Pakistan's booksellers with wooden carts piled high: "Magazines and newspapers all have a standard price, but books—most of them old and, in some cases, quite rare—are sold by tola, a South Asian unit of measurement that works out to less than a pound, for as little as one dollar. A several-hundred-year-old copy of The Royal History of England, with hand-painted borders and diagrams, can sell for less than a set of Harry Potter books."
41 men targeted, but 1,147 people killed: New analysis of data conducted by the human rights group Reprieve raises questions about the accuracy of intelligence guiding 'precise' drone strikes.
Tuesday’s attack killed 141 including many children in grisly battle lasting several hours. The Pakistan military has launched massive air strikes in its remote border region against the Taliban in retaliation for the massacre in a Peshawar school on Tuesday morning that left at least 141 dead, 132 of them children. [more inside]
Hindu ki bas eik khasusiat: Baghl mein churi, moen par Ram Ram. My Urdu, at the time, was idiomatically sub-par. I had recently moved from Doha, Qatar, to General Zia ul Haq’s Lahore and his 9th grade Social Sciences textbook was nearly incomprehensible. The teacher read the line with a sneer. I intuited from his body language, and from the twitter that ran through the class, that this was a derisive remark, but I couldn’t quite follow: If someone had just been stabbed in the side with a knife wouldn’t he be crying to the gods in pain? What’s the shame here? I went home and asked my mother. She explained the idiom: Baghl mein churi does not mean a knife in the side but a knife concealed in the armpit of a garment. Moen pay Ram Ram is not a gesture towards pious invocation (like my grandmother’s recitation of Ya Rahman Ya Rahim)—it is meant to stand as insincere. The Hindu has only one characteristic: He conceals a knife, ready to strike, even as his lips intone Ram. I remember wanting to see or speak to a Hindu, to corroborate or defy this assessment, but Lahore in the mid-1980s held only bare traces—a place name, the legends of a boarded-up building, a strange spiral shape buried in the horizon—of its Hindu past. The city of Madho Lal or Chandarbhan had disappeared even from memories. Our teacher was a history enthusiast and he quickly warmed up to my hesitant question: Sir, why are Hindus never to be trusted?Also in Urdu [PDF]. Manan Ahmed writes at Chapati Mystery [more inside]
9/11/2012 saw the deadliest factory fire in history, in Baldia Town, Karachi. In Quiet Burns the Fire, Karachi-based Herald's Danyal Adam Khan investigates the follow up to the fire. (Previously on Metafilter)
"Kailash Satyarthi, the child rights activist from India, and Malala Yousufzai, the activist for girls education in Pakistan, were announced as the joint winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday."
"Human rights are not embodied and protected by declarations, conventions or pieces of legislation; they are embodied and protected by people." Hina Jilani is a lawyer and human rights activist based in Pakistan. [more inside]
Women make up roughly half of the 42 million Pashtun people in the borderland. The kind of hardship they know is rare. Some are bought and sold, others killed for perceived slights against family honor. But this doesn’t render them passive. Most of the Pashtun women I know possess a rebellious and caustic humor beneath their cerulean burkas, which have become symbols of submission. This finds expression in an ancient form of folk poetry called landay. Two lines and 22 syllables long, they can be rather startling to the uninitiated. War, drones, sex, a husband’s manhood—these poems are short and dangerous, like the poisonous snake for which they’re named.
But if Urdu is the refined language of power and privilege, Punjabi is the powerful words of the streets. And the streets are where lyrics overwhelmingly situate rap. Pakistani rap positions Punjabi as Ebonics is positioned in the U.S.
A man who served as UKIP's Commonwealth spokesman for a year is the former leader of a kidnapping gang in Pakistan, BBC Newsnight can reveal. Mujeeb ur Rehman Bhutto's gang were behind a high-profile kidnapping in Karachi in 2004 and he then took a £56,000 ransom payment in Manchester. In 2005, Bhutto, of Leeds, admitted being the gang's "boss" and was jailed for seven years by a UK court. UKIP said Bhutto, 35, had "recently" resigned his party membership.
The Sound of Terror: Phenomenology of a Drone Strike
Opponents of drone strikes say they violate international law and have caused unacknowledged civilian deaths. Proponents insist they actually save the lives of both U.S. soldiers, who would otherwise be deployed in dangerous ground operations, and of civilians, because of the drone’s capacity to survey and strike more precisely than combat. If the alternative is a prolonged and messy ground operation, the advantage of drone strikes in terms of casualties is indisputable, and it is not my intention to dispute it here. But the terms of this debate give a one-sided view of both the larger financial and political costs of drones, as well as the less than lethal but nonetheless chronic and intense harm continuous strikes wage on communities.[more inside]
The Walk Free Foundation has released its latest report on the contemporary slave trade, the Global Slavery Index (interactive map). As summarized by Al Jazeera, over 29 million people are in some form of involuntary servitude, ranging from kidnapped fishermen to women forced into prostitution to child brides. The countries with the largest populations of enslaved people include Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. Back in 2012, J. J. Gould wrote on the difficulties in confronting slavery in today's society: In the West, and particularly in the United States, slavery has long settled in the public imagination as being categorically a thing of the past.... It can mean having a harder time recognizing slavery when it's right in front of us.
