sana Saleem’s Bolo Bhi from their own website:
Bolo Bhi means ‘Speak up’, we are an organization with focus on advocacy, policy and research. We are a team of individuals with diverse backgrounds who are passionate about the same causes. We believe it is crucial to bridge the gap between rights advocates, policy makers, media and average citizens. Bridging the gap enables collective strength and concentrated focus on the areas that require attention.
Chief Executive Officer & Spokesperson – Sana Saleem
Sana Saleem is an activist working on minority rights and internet freedom. She blogs at Global Voices, Asian Correspondent, The Guardian, Dawn and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and Tweets at: @sanasaleem. She can be contacted via email: sana<at>bolobhi<dot>org
Chief Operating Officer – Farieha Aziz
Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based, APNS-awardwinning journalist. She has a masters in English literature from the University of Karachi. She worked with Newsline from July 2007-January 2012 and is currently teaching literature to grades 9-12. Her articles can be viewed here. She can be found on Twitter: @FariehaAziz and contacted via email: farieha<at>bolobhi<d0t>org
Afia ventured into the field of journalism in 1978. Is Pakistan’s first female cricket journalist and writer. Diversified into the field of Advertising, and headed the creative departments of three key agencies of Pakistan. She has accumulated experience of print, electronic and web journalism. With the environmental agenda close to her heart, she headed IUCN Pakistan’s Education, Communications and Outreach unit. Later she was responsible for post disaster relief, recovery and rehabilitation as the Programme Coordinator, Sindh of the Imran Khan Foundation. undertaking post flood rehabilitation and reconstruction work. She also undertakes media trainings for capacity building. She now hosts her web show Afia Salam Show and Off the Cuff on www.247online.tv and is the senior editor at www.speakforchange.org .Her blog can be viewed here. She can be found on Twitter: @afiasalam and contacted via email: email@example.com
Fariha Akhtar – a Software Engineer by profession who works on Card Payment and E-Banking solutions for bread and butter. She strongly believes in harnessing the power of technology for the betterment of community at large so, volunteer for projects such as TakeBackTheTech and other social activism projects andactivities that resonate with her. She is also a blogger/live-blogger and a freelance technology writer. She loves baking in her spare time. Her blog can be viewedhere. She can be found on Twitter: @farihaak on contacted via email: fariha<at>bolobhi<d0t>org
Jamal Ashiqain is a freelance photographer, using his skills to highlight social injustices which include gender-based violence and human rights violations. He has been an active blogger since 2004 and being an artist at heart, he is determined to promote art and culture which remains the primary focus of his blogs apart from social awareness. His blog can viewed here: The Voice of An Art Freak. He can be found on Twitter: @jamash on contacted via email: jamal<at>bolobhi<d0t>org
Jehan Ara is the President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES (P@SHA)..She is a motivator, an entrepreneur, a social activist and a strong propagator of extending the power and use of Information and communication technologies beyond pure traditional business, to empower and enable communities. Her blog can be viewed here: In the line of Wire. She can be found on Twitter: @jehan_ara and contacted via email: jehan<at>bolobhi<dot>org
Rukhsana Ahmed has been a practicing lawyer of the Sindh High Court for the past 16 years. She is also a former judge of the Sindh High Court and is a person of great integrity. Over the years she has put in hours, days and months of blood, sweat and tears into her professional work. There was never any case that was too small or too insignificant. It didn’t matter whether it was a poor person for whom she was handling the case gratis or a corporation that was paying her to fight on their behalf, justice was what she strived for even if it meant burning the midnight oil
Seema Nizam has been an educator for the past 30 years. She is one of a rare breed of educators who teaches with passion and wants to see her students reach their full potential. The patience and dedication she puts into her profession makes her a person that both parents and students adore. Her last teaching assignment for many years was at Froebels in Islamabad. She is now a teacher at the Karachi Grammar School. Seema is extremely concerned about the awareness that young people should have as users and consumers of technology.
Usama Khilji is an activist and writer based in Islamabad.He has been involved in cultural exchange as part of the YES Programme under which he represented Pakistan for a year in the US in 2005-06. Additionally, he represented Pakistan at he Model United Nations Turkey (MUNTR) in March 2011, and was selected to be President of the Security Council at the Munster University Model United Nations (MUIMUN) in Munster, Germany, in April 2011. He is currently the Lead Investigator at Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR), a legal charity working to represent victims of drone attacks in FATA and uncover the truth behind the casualties in these strikes, mostly civilian. He can be found on Twitter at @UsamaKhilji, and email at usamakhilji<at>bolobhi<d0t>org