Raza Ahmad Rumi (2015-2017)
Raza is a policy analyst, journalist and an author from Pakistan. In recent years, he has been a leading voice in Pakistan's public arena against extremism and human rights violations. He has been affiliated with The Friday Times, Pakistan's foremost liberal weekly paper as a writer and an editor for a decade. Raza is also a commentator for several publications which include Foreign Policy, Huffington Post, New York Times, The Diplomat, Fair Observer,CNN and Al Jazeera, Daily O, Scroll India, The Hindu and Indian Express, The News, DAWN and Express Tribune, Pakistan.
In Pakistan, he also worked in the broadcast media as an analyst and hosted talk shows at Capital TV and Express News. Raza also manages a blog Pak Tea House, which is a platform for young writers and activists. In recent years, he was also a Director at Jinnah Institute, a public policy think tank and Executive Director of Justice Network- a coalition of NGOs. His writings are archived at www.razarumi.com. His recent book 'Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveler' was published by Harper Collins (2013).
Prior to his foray into journalism and public affairs, Raza worked at the Asian Development Bank as a Governance Specialist. His areas of focus included decentralization, access to justice, institutional development and led projects in several South and Southeast Asian countries. At ADB, he also edited two publications on public administration and participatory budget making. Later, as an international development professional, Raza has also worked on designing and implementing projects for UK’s Department For International Development, UNDP, UNICEF World Bank, among others. Until recently, Raza also led the Network for Asia Pacific Schools & Institutes of Public Administration and Governance. His academic papers have covered areas such as federalism, public policy choices, access to justice, citizen rights, etc.
Raza’s work as a public policy practitioner builds on his stint with the Government of Pakistan’s Administrative Service and United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo where he acted as a municipal administrator in charge of local governance. In 1994, he entered the Pakistani civil service after topping the countrywide competitive examination.
His journalism related work, especially broadcast mass media, brought him under the surveillance of Islamists and their patrons in Pakistan. A militia linked to Taliban attacked Raza in March 2014. He narrowly survived the assassination attempt but his driver died. Within weeks, Raza left Pakistan and fled to the United States. Since May 2014, he has been a fellow at the New America Foundation, United States Institute of Peace and the National Endowment for Democracy. He remains a nonresident fellow at NED and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
Sonali Samarasinghe (2012-2014)
Sonali is a human rights activist and award-winning journalist. While practicing law in Sri Lanka, Samarasinghe worked as an editor and journalist focusing on government corruption and human rights. She left Sri Lanka with other members of her family in 2009 when her husband, Lasantha Wickrematunge, a high-profile attorney, publisher, and activist for freedom of the press, was assassinated and her household was threatened. Since coming to the United States, she has established The Lanka Standard , a website devoted to truthful coverage of events in Sri Lanka and to freedom of the media in that country.
Educated in journalism at colleges in Sri Lanka and Australia, Samarasinghe also holds law degreed from the Sri Lanka Law College of Law and the University of London, as well a master’s degree in international affairs from the Australian National University. She has been a Neiman Fellow at Harvard University and an international journalist in residence at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. Among the numerous awards for her work are the Images and Voices of Hope for Print and Digital Media (2011), the International PEN/NOVIB Freedom of Expression Award (2009), the Human Rights Prize of the International Federation of Journalists, the Global Shining Light Award at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference (2008), and Zonta International’s Woman of Achievement (2006).