How the internet is killing the traditional nastaliq script form of Urdu, and how Windows 8 might save it.
“I’ll tell him how important education is, and that I even want education for your children as well. And I would tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.’” - Malala Yousafzai (previously), shot by the Taliban a year ago, talks to the Daily Show's Jon Stewart about what she would do if a gunman came to shoot her again, as they have promised.
An earthquake in Balochistan (also spelled Baluchistan), a mountainous province of Pakistan, has killed many people and reportedly flattened many houses in Awaran, the worst-affected district. The force of the earthquake raised the sea bed near the port of Gwadar, creating a new island. Early estimates of casualties are notoriously inaccurate, but a preliminary report by Max Wyss of WAPMERR suggests there will be several thousand deaths.
Inside the Nanga Parbat Murders — One of the worst massacres in mountaineering history happened this summer in Pakistan. Will it happen again? from Outside Online, July 30, 2013 (more details in Climbers Recount Murder on Famous Pakistan Peak at National Geographic and Chilling Accounts of Nanga Parbat Massacre at Climbing). One Pakistani Taliban group claimed the attack was retribution for a U.S. drone strike that killed Wali-ur-Rehman on May 29, 2013. After a dangerous investigation by Pakistani Army forces and local police, 20 perpetrators were arrested by August 19, 2013.
Burka Avenger is a new cartoon series (in urdu) scheduled to start running in Pakistan in early August. Created by the British-Pakistani pop singer Haroon, the series features a
ninjaburqa-clad, pen-and-book-wielding superheroine / mild-mannered non-burqa-wearing schoolteacher who fights for her school against Taliban-like baddies (short interviews with Haroon and a slightly worried media analyst).
Malala Yousafzai, sixteen-year-old Pakistani education activist, has delivered her first public address since she was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen in October last year. Yousafzai's speech at the UN headquarters in New York today is available in full as text or video. She has been credited with bringing the issue of women's education to global attention, a crucial concern given that a quarter of young women around the world have not completed primary school.
A Deadly Triangle - the proxy war in Afghanistan
In 2011, the CIA reportedly hired a doctor in Pakistan to conduct espionage while giving vaccinations to children. In response, Pakistan expelled Save the Children from the country. The New England Journal of Medicine comments on military operations masquerading as humanitarian relief. [more inside]
Dawn reports that the largest earthquake to hit Iran in 40 years struck the Balochistan region along the Iran-Pakistan border. At least 45 people are dead, but that figure is expected to rise. Earthquaketrack says it was 7.8 on the Richter scale. At emptywheel, Jim White notes that two smaller Iranian earthquakes last year killed over 300 people.
More than two years later, the Raymond Davis episode has been largely forgotten in the United States. It was immediately overshadowed by the dramatic raid months later that killed Osama bin Laden — consigned to a footnote in the doleful narrative of America’s relationship with Pakistan. But dozens of interviews conducted over several months, with government officials and intelligence officers in Pakistan and in the United States, tell a different story: that the real unraveling of the relationship was set off by the flurry of bullets Davis unleashed on the afternoon of Jan. 27, 2011, and exacerbated by a series of misguided decisions in the days and weeks that followed. In Pakistan, it is the Davis affair, more than the Bin Laden raid, that is still discussed in the country’s crowded bazaars and corridors of power. - The Spy Who Lost Pakistan (SL NYTIMES Magazine)
For 2,000 years, the peach was the iconic fruit of China, an auspicious symbol of good health and a long life (Google books). But from August of 1968 until roughly the fall of the following year, the mango was China’s most revered produce item, whose meaning was unwittingly bestowed upon it by none other than Mao Zedong. (via Presurfer) [more inside]
Questions about Pakistan are now a fact of living here, no different from damp weather or calls from salespeople. Some I deflect, and others I frame around my own terms.[more inside]
A documentary film about Norman Borlaug, the Iowa farm boy who saved over a billion people from starvation. (1:06:47) Americans have little knowledge of one of their greatest sons. Why do schoolchildren in China, India, Mexico, and Pakistan know the name and work of Nobel Peace Prize winner [His speech] Norman Borlaug while so few of his countrymen have never heard of him? How did a dirt-poor farm boy from rural Iowa grow up to save a billion people worldwide from starvation and malnutrition and become the father of the Green Revolution? What were the inherited traits and environmental factors that shaped his astonishing journey and led to successes that surprised even him? What can we learn from his life and views that might help the human race survive the next critical century? [more inside]
"After the blast the entire building came down. As the rescue teams and journalists rushed to the scene, a second explosion took place." Hazaras are a religious minority who fled from Afghanistan. They are called infidels by Sunni extremist groups operating in Pakistan, and as an ethnic minority, are easily recognized and targeted. The Pakistani government has done nothing to stop these attacks. Last night, more than 83 people from my community lost their lives. For nothing. [more inside]
In seventh grade, after school let out, Humaira Mohammed Bachal opened her home in Thatta (Pakistan) to 10-12 friends who weren't allowed to go to school, and taught them what she was learning. By the time she was 16 and ready to take her 9th grade exams, (over her father's objections,) she and four other girls were teaching more than 100 students. Now, her sister Tahira, (age 18,) is principal of the school Humaira founded: with 22 teachers serving more than 1,000 kids in a Karachi slum (yt). All in a country where if you are a young girl in a rural area, you are unlikely ever to see the inside of a classroom, and advocating education for young girls can be life-threatening. [more inside]
I am Hazara Close to 1,000 Hazaras have been killed in targeted attacks and shootings in [Quetta] the capital of Pakistan’s largest province [Baluchistan]. The indifference towards the atrocities has forced this shrinking community to take escape routes and gamble between life at the promised land and death at the ocean. Dawn, Pakistan's largest English-language daily, puts together an essay accompanied by short videos (subtitled in English).
"The Ideology of Hatred": An interview with Niza Yanay - "Once we understand how hatred operates as an apparatus of power relations, and particularly how the discourse of hatred is motivated and mobilised in national conflicts, serious questions about misrecognition, veiled desires and symptomatic expressions arise. These questions have, to a large extent, been left unaddressed in studies of hatred between groups in conflict." [more inside]
In the long history of love songs the attention of a beautiful woman has been compared to many things – but perhaps only in Pakistan's tribal belt would it be likened to the deadly missile strike of a remotely controlled US drone.
The Permanent War (video). "This project, based on interviews with dozens of current and former national security officials, intelligence analysts and others, examines evolving U.S. counterterrorism policies and the practice of targeted killing." Part 1: Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists. Part 2: A CIA veteran transforms U.S. counterterrorism policy. Part 3: Remote U.S. base at core of secret operations. [more inside]
The 14 year old Pakistani diarist and feminist activist Malala Yousafzai (ملاله یوسفزۍ) has been shot in the head in a targeted attack by the Taliban [NewsPakistan] [AFP]. She is presently in hospital, and in a stable condition. The attack was in apparent reprisal for passing her diaries regarding the Taliban's ban on female education to the BBC in 2009 [original BBC diary story], but also her continued activism and pressure for women and girls' rights. The attempted killing is part of a wider conflict over women's rights within Pakistan, and Pakistani feminism in general tends to be bound up with religion and the shifting boundaries of having to argue against both the patriarchal government and the Taliban itself.
Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan. An extensive new study (PDF) by human rights lawyers from Stanford and NYU examines the impact of drone strikes on civilians in Pakistan, including the strategic effectiveness of the policy as well as the psychological impact on those living in constant fear that they might come under attack. [Via]
August was one of the deadliest months in Afghanistan, for both civilians and soldiers. The death toll was increased by so-called 'green-on-blue' attacks by members of the Afghan National Army and police forces on ISAF and US forces. [more inside]
"Hundreds of Kashmiri militants who left home as young men two decades ago have begun to return, middle-aged and disillusioned. What happens to them now?"
The NYT reports on how a Secret 'Kill List' tests Obama's principles and will [more inside]
"From the ground, drones are terrifying weapons that can be heard circling overhead for hours at a time."
"What's that buzzing sound?" Foreign Policy's third annual War Issue focuses on what it calls "Barack Obama's Secret Wars," including My Drone War, in which a Pakistani journalist for Newsday and the NYT describes what drone warfare looks and sounds like from the ground; The Obama Doctrine, which argues drone warfare is a failing strategy in both Yemen and Pakistan; The Evolution of Drone Warfare: A Photo History, 1917-2010, and more. The package also includes two takes on cyberwar - Cyberwar is still more hype than hazard and Cyberwar Is Already Upon Us - along with a lot of interesting links.
"A staggering 49 per cent of Pakistanis said that it did not matter to them whether the government was democratic or not. Even more surprisingly, 21 per cent of Indian respondents also said that it did not matter to people such as themselves whether the government was democratic or dictatorial. Added to the fact that a third of respondents offered no response at all, many people in countries with substantial experience of democracy or with significant experience of both democracy and dictatorship appear to share the Libyans’ ambivalence about democracy as the preferred form of governance."
An independent Pakistani musician, Asfandyar Khan, writes up the indie scene in Pakistan.
What might help defeat Muslim extremists in Pakistan for good? Bollywood!
Inshallah Kashmir: Living Terror is Oscar-nominated director Ashvin Kumar's brand new documentary, which is banned in India, that provides the perspectives of people that rarely receive positive mainstream media attention. [more inside]
Is Pakistan’s cricket star-turned-politician for real? What does Pakistan see in Imran Khan? Will there be a Pakistani Spring?
The Pakistanis Have A Point: Sure they can be infuriating, not to mention duplicitous, paranoid and self-pitying. But you try being a U.S. ally. -Bill Keller, NYTimes Magazine [more inside]